Archive | September, 2012

Calaveras Big Trees

25 Sep

Calaveras Big Trees State Park, 9-23-12

After spending a weekend at nearby Murphys, California, some friends and I decided to visit the Calaveras Big Trees before heading home to the Sacramento area.

It was a beautiful day; the first full day of autumn. Although the temperature suggested summer was lingering, some of the leaves were changing color and the light had the muted glow of early fall.

It was the perfect afternoon for a walk in the trees.

(Most of the following information was gleaned from Calaveras Big Trees State Park Activity Guide, brochure, and “A Guide to the Calaveras North Grove Trail.”)

Three miles north of Arnold off Highway 4, the colossal trees of Calaveras Big Trees State Park stand in quiet testimony to prehistoric times. These massive relics, which can reach a height of 325 feet and a diameter of 33 feet, care descended from trees that were standing when dinosaurs roamed Earth, and birds, mammals and flowering plants began to appear. Some of today’s trees are thought to be as old as 2,000 years.

Giant Sequoias – the world’s largest trees – are native only to the western slope of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. Two groves of these magnificent trees are protected within the park. The easily accessible North Grove is historically significant as the Giant Sequoia discovery site. The more remote and pristine South Grove contains the largest trees in the park.

Accessible path, North Grove Trail

Accessible path, North Grove Trail


Opportunities for wildlife observation are abundant in the park. Bird species include pileated woodpeckers, northern flickers, Steller’s jays and dark-eyed juncos. Raccoons, foxes, porcupines, chipmunks, chickarees and flying squirrels are among the native animals. Black bears, bobcats and coyotes are sometimes seen.

Calaveras Bit Trees State Park

North Grove Trail

This gentle 1.7 mile loop will take you through the historic grove of Giant Sequoias discovered in 1852. The Big Stump, Mother and Father of the Forest, and the Pioneer Cabin Tree (at one time a “drive-through” tree) are all located along this trail, as well as about 100 very large Giant Sequoias. The trail begins and ends at the far end of the North Grove parking lot. This trail is “stroller-friendly” when dry. Allow 1 – 2 hours.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

Numbered trail markers correspond to numbers in the booklet: A Guide to the Calaveras North Grove Trail

#13  The Father of the Forest – “This tree has always been a favorite setting for photographers.”

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

“Mother of the Forest” – so named for its beauty and size – was stripped of its bark in 1845 for the purpose of exhibition in New York City and in London.

“… A crew of men worked at the tree’s systematic destruction for ninety days. While some were eager to see evidence of the Sierra Nevada big tree, the act of the tree’s ruin also sparked outrage. Though nineteenth-century views defined nature as vast, unending, and forever renewable, people condemned the event as a botanical tragedy and an act of sheer vandalism. It was through the Mother of the Forest’s great sacrifice that a heightened awareness about the needs to protect these trees was born.”

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

#21 “… when the Wawona Tunnel Tree in Yosemite was carved out in the 1880s, the owners of the North Grove responded by doing the same to this tree.”

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

“The Pioneer Cabin Tree was chosen because of its extremely wide base and large fire scar. Because of the huge cut, this tree can no longer support the growth of a top… The opening also has reduced the ability of this tree to resist fire.”

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

#26 – Platform built near this group of sequoias so that people could have a close-up view of the trees.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

The thick protective bark often grows to be two feet thick, lacks flammable pitch, and contains high amounts of the chemical tannin, which makes it fireproof and also protects against diseases.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

 Accessible Features

The North Grove and Beaver Creek trails and the River Picnic Area are all accessible.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

Campsites and restrooms with showers at the North Grove Campground – some visitors may need help with sloped terrain;

Wheelchair seating spaces, parking, assistive listening system at the Campfire Center;

Restroom and adjacent parking near warming hut off North Grove parking lot.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

Accessibility is continually improving. For current accessibility details, call the park (209-795-2334) or visit

Fun Facts

Located 3 miles east of Arnold (California) on Highway 4

Open daily from sunrise to sunset

No cell phone service in the park

Latitude / Longitude: 38.2719 / 120.2867

Elevation at North Grove: 4,750 feet

Calaveras Big Trees Association:

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12


I Have Never, Ever Seen This View Before ….

12 Sep

Point Lobos State Reserve, Bird Island Trail

Those were Carrieanna’s words, as we reached the first bend of the Bird Island Trail at Point Lobos.

