I live in sort of a boundary area between Douglas fir temperate rain forest and the oak-grassland savannah of the Willamette Valley floor, so Doug fir forests, while they can be spectacular (and good old-growth forest trees can impose a kind of holy awe, like walking into a cathedral) are kind of old hat. I don't care much for lodgepole pine forests. The High Desert has a certain magic, but they can leave one feeling exposed and vulnerable. The best way to explain it is that I love the desert, but like big cities, in limited doses: no more than a week or so at a time.
But I can't get enough of ponderosa pine forests. The crackle-cookie appearance of the bark. The open, sparsely vegetated forest floor. The consistent size and heights of the stems- like columns in classic architecture. Stick your nose up to the trunk and inhale... smell the butterscotch? Some say vanilla, some say it varies from tree to tree, and some, sadly, don't seem to perceive an odor. But it's there, and it smells sweet, like cookies or candy. The deep duff of needles, muffling sounds, softening your footsteps.
There's no doubt, a ponderosa forest is nothing short of magical.
On our trip last summer, Dana, Intrepid Companion and I stopped and visited a very special ponderosa pine, near the aptly named town of LaPine, in central Oregon, at the equally aptly named LaPine State Park. I daresay the title of this post says enough, but despite the risk of being repetitious, I'll say it again: this is not a ponderosa, it's a Ponderosa!
Standing near the bank of the Deschutes River, looking back.
More numbers. It's hard to imagine this tree being substantially taller, but apparently it was not too long ago.
Followup: I was looking around the FlashEarth link after I finished this post... you might have noticed there's a very nice oxbow just to the east/downstream of the Big Tree. But the river gets very confused just a bit more down stream. Interesting to consider how this thing will eventually sort itself out.