Archive for March 2017

Tactile Dome

San Francisco’s Exploratorium is an immense (and immensely popular) hands-on science museum. Exhibits cover the usual range of subjects—electricity, physics, optics, biology, and so on—but with a degree of interactive friendliness that’s rare even in the best science museums (and I’ve seen quite a few). Almost everything is designed to be touched, played with, and experimented on—even by young children, whose destructive impulses know no bounds.

Although I had been to the Exploratorium a number of times, there was one exhibit I’d never experienced but always been curious about: something called the Tactile Dome. This is an exhibit for which you must make an advance reservation (and pay extra), and I had never had the foresight to call ahead before visiting the museum to see if there was an open slot. On a visit last summer, when I went to purchase my ticket, I happened to notice a sign saying there were openings at the dome that afternoon. I immediately signed up—after listening to a short speech on all the medical and psychological conditions that would preclude a safe visit and consenting to the non-refundability of the ticket.

A Touching Experience
The Tactile Dome is a smallish geodesic dome within the museum whose stated purpose is to explore the sense of touch—taking the “hands-on” principle to its logical extreme. Inside the dome is a series of oddly shaped chambers lined with a variety of materials. The chambers are completely dark, so visitors must navigate through them—climbing, crawling, sliding, and squeezing—using only the sense of touch for guidance. In an anteroom the eight or so people who have reservations at a given time remove their shoes and any objects that might fall out of pockets and get lost. (They are quite strict about their “no-extraneous-stuff” policy; I wasn’t even allowed to take a ballpoint pen in with me, even though it was capped and sealed in a zippered pocket behind a Velcro flap. I thought that prohibition was a bit silly, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.) Then, in smaller groups (in my case, a group of one), you proceed into the dark chambers.

A complete trip through the dome takes anywhere from five to ten minutes, and guests are spaced far enough apart that they won’t run into each other. The inside of the dome is not a maze; every chamber has just one entrance and one exit. An attendant in the anteroom monitors your progress by listening to the sounds picked up by microphones positioned throughout the dome. If a visitor gets stuck or panicked, a verbal request for help is all that’s needed; every spot in the dome is immediately reachable by hidden access doors. The intercom (which the other visitors waiting in the anteroom can also hear) serves another purpose, too: to discourage, shall we say, extracurricular activities that the dark and solitary environment might suggest. Each group gets to go through the dome several times during their visit.

As I made my way through the dome, I found that even though sight was not available, it was not a purely tactile experience. Each time I entered a new chamber, I could tell something about its size and shape from the sounds I heard, along with the combination of temperature and airflow I could feel. Even smell played a part—the characteristic scents of carpet, wood, plastics, and the smelly socks of the person who crawled through the dome before me all contributed to a mental image. And that effect was a bit eerie—even though I couldn’t see anything, I had the distinct sensation of visual images of the rooms constructed from the other sensory data I was gathering. That impression alone made the experience worthwhile for me.

Copp-ing a Feel
The Tactile Dome was designed by Dr. August F. Coppola (brother of director Francis Ford Coppola) in 1971 and has been in use ever since. Not only in the choices of materials in the dome, but in its overall design and marketing, it’s definitely showing its age—or perhaps I should say, “revealing” its age. I’d love to experience a larger, more elaborate, updated-for-the-21st-century version of the dome, if one were ever to be built. By an interesting coincidence, the Tactile Dome is not the only dome-shaped, building-within-a-building attraction in San Francisco that was constructed in the 1970s and designed to be experienced in total darkness. Audium, located across town, shares all these attributes but was designed to explore the sense of hearing rather than touch. If there’s also a Smell-O-Dome lurking somewhere in the city, I’d just as soon not know. —Joe Kissell

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More Information about The Tactile Dome…

For more information about the Tactile Dome, visit its page on the Exploratorium Web site.

SF Weekly Magazine rated the Tactile Dome “Best Crazy S.F. Place to Take Out-of-Towners” in 2003. I’d amend that slightly to say “Out-of-Towners Who Aren’t Claustrophobic.”

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Planning a trip to San Francisco? Most guidebooks mention the Tactile Dome—see, for example, Frommer’s San Francisco 2004 by Erika Lenkert, San Francisco Secrets by John Snyder, or Fun Places to Go With Children in Northern California by Elizabeth Pomada.

