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Everything I Know About Life A Tree Taught Me

Forest Kings

By: Edward Dalton + Save to a List

Before you take me as a "radical over the top feel good tree hugging hippy" for claiming everything I know about life a tree taught me, allow me to explain.

This video is my family, @TheDreamChasingFamily, on an adventure through the Pacific Northwest Cascades, and family is where this story begins. I was born and raised in Utah, USA by a two incredible parents who patiently supported five rowdy kids, including myself, on a frugal farmer's income. My mom is from Oregon and dad is from Utah where they met and planted their new family tree roots. I attribute the adventurous bones in my body to they way they raised us. Being outside was like breathing; free and easy. It was a way of instilling a healthy adventurous prospective about the world. My earliest memories are fond ones of camping with them.

As I have grown older, it has became more clear to me that the only thing my parents loved more than the outdoors was each other and us kiddos, in fact my dad gave up many professional climbing opportunities when he was younger to start a family. As a rebellious teenager, I remember dusting off these two old newspaper articles in the poorly lit and cluttered basement storage room. One about dad's mountaineering team and their road to climb Mount Everest (Below). The second about my parents packing my 3 year old self up mountains as a yearly tradition for my birthday (Above). By my teenage years I had already developed my own passion for the outdoors, and if anything could have reversed my typical less-than-impressed adolescent attitude towards my parents, it was these vintage climbing articles with faded pictures of my parents chasing adventure! The pictures were like these convicting pieces of evidence that my parents were guilty of being much cooler than I gave them credit for at the time!

Fast forward to today. My parents still love adventuring with us, in fact we just got back from another incredible trip to Oregon, my mom's old stomping grounds. My dad still kicks my trash every time we recreate together. He can still put down more miles on his mountain bike, split board deeper into the back country and lead more difficult climbing routes than me. Since discovering those dusty articles, I have a deeper appreciation for WHAT my parents accomplished during their younger years chasing adventure, but I have become increasingly interested in WHY they did it, which I've learned is more important than WHAT they did. 

We all have different motives to seek out and explore the unknown; the reasons WHY we do WHAT we do. Like you and I, my parents loved adventure, but WHY was it important to them? And if they loved it so much then WHY did dad pass up Everest, the holy grail of mountaineering, to carry my snotty nose up some inferior summit every year for my birthday? And by now your probably asking "WHY any of this has to do with a tree teaching me everything I know?"

The answer lies somewhere in a poem by Douglas Malloch called "Good Timber" which simplifies the often over complicated and abstracted purpose of life by comparing it to a tree, something we are all familiar with. I couldn't tell you how many times I have heard my dad recite it from memory. I know it's enough times that my brother has it memorized now too and us kids love to tease dad about it whenever he brings it up, which is frequent because I think it eloquently explains the code he lives by, or the reason WHY he does WHAT he does. He even brought it up again last week on the family trip while we were playing under the Cascade pine trees.

Mount Hood sunset in the Cascades by @EdwardArthurDalton

On a side note, if your not familiar with the Cascades, specifically the Columbia River Gorge region, do yourself a favor and plan a trip there to see for yourself why it is my all-time favorite destination! You can thank me later. The Gorge is a beautiful forested region of the greater Cascade Range. Sandwiched between the northern border of Oregon and the southern border of Washington on the Columbia River, it is home to world class recreation of every kind. I can't think of an outdoor activity you can't do there, that includes snowboarding and skiing in the middle of summer on nearby Mount Hood!

One of the first things you notice in the Gorge are the countless windmills, kites and sails dancing under the power of the wind, which is caused by the cooler coastal air on the west side of the Cascade range constantly trying to equalize with the warmer desert air on the east side, creating a westerly thermal wind that is intensified as it bottlenecks through the narrow Cascade peaks. If you pay even closer attention, you will notice a lot of the pine trees look a little bit different here. Their branches all grow towards the east because of the relentless wind bombarding them from the west.

@EdwardArthurDalton catching some world renowned Columbia River wind in the windsurfing capitol of Hood River, Oregon. 

After a day of kiteboarding and paddle boarding in the Columbia River, we were all enjoying a sunset over Mount Hood when dad pointed to one of these wind blown trees and, you guessed it, drops another "good timber" poem reference. "Can you imagine how much wind these trees have suffered through to make their branches grow like that?" he asks. Nobody really responds to the question because, well... dad is just talking about trees again. However, I paused long enough to remember the poem I have heard countless times before, and I am sure dad was thinking about when he noticed the battered trees.

"The tree that never had to fight For sun and sky and air and light, But stood out in the open plain And always got its share of rain, Never became a forest king But lived and died a scrubby thing.

The man who never had to toil To gain and farm his patch of soil, Who never had to win his share Of sun and sky and light and air, Never became a manly man But lived and died as he began.

Good timber does not grow with ease: The stronger wind, the stronger trees; The further sky, the greater length; The more the storm, the more the strength. By sun and cold, by rain and snow, In trees and men good timbers grow.

Where thickest lies the forest growth, We find the patriarchs of both. And they hold counsel with the stars Whose broken branches show the scars Of many winds and much of strife. This is the common law of life."

The "Good Timber" of the Mount Hood National Forest by @EdwardArthurDalton

I stared at the trees and answered my dad's question to myself. "If there was ever an example of good timber, this tree is it." Rising above unfavorable circumstances it could not control or even get away from. It's branches showed "the scars of many winds and much of strife", nevertheless it grew against the odds to become a "Forest King". 

You see, all these years of exploring with family is simply WHAT my parents did, and we love them for it. But we love them even more now that we are old enough to understand WHY they did it. WHY dad passed up once in a lifetime adventures like climbing Everest to climb with his kids and teach us the "good timber" law of life. I think it was their way of branching out to grow a little taller and closer to the God those "forest kings" are always pointing us to, and growing towards.

My parents will still tell you taking the fork in their trail for family has been their greatest adventure yet; with steeper, more challenging accents than any mountain they could have climbed, but, as the "good timber" law of life goes, it had the most rewarding growth and vistas of life.

To see more and join our chase for #AllThingsAdventure, check out @EdwardArthurDalton and @TheDreamChasingFamily!

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We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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