American Chestnuts in Tumwater, Washington
After our wonderful hike at Cougar Mountain, Ryan and I enjoyed a delicious lunch at Yea’s Wok in Newcastle, Washington. Then we headed south to an atypical tourist destination– The Mills and Mills Funeral Home and Memorial Park in Tumwater, Washington.
Our Tourist Destination
We were led there by a small snippet from a Discover Magazine article, I had read in 2004 entitled “Return of the King of Trees“. This article was my very first exposure to the American chestnut. It’s safe to say the article made an impact on me… and in said article, they just happened to mention “the largest healthy American chestnut in the United States” resided in Tumwater in what used to be called Olympic Memorial Park.
It took a few Google searchs and a phone call to track the trees down, but Ryan and I found them! I think makes us “Tree Stalkers”.
At first our visit seemed ill-timed. As soon as we arrived at Mills and Mills, a large rainstorm started. We still got out and took some pictures. Then Ryan suggested we get some hot chocolate at one of the state’s many, many, many Starbucks. By the time we finished indulging, the weather had cleared and we got more pictures.
Back home in Virginia, our baby chestnuts got their first spring leaves on March 25th and were sporting large leaves when we left for our trip. In Tumwater Washington, however, the leaves were just getting started on May 12th.
Although there wasn’t any sign of the chestnut blight, the trees have had their challenges. On February 28, 2001, they would have weathered a 6.5 earthquake that hit the Olympia area. Since the publication of the Discover Magazine article, the larger of the two trees appears to have lost a branch. They also didn’t seem to have grown that much in the last seven years.
One thing I very much enjoyed about these trees is they show the same hospitality to ferns and moss and lichen as do the indigenous Washington state trees. The chestnuts blended right in with their community. When in Rome….
Two weeks earlier, Ryan and I were near where the Chestnut blight was first discovered. That day 3000 miles away in Tumwater, we got to see two trees that escaped the blight’s wrath. It may not be your usual tourist destination when in the Seattle/Tacoma area, but it’s a worhwhile one!