Douglas Scott | Feb 19th, 2017

Why We Report What We Hear: The Kalaloch Tree Incident

F&*K!!! The tree still stands. Which is good news!

Turns out, I am not 100% accurate all of the time, which sucks. I do my best to give due diligence to finding out information before reporting and tend to trust sources in the hiking community. Places like WTA, and even WH&C on Facebook all tend to have current information on their sites. When stories pop up, I go to my other sources and see what they have heard. When I hear about something from a trusted group of sources, I write about it. Turns out, people are flawed and info gets muddled. We will continue to strive for perfection. Until then, we can only do our best. 

The problem for me isn’t that I got something publicly wrong. In fact, after todays incident, 99.9% of everything we have reported has been true. From the Enchanted Valley Chalet nearly being washed away to the Vance Creek Bridge being closed/burnt and even the forest fire that burnt in the Queets Rainforest for 180 days, The Outdoor Society has broken some of the largest stories on the Olympic Peninsula. The problem is my fault, but it is part of a larger issue that must be addressed. The problem with information being trusted from the hiking community is that it often takes days to be verified.

Thanks to a lack of infrastructure in our Public Lands, it is nearly impossible to contact someone in any region unless it is the summer. If there was a fully funded ranger station at Kalaloch to call, staffed daily, issues similar to these would be immediately mitigated and corrected. Instead, nobody is working there right now, according to NPS staff we spoke with. I also tried calling the lodge five times, only to have it ring on end for over 10 minutes at a time and then disconnect me. I hemmed and hawed at what to do and figured I would trust my hiker sources on Twitter, Facebook and the people with solid reputations at about the information.

We decided to run the story for two reasons. One, the people I had talked to confirmed that the tree was down from their trusted sources. The second is that if true, the loss of the tree would be a huge blow to the Kalaloch Region in general.

Now, you can get upset that the information was incorrect and there is nothing I can do. However, what I would like to point out is that the article got people caring about going back outside and wishing they could see the tree once more. The feeling of loss at the tree touches our frail relationship with balance of natural wonders. Just like that, something we love can be gone so we need to make the most of it. Online, people were saddened by the loss of the tree and wished they would have seen it. Those who did see it recalled with glee about the chance to stand beneath it and pose for a picture. The tree inspires and the tree represents strength and hope. We all wanted to not believe it had fallen…turns out, our wishes came true.

Again, we do our best to verify sources and will continue to troubleshoot issues when they arise. We apologize sincerely for any feelings of sadness the reports may have caused.

We will keep working out the kinks and again, we apologize for any misleading info.


Here is the tree today: