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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Day 51: Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias (7/25/15)

Fantastic day in Yosemite. After reading John Muir's God's First Temples: How Shall We Preserve Our Forests? I was inspired to go to one of the giant sequoia groves to paint the trees and forests Muir spoke so eloquently about. He says these trees "fill the woods and form the principal tree, growing heartily on solid ledges, along water courses, in the deep, moist soil of meadows, and upon avalanche and glacial debris. With a multitude of thrifty seedlings and saplings crowding around the aged, ready to take their places and rule the woods." He talks about the interconnectedness of the forest and sierra ecosystem, how important their preservation is in a bigger web beyond the forest. He says fire is the biggest destroyer of these forests, and I think it wasn't until the late 20th century (I could literally be completely wrong about this so don't quote me) that we started to understand the role of fire in forest regrowth. But, careless, uncontrolled fires are still a danger regardless.

This is the second largest Sequoia grove (not sure if that stat is for the park or the country). They are limited by special growing needs, requiring moisture and periodic fire. They tower up to 200 feet and grow up to 35 feet in diameter. They start from little tiny seeds in cones but grow to be bigger than I can ever describe in words or paint or photos. They are relics and antiques, trees who have seen generations and centuries. Trees who could tell stories of a distant past if given the power of speech. It is difficult to comprehend how long these trees have been growing, given their humble seedling beginnings in the protection of pinecones. They have survived fires and the folly of man. The other pines in this forest are quite massive as well, making this grove and forest spectacular. They don't have any branches on their lower trunk to help them survive the fires that sustain them, and we are able to see the full girth of their red trunks. Looking up one sees branches start to emerge with tufts of bright green pines that look soft and delicate from the forest floor. I am incredibly inspired here.

Painting the grove has been another challenge to my painting abilities. But it really is the same process as any other painting...background first, then middle, then foreground. The background of this painting is more detailed than others, as a dense forest. Two baby mule deer with their mama came walking through the first behind me...they were very young and very cute. When I finished painting I walked to a picnic table near the grove and read from my John Muir book about the redwoods. I have to say it was a very special moment on my trip to be reading John Muir's words on forests and large growth trees in a sequoia grove in Yosemite. One sentence really shocked me - "No doubt these trees (sequoias) would make good lumber after passing thr h a sawmill, as George Washington after passing through the hands of a French cook would have made good food." Muir personifies these voiceless trees and although grotesque and shocking, it is an effective comparison for us to consider these trees as valuable beings in our world. "Any fool can destroy trees," he says. "They cannot defend themselves or run away."

Through all the eventful centuries since Christ's time, and long before that, God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand storms; but he cannot save them from sawmills and fools; this is left to the American people.

We are still charged with this same task today, as guardians of our national parks.

After a steep hike back to my car, I went to take a shower at "Housekeeping" which has showers, laundry, and hybrid campsite/cabins. I thought showers would be $5 and I grabbed a rag towel I had in my car (all my shower stuff was in the bear box at my campsite) and a big bottle of soap from my extra supplies. Turns out you're provided a towel, and there's soap and shampoo in the showers, and the water is warm, and they're ~free~ which is awesome. The only downsides are they are far away from my campsite and there was a bit of a line. But that wasn't even bad because I chatted with some ladies and got some tips about places to go in the park.

My dream of hiking the John Muir Trail is especially alive after a couple days in this park. There is a LOT here for people who like the outdoors, more than any other park I've been to. Climbing (from beginner to very serious climbers), hiking (day hiking and backpacking), cycling (no-helmet cruising on the bike path to panniers up the mountain passes), and extensive, intense trails like the John Muir Trail and Pacific Crest Trails run through the park as well. There is an art center that offers workshops daily put on by different artists, a theater with programs each evening, and the usual ranger programs typical of a national park. There are mountains, foothills, valleys, groves, lakes, streams, rivers, waterfalls, and creeks. Basically everything I love ever minus Dan is in this park. I really think I saved the best for last.

GIANT Sequoia!
Giant Sequoia
HUGE pinecones. I don't think they come from the sequoias though. There are very large pine trees here too that produce the cones. People were taking them out of the grove (idiots!)
The megatron of pinecones.
Massive fallen tree.
Tree rings...many years old.
Towering trees!
King of the trees!
Ruler of the forest!
Baby mule deer.
Two of them with their mama.
Soooo cute.
Giant Sequoia in Tuolumne Grove.
Bierstadt's Giant Redwood Trees of California
Mariposa Grove by Albert Bierstadt (I've found some discrepancies in titles from my book and online). Anyway, this tree is known as Giant Grizzly in the Mariposa Grove. Sad that the grove is closed on my trip but I found a strikingly similar composition in the Tuolumne Grove.
A studio in a sequoia grove.
With giant died trees to rest my brushes.
All day I heard, OMG! It's a dinosaur footprint! which it clearly is.
Look at the guy on top to get some perspective on how huge the tree roots are.
You can even walk through the tree.
Another vertical panorama to show the height of these trees.
This dead tree was carved out for cars to drive under, back in the day...still a big photo attraction today.
Yours Truly with what I believe is the largest sequoia in this grove.
Sunset in the Yosemite Wilderness.
Stunning light...
Incredible light on the mountains! Very pink and warm.
Had to stop and do a quick sketch! 6x8in
What an amazing place to be as an artist.