Redwood. Sequoia. Bristlecone Pine. Joshua
Tall. Burly. Old. Unique.
What do you say when you are in the presence of these trees?
Four of some of the most iconic trees in the world inhabit one swath of the western United States and while their ranges do cross state lines, all four trees are found in California. From the Redwoods in the north, the more central Sequoias, the Ancient Bristlecone Pines of the eastern White Mountains and the Joshua Trees of southern California’s Mojave Desert, it is amazing to think that over the past month we travelled down an arc that had us encounter each of these amazing plants.
Fortunately for us, that arc also brought us within range of some dear friends and family. Our visit to northern California enabled us to stay with John, Michelle, Dylan and Cassidy Rutledge at their beautiful home (with a crazy driveway) and enjoy family life and explorations on the amazing landscape and beaches of Marin County. Celebrating John’s birthday on the beach at Point Reyes National Seashore was a highlight as was being joined there for the day by Megan Keiler and Tom Hudson who made the trek north from San Jose. This westside ‘Simsbury Reunion’ made us all feel a little better about missing (again) the annual Quogue Reunion that happened a few weeks earlier. Additionally, we were able to have a wonderful dinner with Ann, Andy and Tori Mathieson before heading southeast to Yosemite.
As Yosemite deserves its own post, the key for now is to thank Adam, Rachael and Ben Ramsey for making the journey east from Palo Alto to see us in Yosemite. We unfortunately missed Abby but were able to see some pictures from her riding competition that happened the same weekend. From exploring ‘the Valley’, to scrambling up Lembert Dome on the Tioga Pass road, to a wonderful dual birthday dinner for Amy and Rachael at the Ahwanhnee Hotel, we got a much needed dose of family before racing across the Sierras on Sunday afternoon to outrun a storm that dumped 2” of rain in the Yosemite Valley and more than a foot of snow across Tioga Pass (which is now closed for the season).
Our experiences in Yosemite, the Eastern Sierra and the deserts of California and Nevada will be documented in better detail later but this arc of travel has made all of us much more aware and thankful of those men and women whom had the tremendous foresight to work to defend, protect and preserve the groves, forests, mountains, rivers and deserts within which these special trees inhabit. These areas are much more than these four iconic trees and yet focusing on them allowed for ecosystems to be preserved and protected.
This fall we have seen the expansion of the United States during the 19th century as going through a series of stages, and, unfortunately, these stages are repeated nearly everywhere in the west: exploration, exploitation, domination, and, belatedly, preservation/conservation. While the last two terms are positive, these groups and individuals were fighting upstream against a culture and society that was decidedly moving in the opposite direction. These people saved what they could and while the damage had been done, it wasn’t irreparable. The struggle to conserve and preserve continues today and what we have learned above all is that we must all be stewards now and stand on their shoulders to complete and expand their life’s work.