An ancient Skagit Valley tree becomes a work of art

A slab of a tree that has spanned three millennia is on display at Western

When Wes Smith (’95, Economics) and Andrew Vallee (’96, Art) first saw the 17-foot section of the massive Douglas fir in their Edison woodworking shop, they thought the tree might have been dead 100 years beneath a nearby Skagit Valley pasture.

But they cut a slab off the 14,000-pound log and sent a piece to Western’s Huxley College of the Environment to find out for sure.

The tree had been found in the mud in Joe Leary Slough in the Skagit Valley, but not from any groves that property owners Joan and Loren Dahl could remember. Turns out the tree had fallen during the age of the Roman Empire.

Huxley faculty Andy Bunn and Dave Wallin sent a sample to a company in Florida that used carbon-dating to estimate that the tree sprouted around 300 B.C. and lived about 300 to 350 years. Bunn and Wallin think it may have been buried in a landslide, which is why it was in such good shape.

A slab of the tree that has spanned three millennia is on display outside the Huxley dean’s office. Smith and Vallee are making other special pieces with the still-soft wood, including a table now in the dean’s reception area.