I am one of those interested in facts highlighting the world’s biggest, greatness, widest, smallest or fastest. The facts don’t have to be at the global level. Those at the country, regional and state levels are fascinating too.
Several years ago, I had to opportunity to visit what is considered the widest tree in the world. This ahuehuete (Montezuma cypress) is located in a town called Santa Maria del Tule in the state of Oaxaca.
You may be thinking, “What is the big deal? It is just a tree.” In a way, I can understand this reaction. On the other hand, there is something inside you which makes you giggle when you find yourself in front a massive tree that is about 30 times bigger than you.
That is the same sensation I felt when my husband and I entered the Giant Forest section of Sequoia National Park. And, I was not the only one. Cars were stopping in the middle of the road to marvel at the trees. We had almost four crashing situations.
John Muir was the one who named the Giant Forest (it contains 8,000 sequoia trees) in 1875.
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The giant sequoias are one of the three species of coniferous trees known as redwoods (because of the color of their bark). They are native to the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada in California. They occur in 68 scattered groves ranging from the American River and the Deer Creek (most of the groves are located to the south of the natural range in Tulare County).
The groves are found at elevations ranging from 4,600 to 7,000 feet. They are protected within the boundaries of the Sequoia National Park, Monument and Forest and Kings Canyon National Park. Protected groves can also be found at Yosemite National Park and some state parks.
As soon as you enter the Giant Forest, the giant sequoias start to pop everywhere. It is not easy to comprehend the size of them. You are like, “Look at that one. Wait, this one is way bigger than the one we just saw.” Bigger and bigger trees keep appearing as you move to higher elevations.
Once you are in the area, a stop to visit the King of the Forest is a must. I am referring to General Sherman. He is not only the largest living tree in the world, but the largest living organism, by volume, on the planet.
Take into consideration some of his measurements:
- Aprox. 2,100 years old
- Aprox. 2.7 million pounds
- Aprox. 275 feet tall
- Aprox. 100 feet wide trunk
Even though General Sherman is huge, he is NOT the following:
- Oldest Sequoia or Oldest tree (oldest trees are the bristlecone pines)
- Highest Sequoia or Highest Tree (Redwoods are higher)
- Widest Sequoia or Widest Tree (the Montezuma cypress in Oaxaca is the widest)
But, when you multiply his dimensions, he wins in term of volume (which means he occupies more cubic feet or cubic meters than any other living organism).
There is infrastructure build in the area surrounding General Sherman. After parking in the available lots, a half mile trail descends to the tree. It is possible to take the free shuttle from other areas of the park.
Enough time should be allocated to walk the trail (even though it seems short). There are plenty of trees to take a look at before reaching the main attraction.
There is a viewpoint where the fire scar of the tree can be appreciated.
Once in there, take your time to examine all the features of the tree. A plaque showing the tree’s name has been placed on what is considered the front view of the tree. Most people stay in that area and want to have a picture with the name and the tree in the background.
However, the area surrounding the tree is paved. You will be surprised but most people do not walk around the tree. Sounds crazy but it is an opportunity to have the tree to “yourself” (seeing it from the sides or back). You can even see one of the branches he lost several years ago.
Walking a bit away affords you the opportunity to capture the entire tree in one frame (notice the size of the people).
You can also frame the tree with two other giants located in front of him.
You can continue walking around and take a look at other trees in the area (some fallen). It is not possible to get tired of them. Each one is unique.
The Congress Trail is a popular paved loop that starts at the General Sherman Tree and goes about a mile south to an impressive collection of immense sequoias, a few of which look just as big as the Sherman Tree. Also, at the south end of the loop are two unusual groupings of somewhat smaller sequoias, the House and Senate groups.
We were able to walk a short part of the trail but were surprised by the many trees with huge fire scars. It was impressive to see how some of them were still alive.
In addition, we were able to observe several fallen sequoias. I think a tree in the ground gives you a better perspective of how tall they are. You try to determine where the trunk ends but it seems like it keeps going.
Have you been to Sequoia National Park?
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