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Brewer Burns

Saturday, June 03, 2006

On Camping in the Rain

Allow me to summarize our Memorial Day camping trip:

Friday Night: gale force winds
Saturday morning: rain
Saturday afternoon: nice enough
Saturday night: gale force winds
Sunday morning: Ginkgo Petrified Forest
So, what is a Ginkgo Tree, you ask? Well, the Ginkgo was apparently quite common in the ancient world (we’re talking pre-humanity here) but has only survived in the modern world through the efforts of monks in Asian monasteries. At one time the Ginkgo grew wild in what is now Central Washington. The Ginkgo Petrified Forest is the only place in the world where the petrified tree stumps of Ginkgo Trees have ever been found. Although there are other places where the petrified leaves have been found. Petrification refers to the process whereby wood is slowly turned to stone through natural geologic processes.

Which is why the Ginkgo Petrified Forest is so cool. Not only does the visitor center have the petrified Ginkgo on display, it also has three live Ginkgo trees, grown from seeds, as well as several other kinds of petrified wood on display. The Ginkgo leaf has a distinctive fan shape, and the Ginkgo itself is prized in Asia and other parts of the world for its healing properties.

If you get the chance, go to the petrified forest. It is located just on the west side of the Columbia River outside the town of Vantage, just a few short miles off of Interstate 90. Fun fact: during the Myocene period, 15 million years ago, when the Ginkgo flourished in Central Washington, the Cascade mountain range did not yet exist and much of Central Washington was swampland. Think of that the next time you’re passing through three hundred miles of sage brush and arid plain.

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