Now for some really, really big stumps!

If you did not have the opportunity to see the more beautiful, fully glorious Giant Sequoias highlighted in my last post, I’d encourage you to at least take a peek at the photos before viewing the sad remainders of some of the following fallen giants.

Tree is named “Shattered Giant” King’s Canyon National Park

Kings Canyon National Park preserves a huge and beautiful area of the central Sierra Nevada mountains, containing deep canyons, countless lakes, pools, meadows and waterfalls, and over 20 peaks that exceed 13,000 feet.

The two National Parks, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park, are administered as one unit and seem very similar, although the Sequoia contains more of the huge trees.

We didn’t have unlimited time, but it was extremely important to me that we find Big Stump Basin. Just three miles up the road from the General Grant Grove is shocking evidence of the 19th century logging of the original forest.


The meadow is scarred and disfigured with dry, dark, dead stumps, remainders of the 1880’s Smith Comstock Lumber Mill, which split the timber for use in vineyards and farms in the Central Valley.

The trail loop is about 2-miles long, loses and gains about 200 feet in elevation and takes less than an hour to complete. Despite the thin air, it’s a relatively easy hike and the only way to view these incredible stumps.



The more spectacular sequoias were named after notables of the day, and in the mid-19th century Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) wrote some of his best known works from a little cabin in the Sierra Nevadascreating a link to the big trees.

The Mark Twain Tree, a 1,350 year old sequoia was sacrificed in 1891 so its 16-foot diameter slabs could be displayed in the New York Museum of Natural History and the British Museum of Natural History in London.

Mark Twain tree stump
Mark Twain tree stump Kings Canyon National Park

Since sequoia wood is quite brittle and prone to shattering upon impact, the loss of these trees, simply to amaze and impress, is hard to fathom, although even today we see egregious displays of vandalism in our national parks.


Environmental factors continue to threaten the life of these magnificent trees. I presume it gets old hearing me reference the drought, but sequoias are dying in unprecedented numbers because of drought, heat and bark beetle infestations.


This is not a fall foliage color display! These are dead trees. Tree mortality in California is not just a loss in beauty, but also contributes to the horrific wildfire conditions we witnessed this past summer.

Stressed trees are abundant hosts for the bark beetles and as we enter what could be the sixth year of drought, it isn’t looking good.

I was very impressed with the way the National Parks Service is committed to informing and teaching Park visitors about how climate change is affecting all life inside the parks. Those of us deeply concerned about environmental protection are going to have a very big challenge in the next few years. 

It troubles me deeply.


57 thoughts on “Now for some really, really big stumps!

  1. It troubles me too Debra. We have recently made a few trips into the Bavarian Forest and in some areas of the National Park the tops of the mountains are a sorry sight – about 30 years ago or more a series of storms felled many trees and provided perfect conditions for the bark beetle to get a grip. The skeletal remains of the evergreens are now landmarks. I do hope your drought will not be the end of those fantastic natural monuments. As I sit here with rain beating at the windows I only wish I could send it to you!

    1. It is interesting for me to hear that you’re acquainted with the bark beetle, too, Cathy! I wouldn’t have considered that storm damage would also be a host condition for these pests, but i think it’s anything that weakens the trees! I am fairly certain that climate change is no longer a threat, and is instead a reality that is beginning to force changes that are very hard to accept. We are going to find out how adaptable our environment is (or isn’t) and it’s just so troubling if I think too long and hard! The sequoias have been here for millennia and i just have to believe they’ll continue to replenish themselves even if we lose many of the older, more mature trees. Fortunately, there are millions of them still towering and appearing healthy! 🙂

  2. Thank you Debra, for sharing, and teaching. When we don’t ‘see’ it we tend to not understand the impacts on our world. Though I ‘know’ about the drought, I don’t really understand it’s impact. Your post today really brought it home.

    1. The entire southwest, nine states included, are currently listed as affected by drought. California is listed as the worst, but others are negatively affected as well. I read an article this past week stating that parts of Georgia are under drought conditions! I have lost the ability to be optimistic when it comes to rain! I think the best I can do at the moment is try to make peace with acceptance. LOL! Thank you, Colleen!

