Day 24 (cont’d) – Calaveras Big Trees State Park
Continuing our hike along the North Grove Trail, we were disheartened by the ongoing slaughter of so many of the trees we saw. I’m not sure what words are appropriate when looking at these trees. Colossal? gigantic? humongous? Or maybe awe-inspiring? regal? humbling? I guess it wasn’t until we really digested just how long these giants have been standing and put it into perspective that we truly understood the impact of cutting them down. They were around when the Roman Empire was formed and fell, when Christ was born, when Columbus ‘discovered’ the Americas. The native people revered them and then opportunists saw a way to make a buck.
John Muir, an early naturalist and conservationist, reacted to the carnage, ‘… these giants, survivors of the Ice Age and the ravages of time are rapidly vanishing before the fire and steel of man.’ After decades of private ownership and lumbering, social protests and public battles, California (with lots of private grants including over $1M from John D. Rockefeller, Jr) acquired the North Grove and it came under the state’s protection. Hooray, California!
‘Mother of the Forest’, for instance, was stripped of her bark for display and exploitation purposes to share with the world evidence of the ‘Sierra Nevada Big Tree’. The trail guide brochure describes her as ‘a symbol of greed and thoughtlessness’. She still stands today, but without her skin, she has died and could topple at any time.
In the 1880s, the Pioneer Cabin Tree was carved out as a tunnel through a massive, wide-based tree in hopes of increasing tourism. In January 2017 (not so long ago), heavy rains loosened the already damaged roots and this thousand-year-old tree fell and shattered.
Despite the negative aspects of the past, the positives that have taken place are redeeming and the park itself is outstanding (except for the trash removal!). The modern Visitor’s Center provides lots of good information and a cornucopia of exhibits including wildlife, history, geology and flora.
These little guys climb to the redwood treetops ~300’ high to feast on the green cones. They don’t eat the seeds, however, but rather they fall to earth and hopefully germinate into new giants some day.
Though we’ve seen Sequoia Redwoods before, there was still lots to learn (or re-learn maybe?). Like the cones of the giant Sequoia look pretty small when compared the sugar pine. Who would have guessed such a tiny cone could produce such a massive, long-living tree?
Putting the size of the Sequoias into perspective was also mind boggling. When you look up, up, up, they indeed reach to the sky, but there’s nothing to compare them to. The chart, we saw, however, gave us more perspective.
Day 25 – Rain, drizzle and brrr
Rain shouldn’t have been a surprise; it was forecast for days. Yet, we were disappointed when the weatherman was right. It was cold and raw and wet and the first time we regretted not having a ‘lounge’ in Blue. A table and a settee would have been a wonderful amenity today, but instead, we stayed huddled up under the comforter with our computers on our laps. Food for thought for the future.
It rained and drizzled most of the day. As cold as it was in Big Trees, the higher elevations were even colder … they had snow. We thanked our lucky stars we weren’t camped higher because even here we could see our breath. We took short walks during the respites, but mostly we read, wrote and napped. Instead of cooking, we had a cold picnic inside Blue. We hibernated like bears and stayed out of the elements.
We only had campsite reservations for two days at Big Trees, but we were convinced we needed more time. There were several hikes to be taken and things to see. Maybe we’ll luck out and there’ll be a cancellation. You just never know.
More big trees to come ... stay tuned.