Where the Big Trees Grow

After saying goodbye to Elo and Yosemite (I was a little sad to leave them both), I traveled a few hours south to the Kings Canyon National Park where I immediately set out to find the Big Trees, General Grant in particular.

General Grant, is the second largest Sequoia in the world, standing 268 feet tall, and nearly 107 feet around at its base.  It is said its habitat must be stupendous since it has grown to this height and width in only 1,700 years.   As you’ve likely already surmised, this tree was named in 1867 for Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant. 

The immediate area around the tree is blocked off to protect the shallow roots and I hadn’t yet learned about vertical panoramic shots, so try to imagine a 6ft tall person standing at the bottom, looking up 262 feet to the top.

General Grant

THE CALIFORNIA HOAX

The tree stump pictured below has a diameter of 24 feet and is what remains of a tree cut in 1875.  “A 16 foot section was sent to the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876.  Only the outer shell was exhibited, the parts being reassembled after shipment.  People of the East refused to accept the exhibit as part of a single tree and called it a “California Hoax”. 

And just a point of note, It took 2 men 9 days to chop down the tree.  

A nearby sign in the General Grant Grove tells the tale of early explorers professing the existence of giant trees, but the public remaining skeptical.  At least 3 nearby Sequoia died to prove that they lived.  Cut into pieces, they were shipped across the country for exhibition as “freaks”. 

There was the Mark Twain Tree, over 300 feet tall, which was cut down in 1891.  Slabs of its trunk still hang in museums in New York and London.

Another sign has this quote from an eyewitness to the felling of a giant sequoia in 1893.  “The immense tree quivered like one in agony, and with a crushing, raging, deafening sound it fell…breaking into a million pieces.”  Sigh.  This makes my heart hurt.

Thank goodness they are now protected.  Before the early formal protections were accepted as the law of the land so to speak, the US Calvary often came to protect these giant trees from ill intended axes.  Hurray for the uniformed men on horseback!.  

 

After enjoying the trees, a couple of hikes, and an overnight in a Kings Canyon campground, I moved the next morning about an hour south the be in the company of the largest tree anywhere and the largest living thing or earth, General Sherman.

General Sherman, at 2,200 years old, is not the tallest or the widest, but the overall volume of wood in its trunk makes it the biggest tree on Earth.  It is 275 feet tall and has a circumference of 103 feet at its base.

The General Sherman tree is about 1,000 years younger than the oldest known sequoia.  How can this be you ask?  Location, Location, Location! Where growing conditions are best, sequoias grow faster.  They outgrow older trees rooted in less prime locations.

John Muir describes entering this grove in 1873:  “A magnificent growth of giants…one naturally walked softly and awe-stricken among them.  I wondered on, meeting nobler trees where all are noble…this part of the Sequoia best seemed to me the finest, and I then named it “the Giant Forest”. and it remains so named to this day.

A gal I met on the trail taught me how to take a panoramic shot of the trees, so I could get the entire tree in one frame.  How cool is that?  

I waited until someone was standing nearby so to show perspective on the height and mass of the tree.  Make sure to look for the person in blue at the bottom left of the tree in the photo above.  Wow, right?  You might also note the regular sized trees growing to the left and right of General Sherman.

Fire scars

Fire takes life

WILDFIRE

When a being stands in a forest for thousands of years, it is bound to experience wildfires.  You can see in the above photos how one tree is scarred and another is taken.  

There is a sign showing a slab of a stump which tells the story of fire and survival.  The annual growth rings show that the tree lived about 2,210 years.  Marks within some rings show that, during that time, at least 80 different fires burned hot enough to leave a scar.

Mature sequoias survive all but the hottest of fires.  Thick, fibrous bark insulates the tree from killing heat.  The bark holds very little sap or pitch, so it is not very flammable.  Mature sequoias live quite well despite large fire scars.  

Fire is also very important for the propagation of new trees as it creates ideal conditions for sequoia seeds to germinate and for seedlings to grow. HeaT rising from the fire dries overhanging cones causing them to open.  Cones then rain seeds onto fire-cleared, ash fertilized ground-a perfect seedbed.  Millions of sequoia sprout after a fire.

So thats my time with the big trees.  I’m so glad they called and that I answered.  Until next time ancient ones, until next time.

Upon leaving Sequoia, I headed south to Bakersfield where I turned East for the first time since leaving home.  My sights are set on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon where I just, against all odds, scored a three night stay in the campground overlooking the Rim! Woohoo!!!  

My reservation begins tomorrow and my next post, hopefully out tomorrow morning while I still have great internet, will show where I’ve holed up over the past two days, taking a break from the 113 degree heat and campervan life, as well as a few fantastic photos of Elo in Joshua Tree National Park, so stay tuned.

Until next time…

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Comments:

  • Silver Hjellen

    August 18, 2021

    ONCE AGAIN, just loved your description above and all of the interesting facts you shared. Your words have a way of capturing the soul of a place like Sequoia. And your photos are magical. I have never known how to photograph a tree like that. Last year I was in the Redwoods and would have loved to have known how to do them justice in photos.

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    • Margie

      August 20, 2021

      High praise indeed, Silver. Thank you. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post 💖

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  • Tena

    August 19, 2021

    Awe inspiring! As always your pictures are gorgeous and I love the history you include in your posts. Thank you!

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    • Margie

      August 20, 2021

      Thank you Tena. So happy you’re along for the ride. 💖

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  • Rusty Hunt

    August 21, 2021

    This made me think of “Overstory.: That description of the felled tree was pretty brutal.

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    • Margie

      August 21, 2021

      I agree and thought of, Overstory as well. I guess not surprisingly, it was for sale among the books at the Visitor’s Centers in both the Redwoods and SequoiaKings Canyon.

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  • Darden Yerkes

    August 31, 2021

    Cutting down the trees almost made me cry.

    reply...

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