Listen to this story here
In the early 1920s, my father’s family moved from Texas to Lindsay, California. He was born there in 1929, just months before the stock market crashed, sending the country into the Great Depression. My mother was born in nearby Porterville in 1932. They met in the spring of 1950 in the tiny town of Springville — also in Tulare County — and married soon after.
Around 1962, some of my grandmother’s Texas relatives visited California, and my father and his two brothers somehow ended up in a competition to impress these relatives with the wonders of the Golden State. I was about 10 years old and remember this very clearly.
My Uncle A.D., the oldest, took them to Disneyland.
Well, it was nice, one of my grandmother’s sisters said, but Texas had Six Flags. The theme park halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth had opened the previous year, and by accounts from the relatives, it was much nicer than Disneyland.
My Uncle Jay, seven years older than my father, took the relatives to Hearst Castle. The former estate of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst had been donated to the people of California by the Hearst Corporation, and my uncle was certain that the fabulous hilltop mansion overlooking the Pacific Ocean at San Simeon would wow the Texans.
Well, it was nice, my grandmother’s brother said, but Texas had the King Ranch. The ranch, founded in 1853, comprised more than five times the acreage of Hearst Ranch holdings in San Luis Obispo County and had been designated a National Historic Monument the year before.
Finally, it was my father’s turn to entertain the relatives. He decided to take them to Sequoia National Park to see the General Sherman Tree. Believed to be somewhere between 2,200 and 2,700 years old, General Sherman is the largest known living single-stem tree on Earth. No matter how many times you’ve seen this tree — or other Giant Sequoia specimens growing on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada — it will take your breath away.
My grandmother’s sister had just one thing to say: “We don’t have nothin’ like that in Texas.”
Sequoia gigantea is one of three species of coniferous trees known as redwoods. The other two are sequoia sempervirens, often referred to as coastal redwoods, and metasequoia glyptostroboides (dawn redwood). Giant sequoias can be grown in many places, but their natural range today is limited to the western slope of the Sierra Nevada. There they are found in groves, mostly on public lands. Among the oldest, largest and tallest trees in the world, giant sequoias are threatened. Some of the oldest and largest specimens were logged — and in recent years, trees have been lost to both beetle infestation and fire.
I’ve seen giant sequoias many times, and each time I am in awe of their size, their age and their majesty. It breaks my heart that we are losing them to wildfire and beetle infestation. There was a time, not too many years ago when some people believed nothing could kill these trees. After all, some have grown for thousands of years. But in their native range, they are endangered, and the loss in recent years has been shocking.
Can something be done to ensure the survival of these magnificent trees? I don’t know. But I have to believe that more people having an understanding of the very complicated land management issues of the Sierra Nevada is at least part of the solution. And so, I’m going to work on that.
One of the main purposes of this website, Giant Sequoia News, is to gather and publish information about giant sequoias for everyone to be able to access easily. I hope you’ll visit often to read new material.