Continuing on our theme from last year, our Memorial Day trip this year revolved around trees. I could only hope that the trip out to the trees this year went more smoothly than the one last year, which you can read about here. Thankfully the drive up was uneventful and we arrived to set up camp around 10pm, which is infinitely better than 4am in the snow.
This time around we were camping in Prairie Creek State Park with intentions to visit some of the largest and tallest trees around. We have already seen the largest (by volume) tree in the world, General Sherman. He is a very large sequoia tree that we got to visit in 2009. He is well publicized and also marked with a fence around him so everyone can take photos. In that same trip we also saw the second and third largest trees in the same way. Much like Methuselah from last year, though, my intended trees this year are undisclosed to the public. I spent several months researching the locations of their groves, and piecing together clues and photos that might help me find them.
Our first day was spent hiking through Jedediah Smith State Park in search of the Grove of Titans. We took a quick stop in Stout Grove to see those trees, and then checked our map to head off to where I believed the Grove of Titans to be hiding. On the way, not far from the grove, I kept hearing a knocking sound. I thought for sure other people were nearby, but I couldn’t see anyone. Finally I looked up and… bear! There was a smallish brown bear up in a tree digging and rooting intently. Thankfully it did not see us and we continued on down the trail. I was thrilled when I stopped, took a look around, and spotted El Viejo Del Norte, the fifth largest redwood with a very distinct shape. He let me know I’d found my grove!! We headed in to take pictures when I spotted the Lost Monarch. Lost Monarch is the largest coast redwood, and the 8th largest tree in the world by volume. It was truly impressive. Unfortunately just as we started to take photos of Lost Monarch we heard some rustling. We had been singing loudly and clapping as we went to ward off any other bear family members, but the rustling was close by. We called out to see if it was people, but nobody called back. Soon we heard an angry canine bark. Between the bear nearby and the barking and the rustling we decided to rush out. I did not have a chance to locate the other Titan trees in the grove, but I was proud and excited to have located the grove at all.
Later that day we visited Fern Canyon where scenes from Jurassic Park 2 were shot. That was a fun time. Unfortunately it started to rain back at camp so our evening fun around the fire was cut short a bit.
The next morning we were setting out into Prairie Creek State Park to look for the Atlas Grove. We headed out on the trail with some clues in hand and just started to walk and look. We saw a lot of very interesting trees, very tall trees, and some kind of big trees. Nothing quite like the Titans of the day before. But the tree I was looking for would be a Titan. The tree named Iluvatar resides in Atlas Grove, and is the third largest coast redwood and something like 14th largest tree period. The other cool thing about Iluvatar is that it is one of the most complex trees in the world in that it has massive trunks growing off it that then grow additional trunks/trees off themselves and so on. Several times during the search I would see a tree in the distance and think wow thats big… but not big enough. Just as I was getting discouraged and running out of trail I saw it! I couldn’t believe we actually found it, but I’m thrilled we did. I won’t give much more detail about the trees we found for a couple reasons. I think the hunt was half the fun, and also it’s probably safer for them to remain mostly anonymous. Although I did see a rope up one pretty big tree in Atlas Grove so maybe they’re still being researched.
Other highlights of the trip included a visit to Lady Bird Johnson Grove where some seriously tall trees live. And if you’re looking to see Elk definitely head to Prairie Creek SP because there were tons of elk around most of the time. Also, we bought a redwood burl to make a coffee table! The only thing that was a bummer was that it seriously poured down rain on our last night and while we were trying to pack up camp. Boo. Overall, though, a super fun and successul holiday weekend. I had also done quite a bit of research on Hyperion, the tallest tree in the world, and I have a pretty good idea where his location is. While he was within reach this trip I didn’t think we were at all prepared enough for the bushwhack to see him. But maybe someday!