The Louis Agassiz Tree at the end of the South Grove trail pictured above
On Memorial Day weekend, I decided to put some more time into exploring and measuring in the Calaveras Groves to see if I could complete something like a body of knowledge regarding the sequoias with the biggest volumes up there. The trails through the groves were nicely open and dry enough to be easy walks, and the weather was nice, very moderate. Even though the mosquitoes were everywhere in droves, they seemed to be pretty slow, maybe young and stupid this early in the year. I bulked up on the clothing layers, so I didn’t get many bites, and when I had to sit and not move for a while, I put on my netting hat, so even the most canny of the evil insects were thwarted.
It was hot and heavy work while I was wandering off trail, however, because there was so much underbrush and many dense clumps of young one-inch-bole-diameter trees cropping up all around. This wet year has produced a lot of new saplings that are coming up thickly in some sections, especially in the damp areas that sequoias love. When I was off trail, the going was tough and slow. A lot of the way I had to get sticks and make a sapling plow in front of me to push through the new growth, closing my eyes because I knew for sure some of those small branches were going to come back and thwack me in the face. The sneaky little branches kept stealing my hat too.
On one of the days I wandered the grove I met a guy named Barry who was a ranger in the Big Basin Park a few years ago. He was interested in other types of trees besides sequoias, so that day I paused in my usual big tree hunting for the morning and he and I went off looking for impressive pines instead. I don’t think I found the biggest one, but we found one that tipped the scales at a solid 27 feet circumference at breast height over the highest ground level. That’s pretty respectable for a sugar pine tree. So Barry went home happy with a big pine find. Sequoias aren’t the only tree that produces spectacularly large specimens in Calaveras Grove.
To date I have been to Calaveras three times, and I think I have rough dimensions on about the twenty largest trees there—very rough in some cases due to the dense foliage and difficult terrain. Most of the trees in these groves have been known for a long time, and some with a lot of history have acquired informal names. Some of them are not named, however, and I used the numbers in records from a timber cruise that I got from my good friend Fredrik to identify them. Below are tabulated the results for the volumes of the largest monarchs I've measured in the Calaveras Groves.
Calaveras Groves' Largest Trees
Smith Cabin Tree #828 32,932 cu.ft. New York Tree #78 30,812 cu.ft. Ohio Tree #362 28,203 cu.ft. Masterpiece Tree #671 27,438 cu.ft. Governor Stoneham Tree #45 26,853 cu.ft. #200 Tree 26,235 cu.ft. #42 Tree 26,056 cu.ft. #567 Tree 25,618 cu.ft. #177 Tree 25,607 cu.ft. Empire State Tree 25,122 cu.ft. #755 Tree 24,148 cu.ft. Palace Hotel Tree #393 22,891 cu.ft. #880 22,745 cu.ft. Massachusetts Tree #360 21,792 cu.ft. #301 Tree 21,376 cu.ft. #281 Tree 20,995 cu.ft. Grover Cleveland Tree #79 20,892 cu.ft. Carl Von Linne (Father of Botany) Tree #570 20,882 cu.ft. J. G. Blaine Tree #389 20,166 cu.ft. James A Garfield Tree #547 19,373 cu.ft. Steven T Mather Tree #526 18,175 cu.ft.
Just for a lark I decided to see what volume remained in the Chimney Tree, the hugely fire-hollowed one nearly three miles in along the South Grove trail. It could be representative of what the tree might have been once, before it was nearly destroyed in some unknown conflagration in the distant past. With only 100 feet of bole left, and burns through the base that tunnel it front to back, it still measures a respectable 15k cubic feet. I would estimate if it was still a complete unburned tree, the Chimney would be closer to 25k cubic feet in volume. The tree looks to be doing astoundingly well considering the unbelievable core damage it's sustained.
Chimney Tree #178 15,756 cu.ft.
Those who are counting such things on these lists will note that the volume I came up with on the Smith Cabin is slightly larger than the Agassiz Tree volume from Flint's book. That was a surprise, to me it doesn't seem bigger. It makes me wonder if the Agassiz Tree is undervalued and also how much it has grown since Flint measured it. I will have to ask Mike Law how long ago Flint took his measurements on the Agassiz and do a volume workup on it myself for comparison. It will of course have grown larger each year since Flint measured it, but that is a lot of change, what is it now? In addition, I have only measured each of the trees in Calaveras from one angle, so a second 90-degree-angle sighting on the largest of them is definitely now in order to determine if they might be reading a little high or low due to an elliptical bole. Next trip perhaps. There's always more work to be done...
Below are some pics of the bigger trees I visited during the trip, pretty much in order of their size as by my observations.
Three pics of the Smith Cabin Tree below.
The first picture has the New York Tree on the left and Grover Cleveland Tree on the right. The second pic is the New York's huge base. The third pic is the base of the Ohio Tree and the fourth is the full upper view of the Ohio tree.
The first two pics are the Masterpiece Tree and the second pair are the Governor Stoneham Tree
#200 & #42 Trees in two pics ea.
#567 Tree, #177 Tree, Empire State Tree (the only North Grove specimen on the high part of the list), & 755 Trees in the below pics.
The well-known Palace Hotel Tree below.
In the North Grove, the trail and trees are much the same as they have been. There are some new signs since the fall of the Pioneer Cabin Tree; they are shown below. Its carcass is still lying trailside, and they have one next to it and two new signs posted near the tree and at the trail's beginning/end.
This winter has been the best for snow for a long time. Notice how full the Stanislaus River and Beaver Creek were running. Both streams seemed to be attempting to swell beyond their channels.
Barry and the 27' breast height circumference pine below.