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<I>Photo J. T. Boysen</I>
Click to enlarge

Photo J. T. Boysen



Mightiest of the conifers, stately pillars of the Almighty--living things as you and I.

Of the twenty-six groves of the Giant Sequoias which inhabit the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Range the Mariposa Grove is the most famous. It includes five hundred and forty-five trees, covering one hundred and twenty-five acres

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and is one of the three groves located in the Yosemite National Park.

What a singular assemblage of these age-old patriarchs has nature preserved for us! Still growing, still reproducing yet linking the prehistoric with the present. Could they but speak, what strange tales would be told to the world of storms, of droughts, of earthquakes and all they have withstood; yet they stand erect and defiant.

Here it seems as though one is standing in a great temple, silent, restful, with the air seemingly filled with eternal peace These huge sentinels stand with their arms outstretched like that of the Infinite One saying to the troubled world, "Peace be still." The hardest heart will be softened when gazing upon these wonderful gifts of God.

Standing somewhat alone we find here the Grizzly Giant, the largest of the grove, and probably the world's oldest living thing. It is one of the most wonderful of its kind, retaining nearly the same diameter--twenty-nine and six-tenths feet--for a great height above the ground. The first limb is over six feet in diameter, a hundred feet high. Towering two hundred and four feet, this majestic storm-beaten monarch stands, the king of the forest.

Part of the roots of the Grizzly Giant were exposed and some thirty years ago the park commissioners under the rule of the state, hoping to prolong its life, ordered them covered with earth. So one will find a considerable mound at present around its base. Whether this has helped or not, it still stands hale and hearty. So shapely, beautiful and symmetrical are these trees that one cannot realize their unusual size and height.

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The splendid beauty and form of the Mark Twain with its height of three hundred thirty-one feet demands distinction among these grim and silent warriors. Another of this group of especial interest is the Telescope tree. It is possible to stand within the trunk where the heart has been destroyed by ancient fires and looking upward, have a clear view of the sky.

The Wawona tree, photographed and known throughout the world, with a ten-foot roadway cut through its base, is very unique, and here the visitor may linger for a picture to carry home in memory of the golden moments spent in this grove of majestic beauty.

These trees were named in honor of Sequoia, a young Cherokee Indian who had invented an alphabet for his tribe.

The Mariposa Grove was first known to the world by the efforts of Galen Clark who explored it in 1857. He, himself, first heard of it through a miner who had passed through it before stopping at his cabin which was located where Wawona now stands.

Shortly after discovery of the Mariposa Grove, one of Galen Clark's visitors tried to induce him to name it in honor of Lord Wellington of England, but he decided that the name Mariposa was more appropriate. Thus it is known today.

Lover of these trees as he was, some twenty years before he died, he prepared his grave in Yosemite Valley where he lived as its guardian, and around it he planted five of the seedlings of the Mariposa Grove. Carefully tended by him they thrived and now shade the spot where he rests.

The majority of the mature trees are from twenty to

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<I>Photo J. T. Boysen</I>
Click to enlarge

Photo J. T. Boysen


p. 61

twenty-five feet in diameter; their height varying from one hundred fifty to three hundred feet. The bark is a reddish brown, of a fibrous nature and from one-half to two feet thick. Its surface is broken into longitudinal ridges and is more or less resistant to fire.

The bulging at the base of a number of the older trees has split the bark and so exposed the tree that the fires of the past have burned and destroyed the heart. Many people unacquainted with the customs of the Indians have thought that these trees had been used by them as a backlog for camp fires. This however, is erroneous; for the Indian always builds his fire in the open, and so arranges that all sides are accessible. Most of the ancient fires, no doubt, were started by lightning.

The leaves of the Sequoias are awl or needle shaped, and about one-fourth of an inch long. The cones are compact, and very small, measuring about one and one-half inches in diameter, and from one and one-half to three inches long. The cones mature every second autumn, with myriads of seeds as light as snow flakes.

The Sequoia Gigantea is immune from everything except lightning or fire, and the hand of man.

The wood is seemingly everlasting, though brittle and without much strength. Fallen trees after being covered for hundreds of years were found to be in perfect condition.

The known age of the Sequoia Gigantea which have been logged in other groves, is from eleven to thirty-one hundred years. John Muir, a naturalist who has devoted much of his time to the trees and preservation of the wild life of the Sierras, states in his book "The Yosemite" that he found

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<I>Photo J. T. Boysen</I>
Click to enlarge

Photo J. T. Boysen


one in Kings River Park which was thirty-five and eight-tenths feet in diameter inside the bark four feet above the ground; and by laying bare a section of the charred surface from the heart to bark he counted over four thousand rings. The only way in which the age of a tree can be determined is by counting the annual rings, and this can be done only when the tree is cut down or a core taken out from the bark to the heart.

It is impossible to state the exact age of an intact tree. It has been found that after being cut, two trees of the same diameter may have a difference of a thousand years in their age. No doubt the growth of the older one had been retarded by burning at the base or denuding at the top by lightning or some hostility of the elements.

The ages of these giants must be counted in centuries, and not in years. It is almost impossible for the human mind to conceive that some of these trees were seedlings two thousand years before the birth of Christ; and when Imperial Rome was being built some of them had a green crown upon which the eagle perched and screamed defiance to the storms.

The great experience of the late war that we have just passed through, and the agony and misery of those countries which participated, has duly impressed us all. But compare with this what the message of the breezes called through the needle fingers of these monarchs in their time.

Fossils of the Sequoia Gigantea have been found in the arctic regions of Canada and in Europe. The Sequoia Gigantea of the Sierra Nevadas and their cousins, the Sequoia Sempervirens of the Coast Range are merely remnants of a

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once great forest of earlier geological period. At present they are found nowhere else except in California.

It is impossible that this at one time great forest has been destroyed by fire, as remnants of them would have been found scattered over the territory which they inhabited. So it is evident that during the last glacial epoch many were destroyed.

John Muir, by close observation, has discovered that the groves of Sequoia Gigantea, scattered from ten to sixty miles apart, were found in spots protected from the ice streams of the glacial period. No proof has been found that it was more widely distributed on the Sierras since the close of the glacial epoch.

You cannot learn the message that these trees have for you in merely passing by. A day in their presence passes quickly, and with each moment you will be better able to appreciate their singular beauty and the miracle of their existence. To be in harmony with them, cast aside your worldly cares. In our battle for wealth we are prone to forget the real things of life, the things that cannot play us false. Health and happiness will be ours if we will let them be our teacher. Live a natural life; let nature take care of us as an all-loving God cares for the trees and flowers, and provides for the birds and animals of the forest.

Let us carry away the eloquent lessons they speak, and in a simple following of that divine law set in all our hearts, be forever reaching upward. Let us through life's day go forward cheerily, that our love and kindness may be everlasting for the blessing of those who follow us.

Next: Introduction to Myths and Legends