Nature Gone Wild
History: Calaveras Big Trees State Park is noted for being the first grove of Sierra Redwoods located by Anglo people in about 1850. There are now 75 documented groves of these Giant Redwoods on the western slopes of the Sierra Mountains. The Giant Sequoia are the heaviest trees known to man and second in height only to the California Coastal Giant Redwoods. Trees in this grove can be 300 feet tall and 35 feet in diameter. Thanks to John Muir and a host of others including the Sierra Club, who were determined to save and protect these trees, over 92 % of Americas Giant Sequoia groves are protected. In the case of the Calaveras Big Trees it was a long journey as the grove was long owned by lumber interests. The south grove was not acquired and protected until 1954. It is now a Natural Preserve offering it California's ultimate protection for a State Park.
Hike: The trail descends down to Beaver creek where water flows most of the summer and it can be an enjoyable dip before and after the hike. A bridge crosses the creek and the trail takes a moderate climb of 260 feet thru ponderosa and sugar pine trees arriving at the abandoned railroad right of way. The trail picks up directly across the right of way and gains another 200 feet in elevation to where a marked intersection starts the loop. It can be accomplished in either direction but is described here in a counter clockwise fashion. Bearing right the trail runs alongside Big Trees Creek. This creek also has giant tree building water year round and has rainbow trout although fishing is not allowed in the State Park. A footbridge aids in crossing the creek and directly ahead is a massive Sierra Giant Redwood tree. With a casual three foot stride the author counted 40 steps around the base of this tree. It is truly an awesome giant. The dilemma becomes how to photograph these giants. The best way to totally appreciate them is to lie down at the base on your back and gaze up.
The trail continues along the creek thru thick old forest growth. Many more giants now appear some with severe fire damage. Not to worry the fires actually are good for this species and help it to reproduce. The fires kill off smaller weaker species and eventually leave the Redwoods as the dominant tree of the forest. The trail continues thru some interesting quartz rock outcroppings where you may notice the gigantic Sugar Pine tree cones compared to the relatively small pine cones of the Giant Redwood. Another irony of nature. Soon you arrive at a fallen giant. The tree is completely hollow from its many years of decay and you can walk thru the trunk of the tree. About half way thru the loop is a side trail which will take you to the largest documented tree in the park called the Agassiz, named after one of Americas leading naturalists. Returning to the loop, continue on your journey enjoying many of the one thousand Giant Redwoods that fill the South Grove. Take your time and you are certain to hear woodpeckers at work. Big Trees is home to the largest woodpecker in the Sierra, the Pileated Woodpecker. There are also the ever noisy Stellers Jay as well as Owls and Hawks to look for. Upon completing the loop bear right and return the way you came.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.