Copyright 2017 by Mario Vaden
In 2015, I added a group of pages on legendary men and explorers of the coast redwood forest. Ron Hildebrandt is one of the few. Ron is occassional mention in a book (2007) The Wild Trees, by author Richard Preston. Hidebrant also became friends with explorer Michael Taylor in December, 1990. Ron isn't nearly as well known as Michael Taylor or Dr. Steve Sillet, but he's been exploring in the coast redwoods as long as Michael and longer than Steve.
I met Hildebrant face to face for the first time in 2014 when he started measuring the redwood I found with Chris Atkins, called Grogan's Fault. Chris had already explored with him many times before. At first I didn't realized how adept Ron was with measuring and mathematics, but quickly found out as Taylor and Atkins explained the accuracy of his measuring.
Images: Ron Hildebrant measuring Grogan's Fault with a special instrument he constructed, mounted over over a Lasertech laser rangefinder. Standing next to the same coast redwood.
Ron said his enjoyment for coast redwoods began close to age 9 when he lived in Petaluma, CA, and visited the Muir Woods National Monument around 1969. A year or two later, his mother's friend who was like a second mother, drove Ron and his brother Carl north several hours to Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Ron said his was "blown away" at the Humboldt redwoods compared to the Muir Woods.
Hildebrant enrolled at HSU in 1982, completing a degree in Forestry and minor in Geology. Forestry employment was scarce and he ended up working for the United States Postal service in 1988. He scored 100% on all the tests, which isn't a surprise from what others have shared. His path into that career was the same year I started business in tree care ... good 'ol 1988
One of his interests is counting growth rings on fallen or cut old growth redwoods. He said there were over 2000 growth rings on a large one that fell in Humboldt Redwoods State Park's Bull Creek flats, winter of 2017. It would be older than that, because the ring count was 80 ft. from the base.
Ron explored a lot near Avenue of the Giants and in Prairie Creek with Michael Taylor. Ron said he measured Godwood Creek Giant that Michael found in Prairie Creek, before it's top broke. He measured it when it was still 364 ft. tall.. Down in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, they also measured Laurelin and got 369 ft. with homemade gadgets. That was darn close because in 2013, Laurelin was listed as one of the 10 tallest coast redwoods at 370 ft., measured with a laser.
Richard Preston said that Michael Taylor named Sir Isaac Newton in Prairie Creek, but Taylor told me it was named by both he and Hildebrant. It was also interesting to learn that Ron was the one who named the Atlas redwood in the same park. The same redwood the Atlas study plot research project was located.
Ron still explores the coast redwoods and remains more reserved about his finds than most of us. There's many redwoods he's found that nobody is aware of. That's why so many so-called finds by others lately seem ho-hum. Not because the redwoods are not spectacular, but because a lot of these new finds are not new finds.