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In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, one of the main characters is an alien named Ford Prefect from a planet near Betelgeuse. Although he looks, talks, and acts more or less human, there are many things about earthlings that puzzle him, such as the fact that they seem to talk all the time—even if only to repeat the obvious. Over the course of several months, he comes up with a number of theories for this behavior, one of which I found particularly insightful: “If human beings don’t keep exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working” (p. 49). I’ve frequently noticed, on the one hand, that many people like to surround themselves with sound all the time (making their own if all else fails); and on the other hand, that contemplation is a foreign and uncomfortable concept to most of us. An increasingly popular way of overcoming the sound habit, at least briefly, is to go on a silent retreat.

All Action and No Talk
The idea of a silent retreat is simple: you go somewhere relatively quiet and don’t talk—for a day, a few days, or even longer. Silent retreats usually involve a group of people, so the significant part is not so much that you yourself aren’t speaking but that others aren’t speaking to you. In addition, most other artificial sounds—radio, TV, music, and so on—are avoided, so that for the most part, participants don’t hear any words for long periods of time.

What exactly is the point of going without words for a few days? You get to hear yourself think. Other people use different language to describe this: meditation, listening to your inner or higher self, hearing the voice of God, and so on. However you wish to think about it, you are avoiding the influences of other voices in order to focus your attention inward. Just as you might step away from a crowd to have a private conversation, a silent retreat provides an extended period of time during which your thoughts can be strictly your own. Silent retreats recall the monastic tradition of vows of silence, which are still practiced today in many contemplative orders. In that context, a period of avoiding speech—which for some monks can last months, years, or even a lifetime—is a sign of humility as well as being an aid to prayer and meditation. Some people participate in silent retreats as a religious exercise or because they have a specific problem to solve or decision to make; for others, it’s more of a relaxing vacation, with no real goal attached. But it’s not uncommon for people to begin a retreat without any particular expectations and later find they’ve had a profoundly moving experience.

Sound Decisions
There are no fixed rules for the way a silent retreat should be structured. Often a group will schedule one or two daily sessions during a retreat with a lecture, group prayer, discussion, or some other ritual, temporarily interrupting the silence to give participants some context or direction for their contemplation. It is also not uncommon to have individual coaches, counselors, or spiritual directors meet with participants occasionally to provide feedback or make suggestions as to where attention might be focused. Even without words, though, silent retreats can have an agenda or theme. In addition to Buddhist meditation and retreats organized by various churches, I’ve seen advertisements for silent yoga and t’ai chi retreats, for example. Retreat centers sometimes offer do-it-yourself personal retreats as well, with or without the services of a counselor.

If you look at the comments made by ordinary people who have been on silent retreats, it’s striking how often they say it was a mind-blowing or life-changing event. That the simple act of going without words can affect someone so profoundly shows how unusual silence has become in ordinary life. Even for those who make an effort to avoid extraneous noise, a silent retreat can provide a more thorough and prolonged period of silence. I participated in a silent retreat myself last spring, and found it very effective in helping me to clear my mind, organize my thoughts, and make sane decisions. I look forward to my next opportunity for an extended time of silence, and heartily recommend the experience to anyone who likes to think. —Joe Kissell

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More Information about Silent Retreats…

If you’re interested in participating in a silent retreat, you might check with a local church, monastery, or meditation center to see if they organize such events. Alternatively, organize your own or go to a rural retreat center (such as Sacred Mountain Ranch) that’s set up for individual participants.

An interesting article by Katherine Jacob describes her experience at the Loyola House retreat center in Ontario.

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A silent retreat is a wonderful opportunity to read (or re-read) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (the first of four sequels), Adams reviews Ford’s theory that humans must talk to keep from thinking (p. 162), pointing out that the formerly quiet and peaceful Belceberon people of Kakrafoon were cursed with telepathy, and only constant conversation (or a very loud rock concert) could prevent their every thought from being heard by anyone nearby. The other books in the series are Life, the Universe, and Everything, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, and Mostly Harmless.

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Saturna Island

I have a special fondness for contradiction—or more accurately, contrariety—the apparent not-going-together of things I like or believe equally. Read enough of these articles and the theme of paradox will be quite evident. For example, I love living in the city, and can’t imagine being without the energy, resources, and constant stimulation it provides. But I could say with equal conviction that I’m happiest when I’m far away from people, noise, and chaos, immersed in the solitude of nature. As a result, when planning a vacation, I’m never quite sure whether I want to “get away from it all” or experience the novelty and adventure of another urban area. Las Vegas, New York, and Paris are among my favorite places to visit; on the other hand, I also enjoy a meditative retreat, a long weekend in the desert, or a lazy trip through the countryside of Provence. But my very favorite place to go for peace and quiet is Saturna Island.

