In the land of SEQUOIA !
For a couple so much in awe about the natural world and in particular the flora , being in presence of a giant Sequoia is must to do in one’s life. To put that in perspective it is like a Hindu visiting Varanasi or a Muslim visiting Mecca. Since we are religious about nature we had to do this.
Which part of the year was the question . Winter was always out of question, so we had to choose between Spring and Summer. Since we already had a spring plan around big bend national park we decided to do this in July. In places where there is snow, the growing season of summer is full of activities. From birds building nests to flowers carpeting the ground the place is always busy.
The Sequoia National Park is located in California and is one of the few remaining places where Sequoia trees culd be found after rampant deforestation literally removed these giants from the face of earth. Sequoiadendron giganteum or Giant Sequoia are one of the largest trees on the planet with trees reaching more than 250 feet in height . To give an idea on how tall they are compare them to a 20 storey building. It is not only the height the width also is awesome reaching up to 25 feet. Again, to put that in perspective, an average bedroom is 11 feet wide, so it is like you can have two rooms inside a tree.
While visiting this giant you get another additional benefit. Watching an even bigger giant- the coastal redwood trees / Sequoia sempervirens. The coastal redwoods can surpass the giant sequoias in height reaching upto 350 ft (size of a 35 storey building) and reach the width of two bedrooms. These are the largest living organisms in the world and also some of the oldest. These trees have been reported to live beyond 2000 years !
With these giants in mind the we reached the place very early in the morning as usual. In fact too early , 5.00 am and it was pitch dark. We decided to wait in the base of the mountain range for the sun to start coming out. We decided so , because the base of the mountains are an arid area without much rainfall. Which means the species would be different from the place with sequoia trees which require higher rainfall to achieve those heights. As anticipated we did find so many varieties of flowers.
After seeing all the dry area vegetation we took off to see the giants. It was another 1 hour drive to reach the groves. The trees gained in height as we climbed higher because of higher rainfall. One turn after another the trees were gaining in height. The vegetation also was now lush in nature with lupines and columbines lining the side of the roads. while going like this on one corner something caught my eye on the ground. We drove past it but I had a doubt and so we returned to the area.
It was a snow flower !
Snow flower is a parasitic plant that has no leaves and feeds on the roots of the giant trees. If that is weird and new to you then hear this. The flower got its name because it blooms even when snow covers the ground. The beautiful red flower sprouting out of the white snow should be must watch but seeing it means one has to come during end of winter when all other life is at a standstill. We never even hoped to see this one but this was a real treat, even though it was a little damaged !
After such a find we were all excited and finally reached the place. To our dismay the place was crowded ! Tourists from all over the place have reached the place ahead of us. Even though we started early we kept on stopping en route to click every other flower we saw and went chasing behind all the butterflies and birds. We decided to rush through the place to see the biggest tree and then return back and take some trail to stay away from the crowd.
Once we were through we took a forest road to reach a trail to go inside the forest. Now that all the commotion is gone we could actually soak in the majestic view of the worlds tallest trees. It was only us and we were busy trying to take a picture to show the massiveness of the trees. We tried different angles but the sunlight was harsh and all the images were horrible. For me it is kind of an irritating feeling if I cannot take a picture that brings out the beauty of the place . So I was furiously trying options totally forgetting that we are in a forest and not a park.
Soon , reality hit us when we heard breaking of barks from somewhere. We regrouped and started searching for the noise and we found a beautiful black bear searching for food. You can ponder as to why the bear is brown in color but the fact is black bears are sometimes brown in color.
He should have noticed us even before we noticed him but he was least bothered. He kept on breaking bark and eating isects. We kept still to take some pictures and silently took a diversion in the trail to leave him alone.
As we wandered inside the place opened up to majestic trees. There was also a bog inside the place where we roamed. A bog is always an interesting place to look for flowers as the vegetation is an ideal habitat for some orchids, like the bog orchid. Soon we found the orchids !
The orchid was the white bog orchid and it was not alone. The entire bog had different kinds of lilies and asters. While we were clicking the orchid, there was some movement on a dead log in the middle of the bog. We quickly searched for it but it ran away. We had a hunch that it will return, so we started to wait. After about 15 minutes the animal returned. It was a yellow bellied marmot. It looked like an overgrown fat squirrel ! It took position on the log and started to just scan the surroundings.
It was already afternoon and with warmth the butterflies were more active now and so were the birds. We continued birding until evening after filling our tummies with some packed food we had brought. The diversity of flora was impressive and the flowers cute. The birding yielded a nice find- white headed woodpecker. In fact we found a nest with the female inside.
With most of our wish list fulfilled , we decided to call it a day in the evening. Normally we try to camp at least one day inside the forest but this time around we felt that what we saw is enough. It was rare feeling of self content.
One can never see the world completely, leave alone experiencing it. So when that feeling of satisfaction comes that you have seen enough embrace it with open hands…Something that we learnt after being in the midst of the true giants.
But in between the sense of satisfaction the pain of reality did hit us hard.
What really hurt us is the realization that , even though true giants exist in this world and we are living with them, we take the first opportunity to destroy them in real world but see the same in 3D movies. I am talking about the movie Avatar where some magical forest is shown in 3D and all made bio luminescent and colorful. They depict a huge tree as the basis for the tribe who link their lives with it. The movie was made in Los Angles , California the same state where these real giants live. Once spread over a huge area the giants remain only in 5% of their original range. All thanks to development ! Now leaving the real world and going behind virtual world is not something a sane person will do.
The world is moving in that direction and everyone including us are being dragged with it. A sense of helplessness creeps in when we see a beautiful area being trashed in the name of developmet but it seems we have to live with it.
When the planet is getting destroyed travellers going behind nature will never get a rosy rosy picture, there is always some amount of pain. We are now used to it even though we regret it. We try to pick moments in our journeys to take them with our lives and in this case , we atleast know magical land is here on the planet and not in some movie.
Just to give an idea of size I have posted the following picture….Look for Mathi in the bottom of the picture 🙂