My first trip to the Calaveras State Park was in October of 2005. I did not know about that park until I talked to a lady at the drug store photo counter. From Carson City it is a 3 hour day trip. Trisha was between jobs at the time so we decided on a spur of the moment safari. After that visit I knew that it was something that my sister Anne needed to experience and I nurtured a little dream to take her there. Three years would go by before I realized my dream.
The ride over the mountain from Carson City, out of Gardnerville, on Nevada Highway 88, starts out through grassy meadows and stands of desert sage and cottonwood. As the highway winds westward the terrain steepens and the flora changes gradually from desert vegetation to scrub and pinion pine. The higher we go bigger grow the trees, until we are in a tunnel of green—a dense forest of mixed conifers. At the top of Ebbets Pass (8700 feet) we stop to commune with a gathering of elderly aspen trees, the trunks of which are of unbelievable size and show the scars of many blizzards and gale force winds. The cottonwood and the aspen are still vivid and golden on the hillsides and along the river. The western side of the Sierra Nevada Range is remarkably different from the eastern desert side and the change happens in a very short time. The road narrows to one lane and the views are heart -stopping. Thankfully, the traffic is light, as it is a white knuckle ride.
The Calaveras groves are spectacular, and impressive. This park is especially lovely. The redwood giants live in a mixed conifer forest with a beautiful under story of dogwood, hazelnut and other varieties of shrub that change color with the seasons.This day in late October was perfect with crisp temperatures and a sky of deep azure blue. There was no wind but one becomes aware of a subtle movement of the air. The leaves flickered and danced in the light that filtered down through the high canopy above. The foliage in the understory had changed from the green that I remembered to autumn shades of yellow and gold, and the dogwood leaves were a lovely delicate pink. Shafts of sunlight moved through these leaves of lace like music. The forest became a universe in itself, a living, breathing entity. The forest floor was a cushion made up of eons of fallen leaves, needles and bark, forming a perfect carpet, soft and springy beneath our feet. Above us loomed the trees--the pines, the firs, the incense cedars, and the mammoth giants of the forest, the Sequoias. The trees are a presence. One is aware of something more than trees, and it is hard to comprehend their immensity and their very tangible vitality.
It is truly a living cathedral.
(Watch for next installment!)