The Grizzly Giant at Mariposa Grove, California is a giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) and stands a magnificent 63.7ms (209 feet) high. Its circumference at ground level is 29 ms! That’s a mighty tree! Despite those impressive vital statistics, it’s only the world’s 25th tallest tree.
As well The Grizzly Giant’s sheer bulk, its age is impressive too – somewhere between 1,900 and 2,400 years old.
When I was a tiny girl in 1967 and living in California, we visited the big trees at Mariposa Grove. Although I don’t remember this tree specifically, I do remember the smell of the pines, being surrounded by massive trees, and the sequoias’ spongy soft bark.
My father, who was a botanist, collected some seeds of the giant sequoia and once back in the UK, he set about germinating them. He raised a few seedlings, and the best one was chosen and transplanted into the front garden of our house in Stratford-upon-Avon. In just 25 years it grew so fast and so tall that, with a heavy heart, Dad had it felled as he feared it would fall on the house. He saved section of the trunk and had it made into a table, which I still have.
Big Trees revisited
When I returned to California in September 2018, I was determined to visit the big trees again. They didn’t disappoint! Of all the wondrous sights in California, (sea otters, mountains, kelp forests, sealions, deserts, etc) the giant sequoias at Mariposa Grove were the thing that blew me away.
My painting ‘Grizzly Giant, Mariposa, California’ tries to express something of the what I felt in its presence. How small and insignificant we humans are! I found myself silently welling up. People who believe in gods must feel a similar emotion when they consider their chosen deity.It felt life-affirming and humbling to be in the presence of this ancient and beautiful being.
Tall lodgepole pines rise up beside it, and the forest is alive with birds and animals. I have shown a Steller’s jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) and a least chipmunk (Neotamias minimus) of which we saw many! The creatures I have painted are from my husband’s photos, which I used as reference material.
John Muir “Nature’s Forest Masterpiece”
The quote, Nature’s Forest Masterpiece, is from John Muir (1838 – 1914) Scottish-American naturalist, environmental philosopher, and pioneer of the US National Parks. He said:
“The Big Tree (Sequoia gigantea) is Nature’s forest masterpiece, and, so far as I know, the greatest of living things.”
From “My First Summer in the Sierra, Picturesque California, The Mountains of California, The Yosemite & Our National Parks (Illustrated): Adventure Memoirs, Travel Sketches, Nature Writings and Wilderness Essays”
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