Featured Image: Living giant sequoias in the upper portion of Board Camp Grove after the Castle Fire
August 2023 update: The formerly tiny sequoia seedlings in Board Camp Grove are now, a mere two years later, incredibly robust and impressive. They range from 2 to 4 feet tall. The stems are thick and hardy, many already 1 inch in diameter. These large babies are no longer prone to natural mortality risk. They are however, at risk of being destroyed by human intervention. Sadly, instead of allowing the grove to naturally recover, the NPS wants to helicopter in, cut down trees, and replace the forest with a tree plantation. We need to work harder to preserve our wilderness and protect our sequoia groves from these onslaughts. [Read more about Board Camp’s natural recovery and the NPS project.]
May 2021: Board Camp Grove was hit hard by the 2020 SQF Complex / Castle Fire. The burn killed many of the giant sequoias, especially on the steepest mountain slopes. The grove is very small however, and while the percentage of sequoias lost within the grove appears high, the actual quantity is low compared to other groves. While I walked among them, I didn’t count the trees, but I’d estimate that there are at least a dozen surviving sequoias downstream in the lower portion of the grove, and several more high up on the west side in the upper portion of the grove. The sequoias on the eastern side of the grove perished.
Board Camp and Homer’s Nose groves are more or less next to each other with similar layouts. A high ridge, which I’ve personally climbed over, separates the two. Sequoias grow up and down steep south-facing slopes just below Salt Creek Ridge. You can take in a view of both groves from the Garfield Trail on the opposite side of the canyon. The Homer’s Nose sequoias stand below their namesake rocks to the west and the Board Camp sequoias stand below Cahoon Rock to the east. Both groves have sequoias extending down long creeks. The groves burned somewhat similarly too, scorching patches of hotter, south-facing slopes while burning lightly to moderately down the cooler, densely wooded lower drainages. Homer’s Nose is a larger grove than Board Camp though, and was not hit as hard. The upper western portion of Homer’s Nose Grove remains covered by lush green domes and all of the sequoias that descend Cedar Creek, all the way down to where the grove meets the Ladybug Trail, are alive. A portion of the upper east side burned intensely, but there are also survivors on the high eastern slopes.
It was really hard for me to look at the dead sequoias, especially those I knew before the fire. It’s hard to accept that it’s the same forest, even while knowing very well that these forests are always changing. I clearly remember the vivid orange bark, the lush canopies, the wild branches and burls. Now, some of my beloved giants have been turned into blackened and broken boles, snapped tops, and limbs scattered about the ground. It’s devastating beyond what words can possibly express. In Board Camp, as well as many other groves (including Alder Creek, Freeman Creek, McIntyre, Mountain Home, Homer’s Nose, Garfield-Dillonwood, and Forgotten), I find myself repeatedly bearing witness to the loss of earth’s irreplaceable giant sequoias. I am watching, in real time, the rapid disappearance of all that is green.*
* Years later, I’ve found that the response to the fire might be worse than the fire itself. Instead of responding by addressing climate change, holding corporations accountable for a warming world, or preserving more native trees and green space, we are doing the opposite. We are busy with chainsaws and bulldozers, burning fossil fuels, cutting down countless trees, burning more, eliminating natural seedlings, spraying entire mountainsides with toxic chemicals like glyphosate (Roundup), and installing tree plantations in place of forests. Persistent propaganda has somehow convinced us that we need to destroy our forests in order to save them. The politics, money, and media control are so powerful that people are repeating these messages without really thinking about them, and certainly without seeing for themselves what is actually happening deep in the heart of the woods. I encourage anyone who wants to know the truth to personally examine many forests and variables, both human-managed and nature-managed forests, steep and flat, prone to wind and calm, hot and cool, arid and wet, rugged and gentle, near development and far from it. Walk through them extensively, spend as much time as possible, study them before fire, immediately after fire, and finally, several years after fire. Put aside what you’ve been told, and look for yourself.
About the Author:
Sue Cag is a musician, artist, writer, photographer, and nature preservationist.
All photos and video by Sue Cag. All Rights Reserved. Photos and video may not be used without permission.
BOARD CAMP AFTER THE CASTLE FIRE, AUGUST 2023 GALLERY
GALLERY OF BOARD CAMP GROVE IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE CASTLE FIRE, BEFORE NATURAL RECOVERY