Category Archives: California History

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.