I decided to take a run into the Black Mountain Grove to see how it was doing after some fires in the area, both prescribed and not, in 2017. I especially wanted to check up on the Black Mountain Beauty and some other favorites in the grove. The burn damage I found was serious, as I expected; however, even more destructive was the significant breakage I found from the previous winter weather.
I'd heard from some High Sierra residents that the last winter was a harsh one, and I’ve noted a lot of limb breakage in other groves earlier this year. As it was a wet year, there was apparently a good load of snow burdening the trees. That combined with pretty high winds in both winter and springtime this year brought down several trees upon the road that were apparently at the limit of their strength.
The first and worst roadside casualty I noted was the well-known Perseverance Tree. The signature mascot of the Black Mountain Grove stood right on the side of the beginning of the dirt road winding through the grove. Its persevering five-foot limb is now lying flat on that roadside. The large branch tore away from the tree right at its base, so it must have had a flaw or weakness at that spot, certainly making it a high stress point. The tree doesn't seem to have any vegetative leaders left, so it's now a leafless snag. If the tree doesn't come up with some new foliage, I expect it will not survive. In any case it no longer resembles its name. The road is still passable; however, the fallen big limb cuts the drivable width in half.
The second casualty here is a large unnamed sequoia at the end of the western (left-hand) fork of the road. Another large tree was leaning against it--if you parked at the end of the road, you'd see it looming above you. The sequoia broke very high up on its bole and dropped more debris on the road, ending up like poor Perseverance.
The third large sequoia casualty to newly clutter the grove's roads is on the eastern (right-hand) fork of the final length of the road into the Black Mountain Beauty area. It was on the inside of the corner where the road bends, below Blasted Mammoth's ridge. This big unnamed sequoia broke about 50 feet up and now gives you a convenient opportunity to inspect a cross section of its spire, about 4 feet in diameter, up close while standing on the road (which would usually be about 200 feet up, of course).
After passing these living trees that have become monuments, I took a quick look at the Blasted Mammoth, which seems to have weathered the fires decently well. I see a little more burn on it, but nothing very dangerous-looking to the tree. The large one below the ridge is similarly well.
The Black Mountain Beauty has survived but does not look to have fared very well. It is shorter now than it used to be due to the fire, and it's no longer the grove's most beautiful specimen. I checked its dimensions and measured its height, finding it to be a bit shorter than in Flint's day, but its bole diameter remains unchanged. The height loss drops it a few spaces lower on the list, unfortunately. Worse, I expect there will be more loss in the future. There's a huge hollow cavity at about 150 feet up the tree, with very little support on one of the sides. If that cavity gives way, which looks very likely to happen soon, I expect the tree will lose another approximately 75 feet. If that happens the Black Mountain Beauty will fall even further on the list, probably bringing it down to close to the size of the second-largest tree in the grove I know of, opposite Perseverance.
Left: Perseverance in 2017. Right: Perseverance in 2019.
Left: Where the western fork of the road ends in 2017. Right: Where the road ends in 2019.
A fallen tree below Blasted Mammoth's ridge, 2019.