In 2009 the Basin Complex fire ravaged Big Sur. At over 244,000 acres burned, it is the third-largest fire in recorded California history and the second costliest for the United States (disclaimer: I don’t know the figures for the 2013 fire in Yosemite.)
The fire was fueled by dying/dead Tanbark Oaks (killed by Sudden Oak Death, aka SOD). The fire was especially hot here and it burned houses and outbuildings. And trees. And trees. And trees.
But Coast Redwoods (the tallest trees on the planet) can both survive and (maybe) benefit from terrible wild fires. The outside of the bark will burn, but the important inner layers (often) will not. The burned ground of the forest floor (temporarily free of leaves and needles and other plants) may allow shoots to take root and sprout and grow.
I can’t tell you why being surrounded by all of these burned trees made me feel emotional, but I did. I do, just thinking about it.
The picture below gives you a little reference in the size and height of these trees. Steve (on the trail) is 5’10”. Note how enormous the big, blackened tree to his left is. Now note all of those bright green saplings growing next to him. Look at how skinny their trunks are and how tall they are. They are babies. Tall, tall babies.
In the photo below you can see how green shoots are coming out of the trunk of this burned tree.
And below, a closer view. Also note how the underlayers of the bark are not burned. Amazing to me.
Whoever maintains this trail (I believe it is part of the Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park) is allowing the saplings to take root and grow wherever they come up even if it’s right in the middle of the trail. I love that. We had to walk around several new stands of saplings.
Below, another example of old and new trees. The bright green whippersnapper in the front is easily 10 feet tall. That puts into perspective the size of the blackened tree behind it.
I am going to do a post on the Tanbark Trail in general, but there was so much to this trail, I had to do a couple of extra posts to show the details (last night I posted about my bear sightings; still coming up: the Tin House.).
The Basin Complex Fire ravaged this part of the coast. I am so happy that some of it can come back.