      1. I can’t imagine that. So much at stake. I also read of some 3rd world countries who are changing salt water into drinkable water. I don’t remember the article, wish I did, but it made reference to why couldn’t America do the same for the suffering states.

  3. I can’t believe that people chopped up trees for museum displays. Environmental issues will be tough in the next few years. My hope is that it’s only 4 years and the greater emphasis is on other issues. Two steps forward, three steps back.

    1. I completely agree with you, Kate. You’d closed your comments on your last post, which I understood, but I just wanted to reach out with a hearty “Amen” to everything you said. I’m deeply saddened and troubled that we’ll have someone in the White House with such flagrant disregard for environmental concerns. But then, that’s just one small portion of the long slippery slope! I think it’s going to take all of us to be very vigilant.

  4. Anonymous

    Still incredible photographs, Debra, despite the lack of fall colors. I take it there is no remedy for controlling the bark beetle without consequence to the sequoias. Sad indeed!

    1. Thank you! I don’t know about any remedy to the bark beetle, but stressed trees are their target! I guess we can just hope for less stress on the trees! But then, I’d like less stress as well. 🙂

  5. Catherine Wade

    I am really, really going to make this trip. So sad to see what man and this drought are doing to our forests. Not much we can do about nature but man definitely needs to pay attention to the damage being done and make the necessary changes. As always your pictures inspire me.

    1. Thank you my friend. I would really like to see you make this trip! It would definitely be a restorative journey. I can’t do anything about the stress on the trees, but I do like to take care of mine the best I can! LOL! And these national parks are a great step in that direction!

    1. Carl, your words are just beautiful. You’ve really captured the feeling I encountered in these forests. Thank you so much for leaving such an inspiring comment.

  6. The spirit of the incoming administration can probably summed up by an old Ronald Reagan quote: “I think, too, that we’ve got to recognize that where the preservation of a natural resource like the redwoods is concerned, that there is a common sense limit. I mean, if you’ve looked at a hundred thousand acres or so of trees — you know, a tree is a tree, how many more do you need to look at?” It’s that kind of missing-the-point unconsciousness that we will have to deal with for quite some time.

    1. Oh Jim! I recall “a tree is a tree,” but I am sure I never read the entire quote. Yep! As distressing as that quote is, I think we’re headed into much worse. The only hope I hold onto is the outcry and pressured oversight of millions of Americans (and our friends around the world) who are just not going to stand for flagrant disregard of our environmental concerns. We are in for quite a tortured ride, I fear!

    1. I have read quite a bit about the logging industry and the remnants of their destruction, but I did really want to experience it for myself. It was more shocking than I’d expected, Otto. It’s hard to fathom the thinking, but people are still so often unaware or unconcerned about the way their actions affect nature. I found it very sobering!

  7. Oh, Debra, it troubles me as well. Your drought has had an unfathomable impact already, with more to come, and it reaches far beyond the state lines. i keep telling folks hereabouts that it is our food supply, among other issues, and I get blank looks. It is 60 degrees here, which is nice, but, foreshadows what is happening. My tree peonies are budding. Birds are confused as to which way to fly. Oh, dear, I rattle on.

    I read somewhere that loggers and profiteers would hold dances on stumps such as the Mark Twain stump, charging fees to go up to dance. 😦

    Your photos are dramatic and a call to action if ever there was. It looks to be far more than half of those forests dying out and even more fires to come. I applaud you and your efforts to see for yourself what has happened and carry the message to all of us. Thank you, Debra.

