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Stumps of the Northwest: History, Old and New

Enormous stumps in the Pacific Northwest tell the tale of vanished old-growth forests and a logging industry once enriched by giant trees. Member station KUOW's Harriet Baskas visits some old stumps put to new and creative uses.

Helen Starr, 92, the daughter of a lumberman, volunteers at the Stillaguamish Valley Pioneer Museum in Arlington, Wash. "I remember when my dad would take me hiking in the woods. He would say, 'Now, those trees could make so many houses,'" she says.

Arlington, 40 miles north of Seattle, was once a major lumbering center. "People don't realize that there were trees like that that to begin with," Starr says.

Those old-growth trees were often hundreds of feet tall, with gnarled bases that presented a challenge to early loggers armed with only hand saws and axes, says Pacific Northwest historian Robert Ficken. Once the loggers managed to cut them down, the giant logs were hauled away. But the giant stumps were left behind to rot.

If you hike, you'll come across some in the woods, but in Arlington two huge stumps are community souvenirs: a stump house in front of the museum and a stump big enough to drive through at an interstate rest area nearby.

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Harriet Baskas