The Gargantua File

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Outside magazine, September 1994

The Gargantua File
By Byron Ricks

Every region has oddities that befuddle even the locals. In the Pacific Northwest, the flora and fauna follow the example of the region’s geologic features, often growing to eccentric proportions. We asked Ann Saling, author of The Great Northwest Nature Factbook, for a few specimens that would make Bigfoot proud.

Geoducks: North America’s largest clams, unique to Puget Sound, have necks of freakish dimensions that–unfortunately for them–go great with drawn butter. The largest recorded geoducks weighed in at 35 pounds; one discovered near Washington’s Protection Island in the strait of Juan de Fuca lived 115 years.

Mushrooms: The Pacific Northwest has more than 3,000 species of big fungi. The world’s largest underground fungus, spanning 1,500 acres, was found in 1992 in southcentral Washington near Glenwood.

Douglas firs: On permanent display, so to speak, on BLM land outside Sitkum, Oregon, the world’s biggest coastal Doug tops out at a whopping 329 feet. It stands watch half a mile up a short trail at the end of Brummit Creek Road.

Pacific octopuses: These world-champion cephalopod mollusks lurk in the region’s deepest waters. In 1957, an octopus weighing 600 pounds and with a 32-foot arm span was caught off the coast of British Columbia.

Fleas: In the Northwest, even small is big: The world’s largest flea, discovered in 1913 near Puyallup, Washington, was ten times bigger than average, at 0.31 inches long.

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