Vacation Day 2 – Calaveras North Grove Trail

Since we awoke to a stove the did not work, and we didn’t want to use our pots on an open fire, I had to get creative with breakfast. Fortunately, I had purchased some fuel tablets to use as fire starter: they could also be used to heat a pot of water. The process was slow, but we did manage (with two pellets) to get water hot enough for coffee, oatmeal, and tea. It could have been a little warmer, but overall, it works remarkably well. The good thing about having breakfast at the campsite is that we discovered we didn’t have any spoons in our camping kit. Spoons are the one thing we use the most, so after our last trip they got washed in the dishwasher and put away with our regular utensils, rather than being put away in the camping gear. Since the van was outfitted with utensils (that I brought with us), we had a backup, however, the spoons in that kit were tiny, so we added to our shopping list some real spoons!

Our first order of business was to go into town (Arnold, CA) and see if we could either get the stove fixed or get a new stove. Fortunately, Arnold has both a hardware store and a sporting goods store. The friendly folks at the hardware store could sell us a new stove, but not fix the one we have. Fortunately, the sporting good store had the one part that fails most on Coleman camp stoves – the regulator arm. After careful comparison, Scott bought a new one, tested it out, and validated that we now have a working stove. Meanwhile Becky picked up some spoons and a new lighter.

We headed further into Arnold to pick up some stuff. There happened to be a coffee shop (Becky wanting her second cup of coffee), which also happened to have Wifi. We ended up there a little longer than planned (until almost noon) managing a few things that happened while we were offline yesterday (a paper that Becky coauthored got published in Hybrid Pedagogy – yay).

All stocked up, we return to the campground to hike the North Grove Trail and see the Big Trees. The two big groves at Calaveras Big Trees State Park have giant sequoias but also giant sugar pines. As you can see by our track, we took a bit of a detour on the guided walk and ended up walking just over 5.4 km.

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Before hiking, we purchased the 50 cent walking tour guidebook/pamphlet from the visitor center. The guidebook is very well written and we were glad to have it. One thing that I found particularly interesting is that it referred to the people as Euro-Americans – I had not heard that term used before. It actually highlighted to me that the history of both the South Grove and North Grove are told from a Euro-American perspective. There is no mention of the place from a Native-American perspective. I am left to wonder whether there were Native-American peoples still alive in this space back in the 1850s when the groves were first ‘discovered’?

The North Grove Trail is rather open, with the majority of the trail groomed to be accessible by wheelchair. You can see here Becky standing next to a giant sugar pine.

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The first attraction on the North Grove Trail was The Big Stump. When the grove was first ‘discovered’ by the Euro-American Augustus T. Dowd, as a money making venture, the large tree (also known as the ‘Discovery Tree’) was cut down. At one point in time the stump was planed down to a smooth surface, a gazebo was built over it, and it was used as a dance floor.

Called the Discovery Tree, it was the largest tree in the North Grove. It was over 25 feet in diameter at the base, and over 280 feet tall. When the rings were counted, it was found to be only 1,244 years old–relatively young for such a large sequoia. (Harrison, 2008, p.1-2)

Becky leaning against one of the Giant Sequoia’s.

The tops of the giant sequoia’s don’t have a lot of leaves/branches.
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One of the only selfie’s we took on this trip.

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These Siamese Twins started life so close together that the first 50 feet of their trunks have merged and now appear to be one tree. (Harrison, 2008, p. 4)

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Another picture of Becky providing some scale for the size of the surrounding trees.
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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, which you can see lying on the ground if you walk through the tunnel. The opening also has reduced the ability of this tree to resist fire. One branch bearing green foliage tells us that this tree is barely managing to survive. (Harrison, 2008, p. 10).

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We stopped at the scenic overlook on the way back to our campsite. Is that rain off in the distance?
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Before dinner, the weather shifted and it began to rain. This inspired us to setup the awning on Vance, which worked remarkably well. We were able to put the folding table (came with Vance) and two camp chairs under the awning. We sat and read for an hour and half and then made dinner. After dinner, we went over to visit our neighbour Debra. We sat inside her camper, drinking wine and sharing stories. It was a nice relaxing evening.


Harrison, W. (2008). A Guide to the Calaveras North Grove Trail. Calaveras Big Trees Association: Arnold, CA.

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