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I wasn’t on any big tree expedition, just scrambling up a nearby canyon to rid myself of that late-November cage-ey-ness. After rimming out, I was happily striding back toward my truck when something caught my eye. Was that two trees or one big one across the draw?

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An investigation ensued. Nothing revealed itself immediately. An orange trunk glowed behind nearby foliage. I drew closer, the trunk got bigger, the TREE got bigger. A moment of awe commenced. If measured by wood volume, it is almost surely the biggest ponderosa pine in Arizona. By American Forest points, I’ve measured slightly bigger ones, but seen none greater. We call it El Rey—The King.

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I’ve been to the tree 7 times now, climbed it once. Govi led, slinging dead branch staubs for protection. It was a little sappy at the top, and not that great a view. But the rappel back down, with the massive trunk expanding as we dropped, that was very cool. I have a new friend. 117′ tall, 221″ circumference, 20′ average crown, 396 AF points.

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