Back in 1876 some enterprising folks from California sent a big chunk of a very big tree to the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. The people there refused to believe it was from a single tree and named it the California Hoax.
What was left of that tree here in California became known as the Centennial Stump and its now a tourist draw. The tree, as you may have guessed, was a Giant Sierra Sequoia and it was most assuredly not a hoax. The Sierra Sequoias and their equally large cousins the Giant Coastal Redwoods are the largest trees on Earth and some of the oldest living single organisms. They grow to an average impressive height of 164-279 feet ( 50-85 m) with diameters ranging from 20-26 feet ( 6-8 m). The widest Sequoia of them all, the General Grant tree is 28.9 feet in diameter. And surprisingly they grow from tiny cone pods only about 1.5" to 3" long!
I was lucky enough to have seen the General Grant tree recently. I visited the Sequoia National Forest a few weeks ago with my best friend, Lily. We hiked some trails, climbed some rocks and stood in awe at the foot of General Grant and many of his brethren. We camped under the stars in the middle of the Forest and had morning coffee amongst the trees.
Did I mention I was lucky to visit? I was, and especially so because as of this writing the Sequoias are being threatened by a series of wildfires. The KNP Complex and Windy fires have together already burned about 187,000 acres and are still not fully contained. Those fires started on September 9th, 2021, the day I drove into the park and the day these photos were taken. A year earlier, in 2020, the Castle Fire had already destroyed 7500-10,600 trees.
These tress are uniquely made to survive wildfires and in fact their tiny seed pods are opened in the heat of fires so they need some fire to propagate, but the droughts have made them vulnerable and the extreme fires California has seen recently are killing them off in record numbers. Considering the Sequoias are already listed as an endangered species we may be seeing the last of these tremendous trees. For myself it is humbling to know the two days I was there were the last days of the Park as we currently know it.
To stand at the foot of these gentle giants, to press your palm or your cheek against their bark and feel their heartbeat, to hear their hum as the wind soughs through their branches is to feel a connection to our ancient past and the life of this earth in a way that's hard to describe.
It is awe inspiring. It is humbling. It is holy. Please join with me in wishing those fighting these fires luck and love in saving these trees for us all and for future generations to come.