Gavin Greig (ggreig) wrote,
Gavin Greig

Redwoods and Sequoias

A Sequoia and Me

Me and a RedwoodWell, who knew that they weren’t the same? Not me, but once you see them in person they’re not alike at all; apart from both being mahoosive!

Redwoods grow along the northern half of the coast of California; they’re fairly numerous and commercially harvested. They are home to small tree villages of Ewoks, although if I’m completely honest I have to admit I never actually saw any of those. Redwoods are tall and thin, although thin is relative when you grow that tall; they can still be over 20 feet across at the base of the trunk. Compare that with a 10' x 10' room, and you’ll see that if you find the right tree and you’re careful about it, you could fit the room inside the tree.

Sequoias are protected. They’re much less common, and are quite picky about the environment they grow in, preferring a fairly narrow band of altitudes in the mountains – between 5,000 and 7,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada. A couple of thousand feet may sound like a lot, but maybe not when you consider the trees themselves can grow to over 300 feet tall. They don’t grow quite as tall as the redwoods do - there’s about 50 feet in it - but they’re a lot bigger in the more general sense of the word, because they don’t get much thinner as they get taller. For all their size, they look pretty stocky.

msinvisfem's master-plan for the first part of my recent visit to California was to see big trees, since they were the most obvious Californian icon I’d not seen on previous trips. The day after arriving, msinvisfem, her Mum and I set off to travel north. More about other aspects of the trip another time, as I've decided to do themed posts this time rather than a travelogue, but here’s the overview of the route: from Anaheim we went up the Coastal Highway past Monterey (which I visited last time I was in the States) and San Francisco, then the Redwood Highway as far as Patrick's Point. After that we cut inland towards Redding, then south through Sacramento and Fresno, before heading further inland to Sequoia National Park. The final haul was back down to Anaheim, arriving eight days after we'd set out.

The trees are interesting enough in themselves, but there’s a human history to some of them too, particularly the larger sequoias. A fallen sequoia may be big enough to live in, if you don’t need a lot in the way of space. Tharp’s Log (interior below) was inhabited every summer from 1861 to 1890 by Hale Tharp, the first non-Native American to enter Giant Forest. Sequoias are very slow to decay, so trunks that fell over 100 years ago can still be in a good state today. Tharp’s Log was hollowed out by fire.

The age of the living trees is impressive too. They’re not the world’s oldest, but a sequoia cut down in 1893 for the Chicago World’s Fair comes 8th or 9th in the top ten (3200 years old, by ring count), and many are between 2000 and 3000 years old.

Interior of Tharp's Log, a cabin made of a single hollow sequoia trunkRoots of a fallen redwood

And yes, we drove through a tree:

Tags: california, natural history, photography, travel, video

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