Across a steep canyon, a ghost floats in the darkness—a phantom in this redwood forest, somewhere in California’s Santa Cruz County.
We slip-slide into the gully, landing in spongy piles of discarded needles, ferns, and poison oak, and then we scale the other slope. A great horned owl hoots once, twice, three times. Dawn is just beginning to tickle the treetops, but down here, beneath the forest canopy, it’s still chilly twilight.
A few feet away, the astonishingly white tree hovers like an otherworldly apparition, its crown high above our heads. It’s an albino redwood. An enigma. A biological improbability—an organism that shouldn’t exist.