“The big tree is Nature’s forest masterpiece, and so far as I know, the greatest of living things. It belongs to an ancient stock…and has a strange air of other days about it, a thoroughbred look inherited from the long ago–the Auld Lang Syne of Trees.”
We were camped along the North Fork of the Kern River. The night was cool, requiring us to zip our down bags up to our shoulders. I lazily stared through the mesh of the tent door. The stars numbered in the thousands. My thoughts were that of one.
We woke the following morning and boiled some river water on the camp stove. Onion and blueberry bagels, apple cinnamon oatmeal, and Earl Grey Tea detailed our breakfast.
We soon broke camp, packed the truck and drove north into Sequoia National Forest. Low on gas, I decided there should be a station in a small town about 10 miles up the road.
My judgement proved wrong, the needle twitching on E as we wound our way along a forest road looking for the Trail of 100 Giants.
After five miles of fretting, we came upon some car campers.
“Is there gas near by?”
“Sure is, but you’ll pay for it.”
“I don’t care how much it is. We are riding on E.”
“Alright. Go to the stop sign right up the road here. Turn right. Then about six miles down the road you’ll see a lodge on the right. They have gas.”
“Thank you very much,” I said with relief, a big smile on my face.
So we headed out.
We found the lodge about nine miles and one “Jim is freaking out” moment later.
The tank was now filled with seven gallons of $2.40/gallon gas.
“Let’s find the sequoias.”
We backtracked on the paved road, stopping off at Dome Rock to take in the incredible vista there. The Sierra Nevada mountains sprawled out before and around us. We could see the Needles–a popular site on the local rock-climbing circuit. The sun was shining bright and the cobalt sky was cloudless. It was a fine day.
Our lungs filled with fresh air, we headed back to the truck. The Trail of 100 Giants was next.
We saw the trailhead and pulled off the road a few hundred feet past it where it didn’t require that we pay a five dollar fee.
At the trailhead, we were greeted by a sequoia.
I could not believe my eyes. I had never seen anything as magnificent in my life. Speechless was a word that did not define the moment. There was a deep hush.
“I’ve never seen anything like it.”
My head was completely tilted back as I tried to find the top of its crown. I could not do so.
I placed my hand on its soft, flaky trunk.
I put my ear to it as well.
I stood back.
I thought of the fact that it has been living for 1000-2000 years.
I pondered some more of “the big tree” that Muir so eloquently defined as “the Auld Lang Syne of Trees.”
We decided to move on. There were more to see.
We stopped and touched almost all of them. We walked through and around them. We were happy being with them.
Leaving, I knew the sequoia was the most magnificent creation on earth. It did nothing to prove itself. It just was (being)…
Nothing more was needed.
(written 1 October 2000)