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Fall of a fire tree

Sequoia trees are born in fire: their cones only open in extreme heat, and their seeds need soil enriched in ash to germinate. They have thick, fluffy bark that insulates them from the numerous wildfires they will certainly withstand throughout their long lives, and when flames do penetrate that armor their trunks grow into those scars, fortifying themselves for the many centuries to come. They only ever finally relent to gravity due to an unlucky environmental weakening of their roots, or the axe. Sequoia trees do not die of old age.

They are the largest, greatest living things on earth, and walking among them humbles me, makes me small, and fills me with awe and reverence. They are fire trees.

I saw the following inscription on a sign at a grove in Sequoia National Park called Round Meadow. To witness such an event as described here would be too extraordinary even to label as “once in a lifetime.” I think about these words often:

I Heard a Sequoia Fall

It was a calm, sunny day in the Giant Forest. Out of the clear blue came loud cracks as the roots snapped, and then a crash like thunder. We found the tree shattered, with an amazing amount of water flowing from the broken wood. Touching the inside of the sequoia was startling—it was ice cold.

Bill Tweed

Park Ranger

Sequoia National Park

July 1974

One Comment

  1. Lynn Marie Firehammer Lynn Marie Firehammer

    Beautiful Jeff. You and Courtney would love Muir Woods, if you haven’t been there already. It is across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Fransisco. It feels like a cathedral. 1 Muir Woods Rd, Mill Valley, CA 94941

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