Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Big Trees


As promised, here is another post with images from my recent trip to Calaveras County in California. One of the destinations I hoped to visit was the Big Trees Park located about eighteen miles up the road from my cute little motel in Angels Camp. I headed out in this direction on my first day alone. It was mildly drizzling. The road started to climb...up, up, up....my windshield seemed to be a target for slushy, half frozen waves of sleet...the sleet turned to snow... the snow became a blinding sea of white...and just as my little rental car started to lose traction, I saw the sign requiring chains. I turned back down the road and noticed a sign indicating the elevation. I was near 4000 feet. This was the High Sierra...and would have to wait for another day.

It snowed all that night, over five inches accumulated in Angels Camp but then the weather turned sunny....still cold but crisp and clean and clear. I knew I'd make it to the Big Trees that Thursday. Another couple, an elderly lady, and I were the only ones who went. The forest ranger looked at our shoes. They were all wrong. The others ventured about a hundred yards to the "stump" which had been used as a dance floor in the 1920s or thereabout. The ranger said that the snow had been "packed down" as well as possible. The complete trail was only about a mile and a half, and I knew that life might not bring be back to this special place. So, off I went, trying to stay on the packed snow.

I could not see any of the trail markers, of course. Everything was covered in about four feet of light, white, dry snow. It was beautiful, beyond beautiful. It was spiritual. Within no time, all I could see were giant trees, puffy white clouds, and a sky as blue as oil paint straight from the tube. I felt at once very, very small and totally at one with God and Nature. Squirrels looked at me like some sort of fool, especially when the trail gave way and I sunk in above my knees. Occasionally, I'd hear a loud crack. A limb the size of an ordinary tree in my neighborhood back home broke under the weight of the snow. The vision was quite like a video tape of a collapsing building. It was awesome and a little scary.

Along the path I saw the "Mother of the Forest", a tree that had its bark stripped and had died. I went down the provided steps into the dry cavity of a fallen giant tree with icicles stained by the tree's minerals. One tree had been tunneled through. There was a photo of an old-fashioned touring car, probably the 20s, going through the tunnel.

Each step seemed to be a photo-op, in all 360 degrees. My feet were wet and cold but I never really minded. I seemed to be walking around in heaven, gawking at the magnificence of the place...all this, the day before Yosemite. The ranger was really surprised that I made the journey. I, however, wouldn't have missed the opportunity. Truly, this was one of the most special moments of the trip. It was among the most special in a lifetime.

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