Blog: Wildlife and Big Trees

Burt Ross

After the fire destroyed our home and everything in it, Karen York had my bride and me over for dinner and gave us some sage advice. She urged us to leave town every now and then to clear our heads from the task of rebuilding that lay ahead. We followed her advice.

About 10 days ago, my bride and I drove five hours to Sequoia National Park. The website described in detail the animal life and the giant trees we were about to see.

As for the wildlife, I was not particularly bowled over. Of course, we did not expect to see the elusive cougar or wolverine, but I did hope to see a black bear or two. We saw squirrels, chipmunks, nondescript birds and then, just as I had given up all hope, a mere 10 or 20 yards before me was a behemoth, the biggest black creature on four legs that I had ever seen roam the forest floor. I did not know black bears could be that enormous. I looked more closely and observed small horns on this veritable beast. I had never heard of a bear with horns. I bent over and looked at the monster’s underbelly. It became quite apparent that I was not looking at a bear but rather a magnificent bull—no, not a bull elk nor a bull moose, but the male counterpart of a cow. No matador am I, and so I hightailed it back to my cabin.

The giant sequoias, the world’s biggest trees, only grow naturally on the western side of the Sierra Nevada range, and these unique specimens are far more inspiring than a steer aimlessly wandering around the woods. There are more giant sequoias in this park than anywhere else in the world.

Mature sequoias can tower over a 20-story building and are often confused with redwoods, which are even taller but not as big in volume. The world’s largest tree is called General Sherman and constitutes the park’s most celebrated attraction. It took me several minutes to walk around the base of this tree, which experts estimate is more than 2,200 years old. In other words, this tree predates the birth of Christ.

It is humbling to be in the presence of these magnificent trees, but I found one way in which I could relate to them. As they get older, sequoias stop growing vertically, but continue to expand their girth. I suffer from the same phenomenon.