Wow. A first word most young children use while witnessing something astonishing or admiration. When you first witness these trees for the first time and even subsequent times, you too may experience the same feelings.
Earlier, we hiked on a descent trail from an empty parking lot 1.8 miles away to another empty parking lot. Not a walk in the park. The trail was kept in a natural state and so you encounter lots of twisters and elevation climbs.
And now the sign says .5 miles away is the Mariposa Grove of Sequoia trees. Our weather, a mere few miles away, as the crow flies hovered around 111 degrees. Here now it was climbing from around the low 70’s.
If you also plan on visiting note that two smaller—and less visited—groves are the Tuolumne and Merced groves near Crane Flat.
The Mariposa Grove contains about 500 mature giant sequoias. To get there: Use the two-mile Mariposa Grove Road, which is open from approximately April through November.
LIVE A LITTLE, LEARN A LITTLE.
Giant sequoias not only can survive forest fires, they thrive on them. When a sequoia grove catches fire, the heat opens up cones on the forest floor and releases the seeds inside.
The blaze eats up any brush or deadwood that’s accumulated on the ground while leaving behind nutrient-rich ash in which the saplings can flourish.
Forest rangers only became aware of the renewing benefits of fire a few decades ago. Prior to that, they would extinguish every flame they saw then wonder why no new sequoias were growing.
Today rangers will intentionally set controlled burns to simulate the natural.
On Monday, 27 June, 1853, a giant sequoia – one of the natural world’s most awe-inspiring sights – was brought to the ground by a band of gold-rush speculators in Calaveras county, California.
It had taken the men three weeks to cut through the base of the 300ft-tall, 1,244-year-old tree, but finally it fell to the forest floor.
The species had only been “discovered” (local Native American tribes such as the Miwok had known of the trees for centuries) but, that spring a hunter stumbled upon the pristine grove in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada whilst chasing an injured bear.
Word of the discovery quickly spread.
In the age of PT Barnum‘s freak shows, the speculators, mostly gold miners, had sensed a commercial opportunity. The section of bark – re-erected using scaffold, with a piano inside to entertain paying visitors – would later be sent to Broadway in New York, as would the bark from a second tree felled a year later.
The bark of the “Mother of the Forest” – as the second tree was named – would even go on to be displayed at London’s Crystal Palace causing great excitement and wonder in Victorian England before it was destroyed by fire on 30 December 1866. (The bark of the original mammoth tree was also lost to fire as it lay in storage in New York in 1855.
A fitting end, perhaps, as fire plays such a crucial role in the life cycle of giant sequoias.)
The fame of the trees was such that a hotel was quickly built at the site to host the influx of tourists. To entertain the guests, tea dances were regularly held on the stump of the mammoth tree and a bowling alley was built on the now prone trunk.
The remarkable, engaging story of these two doomed trees is too detailed to be told here, but what is worth recalling on this anniversary is the reaction their destruction caused in the media at the time – and its subsequent effect on some progressive politicians a decade later when they cited their felling and exploitation as an inspiration to establish what later came to be known as the US NATIONAL park system.
And the rest as they now say is also history.
Enjoy your day and god bless America. Today is the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America that also killed 2,977 people and injured thousands at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Never forget.
And one day soon, I too shall plan a visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.