When the early miners came out to California, gold was not the only thing they found. They found hills and giant trees like nothing else they had ever seen. After years of ravaging the forests for these enormous giants, the Calaveras Big Trees State Park was created to both protect them, and educate us on the destruction by man so it could never happen again.
Big Trees State Park was on everyone’s list of sites they wanted to see because of the giant sequoias. After our morning tour at Mercer Caverns, we went to the Park to have a picnic lunch and short hike around the trees. One thing I love about staying in a condo or Airbnb is the access to a kitchen and fridge. We packed up some lunch meat, mayo, bread, and chips, and had a nice lunch in the picnic area of the park. In the cool shade of the giant trees, we could eat in peace, fill our water bottles, and enjoy the scenic view.
After lunch we went over to the Big Stump, the base of a giant sequoia that was cut down in the 19th century. The enormity of this hits you when you climb up on the base. It’s 24 feet in diameter. It took them almost a month to cut through. Why would you do that to such a beautiful tree? I knew it would be sad, but I still was not prepared for how it would make me feel when I saw it.
From there we went on to a short 1.5 mile loop where we were promised views of grand sequoia, and old fallen down trees that the kids could climb and play. And the hike delivered. As you walked along it was hard to stop looking up, because the tree were simply astounding. Then, you would climb on the tree, our walk around the base and be awestruck at how wide they were.
I would say, about ½ way through the hike, my kids got board. Hiking in the woods and staring at trees only interests them for so long. And after walking up and down all those stairs at the cavern, they were tired. And cranky. After passing some cool fallen logs where they could play, we still had ½ a mile or more to go and they wanted to stop. We ended up rushing along the end of our hike because I could not take one more complaint that this was “boring”.
We stopped at the visitor’s center at the end of the hike to let the kids play a little, fill up the water bottles and rest. But they quickly wanted to move on, so we headed to Murphy so we could all treat ourselves with ice cream after the day of stairs and walking. But some of my favorite pictures from this trip are from this hike, where we got to see the power of nature and plants, and feel how small we are compared to these beings, that live for thousands of years.