Friday, October 31, 2008

Matthew Sharon and Big Trees

The other part of our trip to the Sierra mountains involved visiting Sequoia National Park, the place where the largest trees in the world grow. These are the Giant Sequoia redwoods, relatives of the the Coastal Redwoods that we have visited so often in Muir Woods as well as in the coastal mountains both north and south of San Francisco. My relationship with the tall Coastal Redwoods was love at first sight- the relationship is enduring. Though the Giant Sequoias tried to tease me away from my first love I did not waver. Oh, the Giant Sequoias are impressive, but they just don't take my breathe away- not the way the Coastal Redwoods do. The Sequoias don't grow as tall as the Coastal Redwoods, but they do get significantly bigger in diameter and therefore, their mass is larger than coastal's. But it isn't just the size of these massive trees- or even the fact that they were standing right here in California 2000-3000 years ago (being kept from abysmal loneliness by the locals- Native Americans- who did not ever consider cutting them down for shingles for their tee pees- but don't get me started!) when Jesus was walking about the middle east- though it probably wasn't considered the middle east at that point of anyone's world. Anyway- I think I lost this particular train of thought- But it was heading towards- though not in any linear fashion- Don- this sentence is for you- it was rather how different the relationship of these two trees with the world around them. With the Coastal Redwoods they are connected at the top which creates this giant canopy that then becomes another above ground world- in fact some of it's plant and animal life never come to the surface of this earth for generations and generations, while for the Giant Sequoias there is open space between the trees- they're not all connected so you can actually tell when one begins and another ends. I like the connected part of the Coastal Redwoods- and the fact that there is another world going on quite separate from mine so high above us all. You all might have some trouble following the red words above. I certainly wouldn't want to try to diagram those sentences, but it's what Max wants to say, so it will remain. I think you can mostly get the message that the Coastals keep each other company and the Sequoias were kept from being lonely by the Native Americans (at least that's what I think she said).

It was about a two hour drive south of Yosemite, but the drive was well worth it. When these trees were first discovered and decisions were made to preserve them, they were often given names of military leaders, but also names of states. Our first stop was to visit the General Grant Tree, the second largest tree in the world which is located at the edge of Kings Canyon National Park. This tree is 268 feet tall and has a circumference of 107.5 feet and is estimated to be 1800 to 2000 years old. That's the base of it behind Max.

We also got to see some more fall colors in this grove. These California dogwoods were just turning.

From Grant we drove to Sequoia National Park to the Giant Forest where trees of this "general" size are pretty common. The predominant tree is the General Sherman Tree, the largest tree in the world. It is 274 feet tall, 103 feet in circumference and estimated to be 2300 to 2700 years old.

To give you some perspective of the size of the this tree, they built a brick foot print of the trunk that Max is standing in the center of in the picture below.

As we were preparing to hike into the Giant Forest to look at the array of trees we were abruptly stopped by the presence of a mother black bear with two cubs, one brown and one black. She and the cubs were obviously comfortable foraging for food in the presence of humans, as they basically ignored us. Oh my God! And I was not reassured when Don said- well the only person that has to worry is the slowest- And guess who is the slowest- you got it- yours truly!

It took just a bit for it to sink in- this is not the zoo- and there is no high chain link fence- just wide open spaces- and not that much space between us- and the bears. AND THEY WERE SOOOOOOOO CUTE! The mother was big and black- and there was one little brown bear and one little black bear. I actually had never seen bears move so much- certainly not in the zoo- where they are always laying around looking hot and miserable- these bears weren't looking miserable. Nonetheless we stayed well out of her way. Note that these pictures were taken with a telephoto lens and then enlarged further on my computer. We didn't want to get near her and her cubs. But there are some people that don't seem to have much sense that these are wild animals that could easily turn on you. This guy below obviously has outwitted the process of natural selection. He even got closer so he could make sure he got close ups.

Did this idiot really believe that a split rail fence would protect him from an angry mother bear?? And then this guy followed her and hid behind a tree and to flash pictures from about 15 feet away. I must say that the bear had a lot more patience that I would have had.

We all decided that getting away from these crazy people was in our best interest so we headed to a hiking path into the Giant's Forest. Just as we were leaving a large group of European tourists arrived, saw the bears and started running towards yelling "Ursa" in between taking puffs on their cigarettes. It reminded me of the book "The Ugly American" written to reflect how boorish Americans can be when in another country. They were yelling and screaming- and smoking non stop on the trails in the woods- and this is high alert for forest fires. We wanted to get away from them as fast as possible, so off we went on the trail to the Giants.

Look in the far left side of the picture above and you can see Sharon sitting on a bench next to this tree.

In the above there is also a person just visible between the two trunks of these giants.

And above is Matthew standing next to a fairly typical tree in this forest.

As we were finishing our hike and returning to the starting point, guess who Max almost walked into? She looked up there about 15 yards in front of her was momma and babies.
Now this was a double "Oh My God!" moment. I was leading our little merry group- Don, Matthew and Sharon were photographing every single tree in that particular forest- so I was up ahead- I rounded the corner- and there they were- THE BEARS! Not too many feet away- and no little picket fence- They were standing in the path for our return- well trust me- that is not the way we were going to go!

We took another wide detour and headed back to the car. The guys went back for the car while Sharon and I waited- well trust me- we were on HIGH ALERT for the bears!

And we didn't only see bears in this park. On our walk back to the car, this buck was looking for something to eat.

And this coyote didn't seem to be very afraid of us as we drove on the park roads. I think that maybe all of these animals have read the park rules about not bothering them.

Finally on our drive back to the cabin, the sun was setting and we were hoping that we would find a vista where we could see the sun set. We were lucky in that a pull off came into view just as the sky was turning red and we got these pictures.


Amber said...

It is so pretty! I love the pictures of the bears, I can't believe you were so close.

Lucas said...

You guys make me laugh! I love that the only person who has to worry is the slowest! Not very nice UD but oh so funny!! :) How cool to see Bears in the wild like that. That dope in the red shirt sure looked like lunch to me. (Have you ever seen that nut job who tried to live with the bears and document them on video? He named them all and just figured he could move in with them and be their friend and then one day those bears just ate him up and you know what? I wouldn't convict those bears for any wrong doing!)
Anyway, the photos are glorious and I am absolutely pea green with envy! Wish I could have been ther with you all. Much, much love to you.

Beyond The Strip said...

Wow, that momma bear looks very large! I would have loved to have been there with you all. Your post is dated as 31 tricked by blog updater.

fiddleheads said...

i think i like big trees... :)
the bears were really cool, the europeans NOT so cool...
great post on the surprise of the bears. they made our hike even more memorable. haha

Anonymous said...

I am quite a fan of the sunset pics. Sucker for a good rise or set... just ask Lucas. We share them often! Miss you in Ohio