Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park: Unveiling the Majestic Splendor of General Sherman

The Sequoia tree named General Sherman is mammoth beauty. It is not the tallest or the widest, but this Giant Sequoia is Earth’s largest living organism in the sheer volume of total wood. Its nearly conical trunk, which remains thick and high into the branches, shows why. On the entire planet, sequoias grow naturally only in some 75 groves on the Sierra Nevada’s western slopes.

The ages of General Sherman, General Grant, and other mature sequoias are unknown, but the estimate is that these giants are between 1,800 and 2,700 years old. They were around at the time of Julius Caesar, Augustus, and Genghis Khan; they have seen civilizations come and go, survived countless fires and periods of drought, and through it all, continue to flourish and inspire many generations of admirers.

What Climate Requirements Must Be Met for Giant Sequoias to Thrive?

Giant Sequoias thrive in specific climate requirements that only occur in a narrow 260-mile strip of forest on the Sierra Nevada mountains’ western slopes. They grow only at a particular elevation and temperature. Above 7,500 feet (2,290 m), it is usually too cold for the tree. Below 5,000 feet (1,520 m), it is too dry. The result is a narrow belt where the temperature and water conditions are right for these big trees – The Sequoia Belt.

What Are the Impressive Dimensions of a Giant Sequoia?

These towering trees can reach heights of 400 feet (122 m), or about 26 stories, and their diameters at the base can exceed three highway lanes. As they grow, they produce about 40 cubic feet of wood each year, approximately equal to the volume of a 50-foot-tall tree, one foot in diameter.

What Surprises Await Upon Touching the Trunk of a Giant Sequoia?

Upon touching the beautiful red-brown trunk of the Sequoia, I was surprised to discover how soft and elastic the surface feels. Apparently, the bark of a Giant Sequoia measures over two feet thick at the base. This formidable exterior protects the Sequoias from fires as it slows flames from reaching the wood inside. 

How Can a Shallow Root System Support the Vast Bulk of a Giant Sequoia?

The Sequoias’ root system does not extend into the ground more than 7 feet (2 m), but sometimes a single root may grow near the surface for as much as 200-300 feet (60-90 m) toward the water. Amazingly, the shallow and relatively small root system can support such vast bulk against centuries of storms.

Why Are Fires Necessary for the Thriving of Sequoia Forests?

Sequoia forests need fires to thrive. Before the 1960s, all fires were quickly suppressed, and Sequoia reproduction virtually stopped. Environmental studies demonstrated that without the effects of fire, the Giant Forest could not grow new sequoias and endure, so forest management practices have changed to include Prescribed Burns. Fires can kill some Sequoias, but they are also a requirement for the endurance of the immense tree forests for the following reasons:

  • The heat opens Sequoia cones, and seeds that have been inside for up to 20 years rain down
  • Fires help seeds to germinate by clearing the forest floor, and the ash fertilizes the soil
  • Heat kills insects and fungi that attack seedings
  • Trees that compete for the seedling’s sunlight, moisture, and nutrients are destroyed
  • Once burned, an area is less flammable for several years, giving seedlings a good start

Christmas 2019: Finding the Oneness: A Journey to Becoming Nobody

“Treat everyone you meet like God in drag.” Ram Dass

When the trails were covered with five feet of snow, hiking was out of the question, so visiting Sequoia National Park became an inside job. Thanks in big part to the book we listened to, “Becoming Nobody” by the late sage Ram Dass. Some people can talk about the ‘spiritual talk’ as if they are discussing the French Revolution.

Ram Dass was one of them; he spoke with a unique brilliance. In a conversation, another one of these rare individuals recently pointed out the difference between psychological insight and spiritual experience, which I found very perceptive.

“Becoming Nobody” is a documentary film about the life and teachings of Ram Dass, a memoir exploring life, death, and spirituality. It follows the spiritual leader’s journey from Harvard University to India and beyond to discover the truth about life and reality.

Through personal reflections and stories, Ram Dass teaches us how to move away from ego and attachments to transcendence, understanding that you can only become nobody when you accept yourself fully in the present moment. Ram Dass is well-known for his work in psychology and spirituality, particularly his book “Be Here Now,” which has been widely read and influential. At the core of his teachings is the notion of living a life of love, compassion, and service to others.

I know this: we are all part of the oneness, connected by an invisible thread that stretches back in time and into the future. I choose to call this thread love, for love is all about compassion and forgiveness. It is my task to remain open and find a way to stay in tune with love, to be love. Unfortunately, I am only human and therefore flawed and forgetful, but as long as I keep showing up, there is progress and hope.

“Death doesn’t need to be treated as an enemy to delight in life…I encourage you to make peace with death and see it as a culminating adventure of this life adventure. It is not an error; it is not a failure. It is taking off a tight shoe that you’ve worn well.” – Ram Dass