    1. I’m sorry it has taken me so long to respond to your very thoughtful comment, Penny. I think you so totally understand the implications of the drought and all climate change related challenges we are already facing and undoubtedly will continue to experience perhaps exponentially, and I’m beginning to realize people either “get it,” or seem incapable. I don’t know how to relate to people who don’t jump in with concern until they are directly affected. You are so correct when you reference California’s agricultural contribution to the world. I’ve shared before how heartbreaking it is drive through the middle of the state and see large-scale fields simply tilled under. Citrus groves, nut trees and vineyards are off to the side of the highway shriveled or entirely dead. I do wonder what it will mean longterm. On a more cheerful note for today, the weather has changed from early morning sunshine to dark and stormy, and we’re due a little rain. It may not be much, but I’ll enjoy every minute of it. As for your false spring! I had to laugh at the comment about the birds being confused. It really isn’t at all funny, but I just shake my head! Nature is pleading with us, don’t you think? I’m glad we have the same concerns, my friend at the other end of Route 66!

  8. Now those are stumps! Wow! …. Great photography, Debra … then again, the setting made it easy. 😉 … On the downside, wow – that’s a lot of dead trees. 😦 … but this still was a great post. 🙂

    1. Thank you for appreciating the photography of the tree stumps, Frank. It’s taken me a few days to get back to the blog, but I thank you. I am a very astute photographer! 🙂 I choose my subjects according for what I suppose will be no-fail photographic impact. These are no ordinary stumps, that’s for sure. I hope you had a good Thanksgiving. It’s hard for me to believe we have another one crossed off the calendar! How quickly we seem to move from one event or holiday to the next!

    1. I, and huge cohort of other concerned Americans, are utterly horrified that Trump is in office, Philip. And that he is dedicated to suppressing progress in defensive policies to limit climate change, believing it to be a hoax, is just the tip of why we are appalled. Precisely how we are going to mobilize and standup to such utter nonsense I am not yet sure, but mobilize we will! Too much is at stake. I have lost respect for a lot of people in the process of the climate change argument, but so be it. I’m also encouraged by how many people are dedicated to protecting what we have left. Thank you for your concerned comment. I think the rest of the world needs to help keep an eye on us. We need help!

  9. It’s sad to see so many trees suffering and dying in the drought conditions. Add to that the threat of fungal diseases carried by beetles and the future does not look good. We have lost the sight of full grown ‘English’ Elm trees forever from Dutch Elm Disease – a very visible impact on the countryside I knew as a young man. It’s not just the trees that are lost – feeding and nesting sites for birds impacting on their numbers.

    The big issue with the climate change debate is the complexity of the factors governing the global temperature. The Sunspot 11 year cycle and the precession of the Earth’s orbit around the sun which causes temperatures to rise and fall over a very extended period interact to confuse the issue. And there are a number of other natural variables involved. It’s small wonder that people can be convinced by those whose interests are best served by denying Human involvement in the changes around us when the scientific case is so complicated. I did an Open University course in which one of the larger modules was about Climate Change. I had to make my own mind up – they just present scientific facts from which you have to come to your own conclusions. On the balance of the information I learnt and subsequent additional information that has come to light in scientific reports since, I believe that Climate Change as a result of Human activities is very real 😦

    Lets hope the politicians everywhere wake up and smell the coffee soon!

    1. I’m impressed with the depth of your study and intent on better understanding, or at least coming to your own conclusions, regarding human interference and the impact on our stressed environment. I have no real understanding of Sunspot cycles or the science that causes the temperatures to rise and fall, but I believe the scientists devoted to the study of these factors and coupled with the observable changes in my own small corner of the planet are enough to cause me great concern. I would be very interested in the Open University course you mention, but I suspect it would be over my head! I do read as much as i can to better understand the topic, however. We have elected a man who believes it all to be a hoax, or he has proffered such nonsense to add body to his other appalling claims. Despite the nonsense that could lead to dire consequences, there are millions of Americans ready to join effort with “cooler heads” internationally in a concerted effort to continue to promote climate science. I hope for a lot better than I see at the moment! Thank you for such an interesting and thought provoking comment, Martin. You always add so much.

  10. Oh that just breaks my heart to see so many dying trees among the living ones! I’m used to that kind of look being fall foliage…praying for some rain in your neck of the woods! You guys can take some of the wetness we get here in the Midwest!!

