28 August 2009

Last Day in Sequoia

Post 4/4 ~ Sequoia Trip
Warning! ~ Picture heavy post ahead, may take time to load!

400 sequoia w sign
For my last day in Sequoia, I wanted to spend my time among the big trees. By now, I had figured out the best settings on the camera and had a better idea of the types of pictures I wanted to take. Sometimes, it's the simplest things that help to give a sense of scale to a picture, like this speed limit sign in front of a sequoia.

401 tall trees
I stopped by the same quiet meadow area I had walked the first day. The light was so beautiful in the early morning. I love the dappled glow with meadow flowers dancing underneath the forest canopy far overhead.

402 subaru for scale
Here, my trusty little Subaru Forester helps to give a sense of scale. These were such lovely woods!

403 Ned by Ed
Then I hiked the "Big Trees Trail" near the Giant Grove Museum. There were far fewer people present on this day and I had the trail almost to myself. The trail starts near the museum, crosses the road and circles the Round Meadow. These two tall trees called Ed by Ned grew close enough together that their bases merged into one large one measuring 25x35 feet! To help give perspective on this, the footprint of my house that burned down was 24x32' not including the garage! So if you squared off the corners of the the base of these trees and built walls straight up, my two story house would have fit inside of that space! Thats roughly 750 square feet of space taken up by the base of these two trees! Huge!

404 effects of ozone
Around the meadow, there were many young sequoia, some no taller than my knees. Many of them had this yellow red coloring caused by ozone polution that travels down the San Joaquin Valley from the San Francisco area. Sad to see that we are affecting the next generations of trees in such a way as it prevents them from asborbing what they need to make chlorophil. One ranger I heard talking about the trees described the effects of ozone on people as like getting a sunburn in our lungs. Basically ozone allows the tree to get sunburned too. Food for thought.

405 trio
It was hard to believe that fifty years ago, this meadow was ringed by a road and the area dotted with cabins, restaurants and other buildings. Now the road and all the buildings are gone and just a small footpath left to meander through the trees. The trees are left in relative peace to grow and thrive around the meadow like this trio of brilliant trees.

406 Dogwood
On the trail back to the museum, the mountain dogwood was catching the light. So lovely!

407 Sentinal
At the museum, the Sentinal tree stands proud. On this day, there were far fewer visitors and it was easier to take in the enormity of this magnificant tree. The sign delcared it as just an average Sequoia, weighing about as much as two 747 jumbo jets!

408 Tunnel Log
Then I made my way up the narrow road to the Tunnel Tree. The opening in this tree is 8 feet tall, and yes, I was able to drive my Subaru right through with no problems! The opening was carved out over 100 years ago and is virtually unchanged. They say that sequoia wood has so many tannins in it that it is extreemly resistant to decay. There are pictures of some of the fallen trees from the 1860's that are unchanged even today!

409 Parker Group
On the same road, there is a group of trees called the Parker Group, named for some of the early Buffalo Soldiers who cared for the are before it became a park. Some of the trees here grow closely together and standing in the midst and looking up gives a unique perspective!
The burn marks on all the sequoia are from past forest fires. It turns out that the trees are actually quite dependent on fire to reproduce as it takes fire to clear the area in order for the seeds to sprout on bare ground. They also like sunlight and don't like to be crowded. For the first couple hundred years, the young tree shoots straight up until it reaches a maximum height of about 250 to 311 feet tall. Then it will grow in girth but no longer in height. They can live up to 3200 years old. The bark can be as thick as 31", which helps to protect the living part of the tree from fire and insects. After a fire, the bark quickly covers the exposed living wood, leaving the the center "dead" portion exposed. On some trees they are hollowed by fire for a long distance up the center of the tree, but the living portion right under the bark is still protected, so the tree still lives! Some of the trees cut over 100 years ago show evidence of having survived as many as 60 forest fires in their lifetime!
The things that kill a sequoia are mankind and toppling. The roots are shallow, only about 3 feet deep, but extending out as far as the tree is tall. In places where they grow near one another, the roots entangle together to help support each other. When a tree does fall, it's brittle wood breaks into large sections that spread across the forest floor and will lay there for hundreds of years.

410 road through
Leaving the park to head back down to Visalia and the road home, the road splits to go through these trees. They make a splendid gateway between the big trees and the rest of the forest. I hated to say goodbye to them.

412 Beautiful trees
One last picture from my morning in the quiet meadow. One of my favorite pictures from the trip, I love how it shows the ordinary forest growing beneath these stately giants. Such an amazing place!

While in Sequoia, I also did a number of small watercolor sketches that I'll post in a day or two.

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