A Hunt For Giants Amongst Giants

17 June 2013 in Memories, Trails/Hiking, Traveling, Yosemite National Park

Sequoia Trees Tuolumne Grove Yosemite National ParkThe forests of Yosemite are littered with giant trees. Some massive in girth like the elder Douglas Firs, others towering in height like the Sugar Pine; the world’s tallest pine species and also the tree responsible for the enormous pine cones—up to a foot long and several inches wide. But it was the sequoiadendron giganteum or Giant Sequoia if you’re not up on your Latin that we were in search of today. With trunks ranging all the way up to 36 feet in diameter, reaching skyward to heights of 290 feet and weighing in at over 1300 tons we figured they’d be hard to miss. And yet I almost walked right past the very first one.

There are two small groves in our neck of the woods – Merced Grove and Tuolumne Grove. The day was brisk to say the least with massive banks of thick, gray clouds blocking out any warmth the sun might provide as we strolled down the long wide path to the the first grove. Our hurried steps weren’t as much a product of anticipation as they were a scheme to generate some body heat. About a mile in there was a split in the lasso of a trail. Debating which route to take I almost completely missed the stately titan looming in patient silence to my left. A tree, perhaps 15 feet wide and an incalculable number of feet tall stood just off the trail as it had for over 1500 years. Once a small sapling—around the time of ancient Rome—sprouted from a seed the size of an oat, which emerged from a cone no bigger than the tip of your thumb; this colossal tree—if it can truly be labeled as such—grew.

20130416-DSC_1223_low-resA being so large and so old commands a respect beyond the capacity of which I usually would allot a plant. You almost feel as though they are conscious creatures enjoying a long hibernation and one day they’ll awake and share with us some ancient secrets. There’s a life and almost a feeling of wisdom they seem to contain that is only accumulated with time. I know this sounds mystic and fanciful, but it’s a feeling you get standing under these archaic spires, as you are dwarfed and made insignificant by the scales of size and time. If you’re still feeling critical of such notions please come and see for yourself. I too would have been leery of such apocryphal tales, but here I stood possessed by these feelings.

The first Sequoia was one of many in the grove. Varying in width from 10-15 feet, all were a sight to behold, our necks slowly craning upward to take in their lofty, cloud-catching crowns. Our hands reaching out to press their soft, thick and slightly fuzzy bark. This hefty, spongelike barrier explains their longevity despite the regular occurrence of forest fires. Some trees still displayed the blackened scars of long past blazes.

In the future I would like to revisit these groves and spend the day laying beneath the elders, but today was much to cold for such ventures. So to maintain our fading body heat we climbed the hill back out of the grove. We’d visit a second grove today with similar experiences. Big trees, too big to accurately portray in words. We attempted to capture their grandeur through photos, but it’s nearly impossible to encapsulate.

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