September 8th is a day of personal remembrance for Carrieanna and me, and we chose to spend the day at Point Lobos State Reserve in Carmel, California. She had learned that there was a newly-opened accessible trail, and we wanted to check it out.

We were delightfully surprised to find a few docents – including a friend of Carrieanna’s – on the Bird Island ADA trail. The docents were knowledgeable and enthusiastic about this newly-accessible trail, and were clearly pleased to see so many wheelchair users taking advantage of the beautiful day on the trail!

Point Lobos now has three accessible trails:

Carmelo Meadow Trail (which starts near the Entrance Station and goes to Whalers Cove, where it connects with the partially-accessible Granite Point Trail);

Sea Lion Point Trail and Sand Hill Trail (which we have visited in the past; this photo is from July of 2008); and

Bird Island Trail (which allows a view of China Cove, Pelican Point and Bird Island).

We visited three trails on Saturday: Bird Island, Carmelo Meadows and Granite Point.

Come with us, as we show you what has been called “The greatest meeting of land and water in the world” (per landscape artist Francis McComas).

(Quotes are from the brochure provided upon entry to Point Lobos.  For a map of accessible trails, click here.)


“On the way to the Bird Island overlook, you pass between woods and sea, high above two white sandy beaches – China Cove and Gibson Beach. Both are accessible via long staircases. … China Cove’s sparkling jade-green waters are framed by hanging cliff side gardens.”

“As you walk the loop on Pelican Point, you pass wildflower displays that change seasonally. Here you overlook Bird Island, which becomes a large sea bird colony in spring and summer. Hundreds of Brandt’s Cormorants nest close together on the flat part of the island. Watch for sea otters resting in kelp offshore ….”

(From southern parking area; round trip .8 miles; 30 minutes through coastal scrub; access to 2 beaches, good view of Bird Island and China Cove.)

Able-bodied visitors can use the stairs; wheelchair users roll up the path.

We found a bench and had a picnic, with China Cove as our view.

China Cove, from Bird Island ADA Trail, Point Lobos, CA

China Cove

The cove itself is not accessible; too many stairs.

We knew we were on the right path!

There was a portion of Bird Island Trail without any barrier. It was a steep grade and while scenic, with Gibson Beach to the left and below us, it was the one place along the trail where we did not feel totally safe.

(We mentioned this fact to the docents, who were happy to have our feedback.)

I counted 56 steps from the end of the rope barrier to the bridge.

However, once we rounded the bend, we had this wonderful view!

China Cove, as seen from the south side of the cove.

After enjoying the loop and seeing Bird Island,

we headed back down the trail …

… with a stop to use the clean and accessible restrooms …

… and say “Happy Birthday” to some celebrating ladies!

We then begin our trek along Carmelo Meadow Trail, headed for Whalers Cove.


“This wheelchair-accessible trail winds through an old burn area, across a small stream and through the forest to Whalers Cove. The woods and the adjacent meadow provide cover and protection for the birds and mammals foraging in this forest-edge habitat. “

(From Entrance Station to Granite Point Trail Juncture, through pine woods: .25 mi., 8 min.)

This trail was a bit more rustic than Bird Island Trail.

There was just enough of a decline that Carrieanna often raised her arms

as she “flew” down the path. Wheeeeee!

At the end of Carmelo Meadow Trail we come to Granite Point Trail,which is partially-accessible if you head east/northeast.

So we headed east/northeast.


“Beyond Carmelo Meadow, this partially wheelchair-accessible trail goes through pine woods to Coal Chute Point, a good overlook for observing Harbor Seals and sea otters. Continuing on through the dense, shoulder-high coastal scrub, the path takes you to the edge of a former pasture and then up to Granite Point.”

We were careful to stay away from the (beautiful) poison oak!

We were unable to get as far as Coal Chute Point. However, we did turn our backs on the cove and saw this beautiful monastery!

View of Whalers Cove from Granite Point Trail

Although Carrieanna could not follow the trail to Cannery Point …

Tree roots and a steep uphill grade = not wheelchair accessible.

… she encouraged me to do so.  So I did.

Cannery Point, Point Lobos

Ready to conclude our trek, we strolled / rolled to Whalers Station Museum, where a kind stranger took our photo.

