Huge cedar tree near Kalaloch Lodge splits in half after storm
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This before-and-after photo illustration shows the massive western red cedar near Kalaloch Lodge that was recently found split in half. Olympic National Park

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — The gravel access road to a centuries-old, towering western red cedar near Kalaloch in Olympic National Park has been closed after the tree split in half.

Park spokeswoman Barb Maynes said Tuesday that the access road off U.S. Highway 101 about 5 miles north of the Kalaloch Lodge has been barricaded because the tree, discovered Saturday, could pose a safety hazard to visitors.

Maynes said Steve Acker, the park’s botanist, will assess the health of the tree to see what the park needs to do next.

“He’ll go out there as soon as possible,” Maynes said.

Based on Acker’s assessment, options could include removing the tree or simply closing the access road for good, Maynes said.

“Is it safe to invite people back? That’s the big question,” she said.

An unidentified park visitor told a local business owner that large chunks of the tree had begun to break and fall off during stormy conditions last weekend, Maynes explained.

On Saturday, a park ranger confirmed that close to half of the western red cedar, scientific name Thuja plicata, had fallen off, Maynes said.

A listing for the tree on www.monumentaltrees.com lists it at about 123 feet tall and 61.6 feet wide at the 4-foot mark.

The Exotic Hikes website, www.exotichikes.com, said the tree is 175 feet tall and 19.8 feet in diameter.

The knobby, gnarled roots at the base of the giant penetrate the underlying ground in dozens of places and seem to reach up the trunk like power cables feeding some massive generator.

The tree is 1,000 years old, according to the Exotic Hikes website.

Park staff referred to it as “centuries-old.”

“In some ways, the centuries-old tree is still hanging on to life. You can see half of the tree still stands on the left side of the picture,” park staff wrote on a Sunday Facebook post alongside before-and-after photos of the tree.

Maynes said this particular tree, while massive, is not one of the park’s largest.

“The size of it, it’s certainly huge, but there are hundreds and hundreds of huge trees in the park,” Maynes said.

A record-setting western red cedar, standing 159 feet tall with a circumference of about 63 feet, lies along the Quinault Big Cedar Trail about 2 miles up North Shore Road just east of Lake Quinault.

A sign posted near the Kalaloch cedar reads: “Western red cedar has been the art and sinew of coastal Indian village life. The trunk is house plank and ocean-going canoe; branches are harpoon line; outer bark is diaper and bandage; inner bark is basket, clothing and mattress.”

“Tree size expresses climate — heavy annual rainfall, and the nourishing damp of ocean fog. In a scramble for growing space other tree species are using the cedar as a standing nurselog.”

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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@penin
suladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 11. 2014 6:57PM
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