Magazine article American Forests

A STARS Star ATTRACTION

Magazine article American Forests

A STARS Star ATTRACTION

Article excerpt

FOR CLINT EASTWOOD, CARMEL REPRESENTS ROOTS, FOND MEMORIES, A PROTECTED PAST, AND NOW, A CHAMPION AMONG TREES: THE BLUEGUM EUCALYPTUS

What comes to mind when you think of Clint Eastwood?

Dirty Harry, probably. Maybe a scene from "Play Misty for Me" or "The Outlaw Josie Wales." What about a man who once worked as a logger and who carries a lifelong knee injury from a load of logs that fell on him at a pulp mill? Someone who is an avid golfer, skier, and helicopter pilot with a passion and loyalty for the Monterey Peninsula and its landscape?

Together these images make up the Clint Eastwood who joined AMERICAN FORESTS recently to re-measure a bluegum eucalyptus on his Mission Ranch property in Carmel, California. The tree was this year crowned the national champion for its species, meaning it is the largest known bluegum eucalyptus in the United States.

Native to Tasmania and nearby areas of Australia, the bluegum has a reputation as one of the world's fastest-growing and largest trees. A naturalist on a Captain Cook voyage in the 1770s first collected bluegum seeds in Australia at Adventure Bay. By the 1870s the species had an avid California following.

Mission Ranch has several large bluegums, but the champ's massive trunk, which measures more than 38 feet around, makes it a standout. On that December day the lawn surrounding the tree sported small, hard seeds that looked like shriveled acorns cut in half. Paper-thin brown strips of peeled bark littered the ground.

The evening before the sunset had been spectacular, with high, thin orange clouds that blazed for an hour. The tree reflected golden over the small pond and footbridge beneath it, shining onto the lush lower meadow beyond.

While Eastwood has long recognized the tree's beauty, it was AMERICAN FORESTS' California Big Tree Coordinator, Art Cowley, who first noticed its potential. Cowley spied the tree in 1998 while attending mass at the Mission and used his always-close-at-hand yellow tape measure to check his guess.

When contacted, Eastwood graciously agreed to pose for a picture with his tree and spend part of a morning discussing his connection to the land there. That day he helped take final measurements of his champ for the 2000 Register and collected seeds, which have been sent to AMERICAN FORESTS' Famous & Historic Trees project in Jacksonville, Florida, for possible propagation.

Mission Ranch, the champ tree's home, is adjacent to historic Carmel Mission, which dates from the early 1800s and underwent a massive restoration in the 1900s. Today, regular masses are celebrated there and elementary school classes are held. Back in the 1850s the adjacent ranch was one of California's first dairies, and its creamery supplied the county.

Eastwood bought the property in 1986 to save it from condominium developers. Since then he has worked to restore it as a guest ranch.

"They were going to level it all for 66 condos," Eastwood told us as we looked out over barns, a bunkhouse, a century-old farmhouse, and the creamery-turned-restaurant and bar. All of this--and likely a number of the property's dozens of mature trees--would have been razed. Of course, any developer would relish this site: 22 acres of gently sloping land above a meadow extending perhaps half a mile to where the Carmel River meets the ocean. Point Lobos appears in the distance.

As Cowley prepared to "officially" re-measure the tree, Eastwood remarked how star stature has not guaranteed the eucalyptus an easy ride. …

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