Just Across the Strait
Perhaps I should begin with a quick geography lesson. British Columbia is Canada’s westernmost province. Its largest city, Vancouver (where I lived for three years), is on the Pacific coast, just a few hours’ drive north of Seattle. Not far off the coast—about an hour and a half by ferry—is Vancouver Island, an immense piece of land with an area about the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined. On Vancouver Island you’ll find Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, and about three-quarters of a million people. The stretch of ocean between the mainland and Vancouver Island is known as the Georgia Strait, and scattered along the 300-mile (483km) length of the strait are hundreds of smaller islands, only a handful of which are inhabited. The Gulf Islands, as they are called, have all the natural beauty typical of the Pacific Northwest, and a much more relaxed pace of life than the big cities.

Saturna is the southernmost Gulf Island, just beyond U.S. waters (and the San Juan Islands that lie there). Although it’s one of the larger islands at twelve square miles (31sq km), it’s the least populated, with just over 300 year-round residents. It can be reached only by float plane, private boat, or ferry, and as there are no direct ferry routes from the mainland, most visitors must travel by way of Vancouver Island or one of the other Gulf Islands. By the time you get there, you already have a sense of its remoteness. And as soon as you begin to look around, you realize you’re in a wonderfully different place.

Guidebooks sometimes describe Saturna in terms of what it doesn’t have. There are no camping facilities. There’s no town, either—just a few scattered businesses. There’s no laundromat, bookstore, movie theater, or pharmacy. And there’s no bank or ATM; by law, that would require the presence of a full-time police officer on the island, which it also doesn’t have. What it does have, in great abundance, is character. In this tiny rural outpost of civilization you can find not only peace and quiet, but an amazing concentration of interesting things and people.

Booking a Room
I distinctly remember the exact moment I got hooked on Saturna. On our first visit there several years ago, Saturna was our last stop on a tour of the Gulf Islands. We had reservations at the Breezy Bay Bed & Breakfast, a place that, from its Web site, looked very quaint and inviting. When we arrived, our host, Renie Muir, showed us to our room in the 1890s farmhouse. As we walked up the stairs, we first entered a library. I just gasped—this was the room of my dreams. Dark wood, the smell of old books, and comfy chairs all around. For me, that’s heaven. I knew I had come to the right place, and as I was to discover, that room was in a way a microcosm of the entire island: a place of contemplation, interesting ideas, and a simpler, more meaningful way of life.

Outside our window was a farm—with an orchard, sheep, chickens, and a llama or two. One path led down to a small beach; another led up to the top of a hill with a beautiful panoramic view. We spent many hours relaxing, exploring, reading, and talking. The things we experienced—whether the sight of an old red tractor rusting along the side of a trail or a conversation with our host or another guest—were endlessly fascinating. You may be thinking, “That’s nice, but I can relax or talk anywhere. What’s really so special about Saturna?” The best way I can think of to put it is, of all the places I’ve visited, Saturna has consistently had the highest concentration of memorable moments. Something about the place, the environment, and the people who are drawn to the island, makes it a fertile breeding ground for interesting things.

We’ve Got Rocks and Trees and Trees and Rocks and…Water
For being such a small place, there is plenty to see. A few minutes away from Breezy Bay by car is Winter Cove Marine Park, with scenic hiking trails and a picturesque view of small boats anchored offshore. One of the trails leads to a narrow, rocky channel between Saturna and nearby Samuel Island. When the tide changes, water begins rushing through the channel dramatically. Watching water levels equalize may sound as exciting as watching paint dry, but I find the sight absolutely riveting.

Drive to the other end of the island, and there’s an old (but still functioning) lighthouse. Trails lead through a meadow past a deserted caretaker’s residence and utility building, their state of gentle decay lending a sense of history and melancholy to the area. Along the rocky shore just below, tide pools have an abundance of small creatures, starfish are plentiful, and seals can often be seen fishing nearby.

In the center of the island is Mt. Warburton Pike. At 1,630 feet (497m), the summit is the highest point in the Gulf Islands, providing a breathtaking view (along with a handy location for TV antennas). Saturna also has a large vineyard with some very respectable wines and a regionally famous bakery (the chocolate chip cookies are especially memorable). A tiny cemetery serves as the final resting place of some of the island’s earliest residents. There are also two general stores (one with a small cafe), a pub, a church or two, an upscale restaurant, and a surprising number of bed-and-breakfasts. Young children attend the island’s elementary school; after that, school requires a trip to a neighboring island by water taxi, the local equivalent of a school bus.