    1. We had some rain today, Stacey! It was refreshing and I’m hope the local trees, stressed in their own ways, took a long and delicious drink! The trees in our National Parks certainly make a very dramatic display, don’t they? Mother Nature is really struggling. 😦

  11. What beauty and grandeur and what a shame they are in jeopardy even if we are not cutting them down anymore. I am especially nostalgic for a wild adventure too bad I am not closer; I am sure to be present near the gorgeous giants would be out of this world.

    1. It seems that human nature doesn’t much change, Cristina. We “use up” our resources one way or another. We either “pave paradise” or we turn our heads and look the other way when provided evidence that our actions have consequences. I wish you were where we could share a little adventure walking among the giant trees, my friend. It just may happen one day! 🙂

  12. What a grand tour of the Kings Canyon National Park! Great photos. Thank you, Debra!
    6 year drought is so brutal…Hope it’s going to be a better year in 2017.

  13. My husband and I visited Yosemite last month. It was my first time back in over 30 years. I was so saddened to see the effects of climate change (the drought and the bark beetle) and human intervention (years of fire suppression). Our local mountains here in SoCal are feeling the pain too and it breaks my heart.

    1. I am so glad you stopped by and shared your impressions from Yosemite. It had been years and years since we’d visited Yosemite, as well, and it was shocking to us. We live in the Pasadena area and I stare in wonder at our San Gabriels and wonder what the long-term effects are going to be due to the drought and human interference. I feel that same heartache, and although we support environmental agencies and organizations with our small donations, I’ve been wondering where I might find a greater advocacy role that matches the depth of my concern. I don’t yet know what that may look like! I love your blog name, “Retirementallychallenged.” I retired in late July and I’m still adjusting. Maybe I’m challenged as well. 🙂 Thank you so much for stopping by with your thoughtful observations and comment.

  14. I am always interested in finding out new or less publicized information about trees, drought, beetles and how environment is being destroyed. Debra, thank you for going me to at least know a few important things about Western coastal weather conditions as well as it’s lasting and devastating results! 😦 Hugs for helping me to “see the light” clearer now. . . .

    1. I am so glad you’re interested in learning about another environmental challenge, Robin. I feel that way, too. I want to know how others are experiencing some of the global environmental changes that are threatening us. I find it more difficult to be hopeful in the current “climate”–pun noted!–of political expediency denying what some of us are seeing and experiencing right under our noses. I feel closer to my blogging friends who “get it,” than some of the people in my everyday life who are more than happy to have a new executive branch of government supporting the hoax theory! 🙂 Thank you for your thought-filled comment, my friend.

  15. I doubt that many outside of California are aware of the drought’s consequences on the Sequoia, and fewer know of the beetle problems. I myself knew of the former but not the latter. We may not be able to do much to increase the rain that falls but we can do our best to prevent man-made climate change. I find it hard to believe that there are those who still deny the scientific evidence and believe climate change to be a hoax. Forget about how history will view them. What will their grandchildren tell their children?

    1. I am entirely like-minded regarding climate change and our responsibility, John. I have found in the last several months that this has been the most frustrating “dividing line” I’ve encountered. I can usually get around political divisions within the family or with friends, but when it comes to an almost arrogant disregard for observable science and the impact denial has in changing our lives, distressing all living things, I’ve grown incredibly intolerant. Too much is hanging in the balance and given what I think may be coming from Washington, I suspect we’re in for a terribly bumpy ride. Here I go…preaching to the choir. I do that a lot these days. LOL!

  16. Beautiful photos yet heartbreaking to see these giant beauties cut down. What are we doing to our forests the world over? There is so much illegal logging and deforestation everywhere its just so distressing!


  17. Those certainly are some bit stumps. I can’t believe the Mark Twain tree was cut down so it could be put in a museum! We all know trees are necessary so it’s difficult to understand why it is that forests are still being cut down xx

  18. Pingback: So what is an atmospheric river? | breathelighter

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