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California State Parks

Calaveras Big Trees State Park
North Grove

Today, California's Sierra Nevada is famous for its Giant Sequoia groves. But it wasn't until 150 years ago, that word got out to the world about these magnificent trees. And it was here in Calaveras County, where the discovery was made. first, in 1833, explorer J. K. Leonard mentioned the trees in his diary, but never published the discovery. The second European was a man named John M. Wooster, who carved his initial in one of the big trees in the grove in 1850. Finally, in 1852, Augustus T. Dowd published his discovery of the big trees and this time, the world noticed. The tree discovered by Dowd survived the sudden attention only for one year and was felled in 1853 at the age of 1,244.

But that didn't stop the grove from becoming a major tourist attraction and today, it is considered the longest continuously operated tourist facility in California. In 1931, the North Grove became a state park, which saved the last 100 surviving Sequoia trees in the grove from sharing the fate of the Discovery Tree.

In 1954, the South Grove was added to the park. This grove is ten times larger than the North Grove, but a lot less accessible. We will add more information once we made it there. For now, enjoy or pictures of our visit to the North Grove in 2006.

This is all that is left of the first Giant Sequoia the world ever heard about.

Fortunately, there are enough other trees left. Here are our pictures:

The Mother of the Forest - A Useless Sacrifice

The great size and beauty of this particular tree earned it the title "Mother of the Forest." In 1854, promoters stripped its bark for a "Mammoth Tree" exhibition and shipped the pieces east. First in New York City and then in London, the reassembled outer tree trunk delighted the crowds.

But this needless destruction also generated outrage. John Muir wrote (rightfully so) that "skinning a tree alive is as sensible a scheme as skinning our great men would be to prove their greatness."
This is all that is left of the once magnificent "Mother of the Forest." In Sequoias, the water transport from the roots to the leafs doesn't take place in the stem (like in almost all other trees) but in the bark. Sequoias can life without parts of their stem, but their sponge-like bark is not only a very effective fire wall but the essential life-line of the tree.

While Sequoias can't live without their bark, they don't seem to mind having a hole dug through them and consequently, no matter where you go, every "Big Trees" park has some kind of "Tunnel-Tree." This kind of mutilation is supposed to show the size of the trees and - of course - to attract tourists.

We could live without it, but it is still fun to walk through a tree.

The World from Inside a Tree

Since a Sequoia's bark is so much more fire resistant than the rest of the tree, many old trees are burned out inside.

This huge amount of hollow trees offers the unique chance to look at the world through a tree's eyes, or - more precisely - through its bark.

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