Brushes with Greatness
Saturna’s biggest claim to fame is its annual Canada Day Lamb Barbecue. Each July 1, Saturna’s population swells to over 1,000 as people flock to the island for what is essentially a community fair. I had heard a lot about this event, so Morgen and I went a few years ago. When we showed up at Winter Cove Park, Morgen seemed to recognize the woman who sold us our tickets. As we walked away she whispered to me that it was Pat Carney, one of Canada’s first female senators and a Saturna native. We listened to live music, shopped for crafts, sampled the local wine. Then we headed over to a tent to play some games. After winning at bingo I decided to move over to the blackjack table. I was doing well there too, and I was up a few dollars when the dealer had to leave. Morgen asked if I had any idea who had been dealing the cards; I didn’t. She said she was pretty sure it was Ferron, a well-known folk singer who was also from Saturna. Sure enough, moments later the erstwhile dealer got up on stage and started singing. These little “brushes with greatness” are just another ordinary part of the Saturna experience. Everyone knows everyone else, and at least for an outsider like me, there was little perceptible class distinction. Everyone is equally important, equally interesting.

And that is one of the things I find so appealing about Saturna. As you walk around, people look you in the eye, smile, and say hello—a strange ritual I never experience in the city. Conversations happen easily, and you simply don’t encounter anyone without a story. Saturna’s residents are an eclectic mix of merchants and farmers, technologists and artists, spiritual seekers and environmentalists—along with, of course, a wide variety of wildlife. Even if life is not exactly idyllic, residents and visitors of Saturna Island are people who choose to be there, who trade a certain amount of convenience for the rich experience of a simple lifestyle. —Joe Kissell

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More Information about Saturna Island…

This article was featured in Travel Carnival 7.

A nice overview of Saturna Island can be found on the Victoria Tourism Web site; another one is at The Gulf Islands Guide has a page on Saturna’s parks.

The Saturna Island Vineyards are well worth a visit. The same folks who run the vineyard own the Saturna Lodge and Restaurant. I’ve never stayed at the Lodge, but the restaurant is outstanding.

Right across the road from the Lodge is the entrance to Breezy Bay’s driveway. Renie Muir, who runs the B&B, spends the winter months studying yoga in India, and is one of the most interesting people I’ve met.

The Arrogant Worms are a Toronto-based band with an endless supply of funny songs about Canada. Their 1999 Dirt album features the song “Rocks and Trees,” which details all (three) of the natural wonders Canada has to offer.

VH1’s Web site has a brief bio of Ferron. Her albums include:

  • “Shadows on a Dime” (1984)
  • “Still Riot” (1996) Ferron - Still Riot
  • “Impressionistic” (Double CD, 2000) FERRON - Impressionistic DOUBLE CD
  • “Turning Into Beautiful” (2005) FERRON - TURNING INTO BEAUTIFUL

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With apologies and all due respect to my Canadian friends and relatives, I have never had the remotest interest in hockey. I’ve tried to watch it a few times, but always found it tedious and hard to follow. Even though the pace of the game is often frantic, there is typically a lot of time between goals, during which I can rarely tell where the puck actually is. Where confrontations between players seem to be the most exciting part of the game for many fans, I don’t enjoy watching people knock each other around. There is, however, another popular Canadian sport that involves sliding objects around on ice: curling. Unlike hockey, curling moves at a fairly slow pace and doesn’t require protective gear.

Stones Without Sticks
When I first heard a description of curling, it sounded too weird and dull to attract my interest. But the first time I saw curling on TV, I had a revelation. “Oh,” I thought, “it’s just like boules on ice.” There is a class of games, including lawn bowling, bocce, boules, shuffleboard, and (in some cases) marbles, that all have the same basic idea in common. Taking turns, competitors launch (throw, roll, or slide) a projectile (ball or puck) toward a target. After several rounds, the player or team with the projectile closest to the target wins; a large part of the strategy is displacing your opponent’s projectiles while protecting your own. I don’t have a name for this general type of game, but once I realized curling fit into this familiar category, I warmed to it considerably.

