Trip Conclusion: In late May 2013 I cycled over the Bridge of the Americas, which spans the Panama Canal to arrive in Panama City, Panama. I had cycled 10,800 km through 9 countries over the course of nearly 8 months. My Spanish was much improved, my legs greatly thickened and my perspective of my location and purpose on Earth had significantly evolved. My sense for the scale and complexity of the North American continent was entirely changed. Once in Panama I began working for the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute doing fascinating field research in Eastern Panama. My final big tree expedition on this trip was a 13 day research expedition into primary forests in the remote Kuna indigenous territory in eastern Panama. This final trip proved to be the most fascinating and educational forest experience of my entire trip to explore North America's forests. Check out the video below. I worked there for two months before returning home to Vancouver, BC on June 26th 2013.
I have several other films from the trip, which provide an opportunity to live the thrill and enlightenment gained by this type of travel. The one below is made by my buddy James: a 7.5 min video documenting highlights of our ride from Vancouver to San Blas, where James ended his trip. Film by James Caldwell.
Big trees and bikes go hand in hand
The Big Tree Tour was one of the greatest expeditions of my life. Having a focus on forest exploration enhanced the already purposeful task of cycling across the continent and it led me to some genuinely interesting and off the beaten track experiences. I hope to search big trees on future trips. Following my trip I began a masters degree at McGill University in Montreal, Canada to research impacts of logging old-growth forests on the diverse values that society has for forests. The research is published in peer-review journals here and here. I'm also working when I can find the time on my first book, which documents this trip and many of my other bicycle-powered big tree adventures. I am genuinely stoked about the book so far and will let you know when it is complete!
World's widest red-cedar located just off route in Olympic National Park, Washington. It would seem a shame to cycle past this giant without stopping in for a visit. I think it was one of the most remarkable trees of the trip!
Below is the original introductory page to the purpose and direction of the trip.
|James Caldwell on left (with mohawk), and Ira Sutherland on right as they depart from Tsawwassen Ferry terminal bound for Port Angeles, Washington|
Welcome to the Big Tree Tour homepage! My name is Ira Sutherland, I am an experienced bike traveler, mountaineer and a recent graduate of the Faculty of Forestry at University of British Columbia.
On Sept 7th, 2012 I have set off with my good buddy of 15 years, James Caldwell, to cycle from Vancouver, B.C. to Central America following the rain-soaked, surf-crashed beaches of western North America all the way.
What makes this bike trip unique and what initially inspired me to undertake it, is that the tallest, widest and overall largest trees on Earth are found, more or less, along this coastal route. This not only includes the incredible trees of California, which include the world tallest, the coast redwoods (Sequoia sepervirens)* over 116m (386 feet) tall and the worlds largest, the sierra redwoods (Sequoiadendron giganteum) containing nearly 1500 cubic metric meters of wood (an average telephone pole contains about 1 cubic meter) but also the record specimens of other notable tree species including Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), western red-cedar (Thuja plicata), Douglas-fir (Psuedotsuga menziesii) and others of temperate and tropical location.
James has about four months to travel before returning to BC to his job as a cook, while I have at least 10 months of freedom ahead of me. Aside from finding big trees, we have several objectives. Most importantly, we must travel cheaply and are aiming to spend $1000 a month, maximum, but will hopefully spend less than $25 per day. Also important and welcomed by me, is James' desire to cook outstanding and original food with our two camp stove, two pot kitchen. Lastly and most intuitively, we plan to engage our travel experience towards remaining safe against challenges including: insects, traffic, weather and adverse people. Along with this we intend to meet interesting folks, encounter new cultures and enjoy novel experiences that are entirely impossible to predict from the outset. Both of us have traveled extensively, often together, and have some inclination of what is ahead of us, which gives us both courage and alertness for the challenges that lay ahead.
As we go I will be recording our experiences with the intention of eventually writing a book about my trip but also posting short portions in my blog. These links containing brief summaries of each stage will be posted along the right side.
Thank you for visiting! Please wish us luck and that the road ahead may feature tail winds, safe bush camping and welcoming people. Arriving at forks in the road, always bound for the unknown, we have four wheels rolling south.
*Italicized words in parenthesis are the Latin names of species mentioned. Latin names are useful for disambiguation and also understanding evolutionary origin of species.