Whalers Station

“These bones are from whales that washed ashore at Point Lobos and Garrapata.You are looking at the remains of a Fin, Humpback, and two Grays.”

We then headed back up the road to our parked car, grateful for a day of adventure and beauty.

Point Lobos State Reserve, we love you!

April in Paris – A First Visit

1 Sep

Carrieanna’s Aunt Becky speaks French and loves Paris – she has been there many times.

In April of 2009, we three — Rich, Carrieanna and I — spent three days in Paris.

This was Rich’s first visit; he wrote the following letter to Becky:

“Dear Becky,

“Thought you might enjoy a Paris report from a first-timer.

“Our trip to Paris began aboard Thalys from Amsterdam Central Station to Gare du Nord. Rental wheelchair folded next to one seat – first class, yet! From Amsterdam to Brussels train runs regular speed;

“Brussels to Paris … warp speed!

“Was it Antwerp where we changed crew … new conductors, stewards, stewardesses?

“And there he was, our new steward … Ashken, tall, slender, young, devilishly handsome, charming, with a smile to light up any lady’s heart. When he learned that Carrieanna was traveling to Paris on her birthday … free extra small bottles of French wine … even sang Happy Birthday to her. Whoa! What an introduction to Paris!



   (Vegan meal; a little birthday dessert and wine!)

“My first impression of Paris was how LARGE it was, in terms of space, population, and most of all – architecture. Everything is huge … Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame, d’Orsay, even the hotels.”

“I loved the colonnades along rue de Rivoli. Easy wheelchair entrance into Hotel Brighton, and very cordial, welcoming staff … fellow even remembered Jeri from her stop there last November gathering information for this trip.

“Carrieanna’s room is designated “Disabled Accessible” and overlooks (4 stories down) a small courtyard. The room is spacious and well-appointed; good light from tall windows. And, I go no further before mentioning that our entire time in Paris (save for the last late night) we had warm weather and bright sunshine!

“The room Jeri and I had, down the hall and around a corner, just a short walk from Carrieanna, was larger and overlooked rue de Rivoli. The tall windows opened inward and allowed access to a narrow balcony, where the three of us could comfortably stand.

”The view, as I remember it, from left to right: Towers of Notre Dame, Louvre, including pyramid, Tuileries Gardens, d’Orsay, the obelisk [in Place de la Concorde], the Invalides, Grand Palais, Petit Palais, [Pont Alexandre III], and the Eiffel Tower. Magnificent. That will be my most lasting image of Paris!

“The trip was Carrieanna’s 27th birthday gift. We dreamed of it for a long time and discussed it for an even longer time … what to see, what to do … We left each day fairly open in terms of scheduling, although we knew that in our three days and nights there we would want to visit our “Top Ten” places.

“So, we pretty much followed Carrieanna’s lead. And, no sooner did we get over “ooohing and aaahing” at the view, then she had us in a taxi on our way to Eiffel Tower … about 3:00 p.m. The taxi stand closest to Hotel Brighton, which we used often, was almost in front of the Westin. Well, out of the taxi and into the masses … “No, I don’t speak English … No, I don’t want any trinkets ….”

“We three were amazed at the size and the beauty of the tower.

“We spent a couple of hours there, taking photos and being amazed. Then we roll to the nearby Seine River boats.

“Wheelchairs on first, Thank You Very Much (rendered, of course, in French).

“Great seats, clear views, warm weather … and we cruise past the gorgeous monuments, buildings and bridges.

(Seine River Cruise, via Bateaux Parisiens)

“Taxi back to Tuileries Garden for our final meal of the day (about 7:00 p.m.). Surprisingly good food. Jeri finds baguettes, fruits, juice and French wine nearby.

“Back to the view until about 9 p.m. …

“The tower is sparkling like a Christmas tree, on the hour, and we “just have to” go back to the tower. She is drawn as if by magnetism.

“A couple of hours again, before finally getting back to Hotel Brighton about midnight.

“Jeri had earlier worked out with Carrieanna that her birthday present to her would be to take her up to the second level of the Eiffel Tower. They were clear, from every source, that wheelchairs were not allowed beyond the second level. They decided this day, Saturday, was too crowded, so they would wait for another night.

[And that’s a story to be told in another post!]

“Trees budding and blooming everywhere. All sorts of flowers blooming. And military personnel with automatic weapons at the Eiffel Tower. What a great first day.”

(To be continued ….)

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