Although curling is, at a high level, similar to these other games, it is nevertheless unique in several ways. For starters, it’s the only one played on ice. A curling rink will have one or more playing surfaces, which are sheets of ice 146 feet (44.5m) long by 14 feet 2 inches (4.3m) wide. At the end of each sheet is a circular bull’s–eye-like target painted under the ice, consisting of a ring 12 feet (3.7m) in diameter with two smaller concentric rings and an inner circle called the tee, which is the ultimate objective. The projectiles are granite stones (sometimes called rocks) about 12 inches (30.5cm) in diameter and weighing up to 44 pounds (20kg). Handles on the tops of the stones enable the players to control them. Each team consists of four players, and each player has two stones. Starting at one end of the ice, a player will “throw” (slide) the stone toward the target. Teams alternate until all the stones have been thrown, at which point the score is counted. Only stones partially or completely within the outer ring of the target can be scored. The team with the stone closest to the tee wins that end (or round), collecting one point for each of their stones that’s closer to the center than any of the opposing team’s stones. After eight or ten ends, the team with the highest score wins.

Throwing a Curve
Whence the name curling? The stones have a tendency to curve, or curl, as they slide down the ice, a phenomenon familiar to anyone who has gone bowling. Because of imperfections in the surface of the stone and the ice, some amount of curl is inevitable, but by putting a deliberate spin on the stone as it’s thrown, players can control the direction and extent of the curl and use it to their advantage. But the stone’s fate is not sealed as soon as it’s thrown. As the stone slides toward the target, one or two players will slide in front of it, sweeping the ice vigorously with small brooms or brushes. To a casual observer this may appear goofy or even pointless, but it’s a crucial part of the game. By brushing the ice, the sweepers are actually polishing it, giving the stone a smoother surface to slide on and thus extending its range. Sweeping can also influence the direction of the stone somewhat. So by skillful sweeping, players can aim a stone with great precision, making the competition much more complex.

The origin of curling is lost in the mists of time, but some form of the sport has been around since at least the mid-1500s; versions of curling have been known for centuries in Scotland, the Netherlands, and elsewhere in northern Europe. In any case, it was Scotland where the game matured and achieved popularity, and where you can still find the highest number of curlers per capita. Curling is extremely popular in Canada and parts of the United States, too, as well as in Australia, New Zealand, and a number of European countries. As early as 1924, curling made an appearance at the Olympics as a demonstration sport, but it did not achieve status as an official, medal event until 1998.

Curling Culture
Curling is not just a game; there’s an entire culture built up around the sport. For one thing, it’s a highly social event, and in areas where curling is popular, it is often seen as a focal point of community life. Curling clubs have much the same feel as bowling leagues; most people play not to become international stars but for the sheer fun of friendly competition. (Another inevitable comparison to bowling: special shoes. Curlers usually have one slippery shoe to glide on, and one with traction for control.) At local and regional levels, curling is ordinarily not refereed; decisions on scoring and penalties are made between the two teams on the basis of fairness and good sportsmanship. After a game, opposing teams typically join in a social gathering known as “broomsticking.”

Curlers play to win, of course, but the spirit of curling puts honor and relationships above winning and losing. Naturally there are exceptions, but curling is about as far as you can get from the ruthless competition of highly commercial sports. For better or worse, curling is not the most engaging spectator sport; it has been compared to watching a chess match. But like chess, underneath the simple rules is a subtle and deeply strategic game. Its main piece of equipment tells the whole story: curling rocks. —Joe Kissell

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More Information about Curling…

The precise rules of curling, including the dimensions of the playing surface, vary somewhat from country to country and depending on the level of play (a local league will have different rules from a national competition, and Olympic curling is different still). The information in this article is based on standard Canadian rules.

Just about everything you could want to know about curling, including rules, strategies, equipment, and more, can be found at CurlTech’s online Curling School. The Curling Basics Web site contains Flash animations of a number of curling techniques, which explain a lot more than words can.

There are a number of curling organizations both large and small; among the biggest and best-known are the World Curling Federation and the Canadian Curling Association. Curling also has a page on the International Olympic Committee site.

If you want to purchase curling supplies online, see The Curling Store (located in London, Ontario, Canada—watch for shipping costs!).

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Looking to expand your curling library? Start with Curling for Dummies by Bob Weeks, and also consider Curling: The History, The Players, The Game by Warren Hanson.

