Goose-pen in Advocate Tree
Forest Nisene, Aptos
Platonic Lambda Λ
Goosepen in Redwood
Portola Redwoods, La Honda
Preface: The word "Goosepen" is not cited in the American Heritage Dictionary or Random House Unabridged Webster Dictionary. Consulted the 20 volumes Oxford English Dictionary at the Los Altos Library, and in Volume VI, page 685, found "goose-pen" under "goose". Definition: (a) a pen or enclosure for geese; (b) a quill pen. Usage: Shakespeare, Twelfth Night (1601), III.ii.48: "Let there be gall enough in thy ink, though thou write with a goose-pen." (OED Online). Hoped OED will cite the first usage of "goosepen", but they referred to the quill pen rather than the cavity at the base of Redwoods. Interesting that Robert Van Pelt's "Forest Giants of the Pacific Coast" (2001) does not mention "Goosepen" in his book, even though photos show giant "fire scar" in the Ishi Giant, Franklin, Stagg, and Lincoln Sequoias. Since goosepens were created by forest fires, have not seen any of them in the Redwoods on streets during my neighborhood walks. Found 79 Goosepen photos during my Nature Hikes (2008-2012) and am sharing 69 of them below.
Melissa Breyer has an interesting web page (8-29-2017)
"11 facts about coast redwoods, the tallest trees in the world'
that's worth reading.
Fact #6: Redwoods are so big that when scarred by fire, cavities can form that are large enough to once be used
to house geese by settlers. To this day, the scar caves are called "goose-pens".
Mario Vaden has a more extensive write-up "What is a Redwood Goosepen?" (2013):
"Goosepens are openings or hollow areas in coast redwood trunks, typically caused by damage, decay and forest fire.
Years ago, early settlers could keep geese or other fowl in these openings.
These wooden caves were large enough for horses or goats. It's a good shelter for black bears also."
(2). He shows a photo
of the Church Redwood with a giant Goosepen near the edge of Crescent City, CA
He also cites Don McLellan, the Goosepen Hermit, where there's a more extensive story
at Hermitary "Don McLellan, Humboldt Hermit" (2007):
"Evelyn McCormick in her book
with the Giants (1984), says "Don McLellan arrived unannounced in late 1958 or early 1959.
He resided alone for about a year in a redwood goosepen...
The inner circumference of the goosepen was large enough for McLellan to house a wood stove,
a few shelves and necessary utensils as well as provisions. This ingenious hermit found
that what his new home lacked in girth, it furnished in height.
He constructed second & third stories above|
his kitchen. He fashioned a mattress of straw for his second floor bedroom and kept some of his belongings on the third floor. His
stove was completed with a curved chimney which forced smoke through a wide crack & beyond the bark outdoors. His tree house
was completely within the tree itself." This sounds like the hermit in French fairy tale "Princess Rossette" lived: "The queen heard
that in a great forest near the castle there was an old hermit, who lived in a hollow tree, and that people came from far and near to consult him." Traced the author to be Madame d'Aulnoy (1651-1705). Her Les Contes des Fées (Fairy Tales) was published in 1697.
So this date may be first to mention someone living in a hollow tree, though the word "Goosepen" was not cited. In Redwood Facts (Humboldt: California's Redwood Coast), we find "Goose Pens are where the base of a redwood has been hollowed out by fire, but
the top of the tree is still thriving. These openings are so large that, in earlier days, settlers in the West could corral their livestock in them, thus giving the goosepens their name." (4). Arthur Conan Doyle, the Sherlock Holmes author, writes in "Our Second American Adventure" (1924) about his visit to Muir Woods: "All words are futile to describe the tremendous majesty of the great redwoods,
and mere figures such as 300 feet as their height, or the fact tht a hollow trunk can contain 36 people, leave the imagination cold.
One has to be alone to get the true impression, the deep silence of the grove, the shadowy religious light, the tremendous majesty
of red columns, the vistas between them, the solemn subconscious effect produced by their 2000 years of age. There are no insects
in their bark, and nothing, not even fire, can destroy them. We saw scars of old brushfires upon their flanks" (5). These "fire scars"
are no doubt "goosepens" Doyle witnessed in Muir Woods. In The Redwood Forest (2000), Reed F. Noss writes "redwoods are
burned out to create goose pens." (6). In Welcome to Redwood National and State Parks (2007), M.J. Cosson writes "The bark
on a redwood can be one foot thick. Fire can scar a redwood, however. The resulting hollow area is called a goose pen, because
in the past, settlers kept chickens and geese there." (7). Six citings of goosepens were found in Barbour's Coast Redwood (2001):
"The term goosepen originated with pioneers who built gates across tese tree hollows, using them as pens for geese or other small livestock. Goosepens range from small, cramped openings to large enclosures that extend more than 100 feet upward inside the bole. (One goosepen in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park was able to hold 109 fourth-grade students!) Since they only develop in large, fire-scarred trees, goosepens are generally restricted to old growth stands." (p. 47) "Goosepens are highly coveted den sites, and the longevity of a redwood tree ensures they can serve as dens for many generations. Bears may pick these sites for winter cover and breeding. They may even end up sharing a goosepen with a maternity colony of bats containing hundreds of females & their young." (p.71) "On their first outing (1900) to Big Basin, Sempervirens Club members led by Andrew P. Hill, cluster in a goosepen." (p. 129).
Steve Norman's article on "Fire Cavities in Coast Redwood" (2009) classifies five types of cavities. Extensive burnouts perforating
both sides of the tree (type 5) are highly vulnerable to collapse (9).
(1) Melissa Breyer, https://www.treehugger.com/natural-sciences/11-facts-about-coast-redwoods-worlds-tallest-trees.html
(2) Mario Vaden, http://www.mdvaden.com/redwood_goosepen.shtml
(3) The Webmavens, https://anchorbeachinn.com/portfolio-items/crescent-city-california-redwoods-headquarters/
(4) Eureka-Humboldt, https://www.visitredwoods.com/listing/redwood-facts/186/
(5) Peter Johnstone, Giants in the Earth (2001), p. 221 (citing Arthur Conan Doyle)
(6) Reed F. Noss, The Redwood Forest (2000), p. 114
(7) M.J. Cosson, Welcome to Redwood National and State Parks (2007), p. 16
(8) Michael G. Barbour, et. al., Coast Redwood: A Natural & Cultural History (2001), pp. 47, 71, 149.
(9) Steve Norman, "Fire Cavities", https://redwood.forestthreats.org/cavities.htm.
Encounter with Redwood Goosepens on Nature Hikes (2008-2012)
| Goosepen in Old-Growth Redwood at El Corte de Madera Creek, San Mateo County, CA (9-7-2008)|