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If you ask the average person to name any three countries that have rain forests, chances are their minds will jump to tropical regions—Central and South America, equatorial Africa, or the islands of southeast Asia. Most people would not include, say, Canada on their lists, because as everyone knows, rain forests are consistently hot places. And this is exactly what I always believed too. Several years ago when I was living in Canada, my wife, Morgen, mentioned in passing, “Oh, we’ve got rain forests here.” And I thought: “Yeah, right. And deserts too. What else did Santa Claus tell you?” But it seems Mr. Kringle was right after all. Canada does indeed have rain forests—just not of the tropical variety, which was the only kind I had ever heard of. (As a matter of fact, there are also deserts in Canada…but that’s a story for another day.)

Moisten and Seal
The main thing that determines whether a forest should be considered a rain forest is the amount of rainfall it receives—generally, the threshold is about 100 inches (2.5m) per year. This high moisture content—concentrated still further into fog by the leaves that form the canopy—encourages the heavy growth of plants, which in turn support animal life. When evergreen forests appear along the coast of a landmass with mountains on the other side, the mountains tend to trap the moist air blowing in from the sea, producing an unusually heavy rainfall in the forest. Voilà: rain forest. Such conditions exist in several parts of the world, including the west coast of North America (from Alaska as far south as northern California), the west coast of Chile, parts of Tasmania and New Zealand, and even a small patch of Norway.

Temperate rain forests are, on average, much cooler than tropical rain forests, and also subject to greater seasonal variations. Summer temperatures may go as high as only 80°F (27°C), and in the winter, the temperature may occasionally dip below freezing. But the weather is not the only thing that’s different. Temperate rain forests support a narrower variety of plant and animal life. Canopy trees include evergreens such as Sitka spruce, western hemlock, western red cedar, and Douglas fir, and some deciduous trees as well. Where a tropical rain forest would overflow with vines and climbing plants, a temperate rain forest has a profusion of ferns, moss, and lichens. (Having visited both tropical and temperate rain forests, I was amused to see an old episode of The X-Files whose opening scene was set in the rain forests of Costa Rica—but, having been filmed near Vancouver in a temperate rain forest, all the vegetation was completely wrong.)

In a tropical rain forest, most of the animal life makes its home in the canopy—not just birds but monkeys, sloths, snakes, and a variety of insects. In a temperate rain forest, by contrast, most of the animal life is on or near the ground. There’s a smaller and less exotic variety of animals, too, although a great deal of the animal life consists of insects that are normally unseen, living in rotting logs from huge fallen trees.

Mass Quantities
But even if there is less diversity of animal and plant life, the sheer quantity is much greater than in a tropical rain forest—or anywhere else on Earth, for that matter. Scientists estimate that each acre (0.4 hectare) of temperate rain forest contains 500 to 2000 tons of biomass (i.e., living matter), versus an average of about 300 tons in a tropical rain forest. Most of this difference is due to the sheer size of the trees, whose average diameter is much greater than what you’d find in hotter regions.

What I find most interesting about temperate rain forests is simply that they exist—it was a bit of a shock to my system of categorizing the world to discover that rain forests are not strictly tropical phenomena. I must say, too, that temperate rain forests are much more comfortable to visit—fewer flying insects, poisonous animals, and so on, not to mention more tolerable temperatures—although you don’t get to see all the brightly colored birds, howling monkeys, and other exotic animals that are typical of the tropical rain forest.

Alas, temperate rain forests are disappearing just as quickly as their tropical counterparts—in part due to the fact that their gigantic trees make such excellent lumber. But if there is a bright side of this sort of deforestation, it is that temperate rain forests are able to regenerate much more quickly after heavy logging than a tropical rain forest could. And for North Americans, at least, they’re much handier as an ecotourist destination, which could provide another reason to keep them intact. —Joe Kissell

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More Information about Temperate Rain Forests…

This article was featured in Festival of the Trees #3.

There are a number of good introductory articles about temperate rain forests on the Web, such as the ones at ecotrust, Inforain (also see their dynamic map of rain forest development in North America), Elizabeth Anne Viau’s site at Cal State LA, and South Central Co-op.

This page (from Olympic National Park in Washington) gives a handy comparison of tropical and temperate rain forests along with old-growth forests.

In Canada, the best place to get a taste of coastal temperate rain forest is at Pacific Rim National Park Reserve on Vancouver Island. Stay in nearby Ucluelet or Tofino, and be sure to take a whale-watching trip while you’re there.

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You can learn more about rain forests (of both tropical and temperate varieties) in Rain Forests from Discovery Travel Adventures. For more on North America’s Pacific Northwest, see The Good Rain: Across Time and Terrain in the Pacific Northwest by Timothy Egan.

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