John Muir


Louie [Wanda & Helen Muir]


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DESCRIPTION OF THE MAMMOTH AND SOUTH PARK GROVES.[From Nelson's Atlantic and Pacific Tourists' Guide.]THE SOUTH GROVE.On a very pleasant morning we left the Mammoth Grove Hotel at 8 o'clock, for a day amidst the largest grove of the largest trees in the world. Once in the Mexican saddle---the most comfortable made---we followed the well-known mountain guide--- Abe Ritchie. Six miles had to be passed over ere reaching the goal of our ambition. A short distance from the hotel, we ascended and stood on the dividing ridge between the Big Tree Creek and the Stanislaus River. Here a remarkably fine view was obtained of the near and distant mountains. Far away the Dardanelles or summit of the Sierras towered aloft twelve thousand five hundred feet. Many of the distant peaks were snow-capped. Descending into the valley we reached Squaw Hollow, two miles from the hotel. A mile beyond we crossed the north fork of the Stanislaus River, on whose classic shores the Society of Truthful James came to grief. Here a bridge spans the pretty mountain stream; above the bridge are a series of rapids caused by the immense boulders that have rolled into the bed of the river. In places its banks were vine-clad- they are also wooded to the edge. It is a gem of mountain scenery. Ascending the Stanislaus Hill, a fine view was obtained of the valley, as well as of the basaltic cliffs opposite. Further on, the trail passed ever several small natural bridges, under which a swift brook runs. We stopped to examine a veritable freak of nature. At a distance of fully fifteen feet above the ground, a well developed gooseberry bush grows out of the side of a dead tree. A berry, no doubt, was carried there by some squirrel or bird, and from it, this phenomenon of mountain botany sprouted. Yet onward and we reachedTHE DIVIDEBetween Beaver Creek and the Stanislaus River. The Creek is a far-famed locality for trout-fishing. Still we wended our way through vast pine trees, of various kinds, many of them ten feet and upward in diameter, and from two hundred to two hundred and seventy feet high, and the South Grove was reached. It has only been known and visited during the last fifteen or sixteen years. Mr. J. M. Hutchings, the well-known Californian writer on the Big Trees, Yo Semite, etc., was its first possessor. It is now the property of Mr. R. B. Whiteside who has over one thousand acres there alone, apart from the Calaveras Grove. It extends three and a half miles and contains thirteen hundred and eighty large trees. Any tree there under eighteen feet in circumference is not considered a large tree. The sequoias, on first acquaintance, are rather awe-inspiring. Their vastness almost appals the beholder. At the entrance to the Grove are three immense sequoias. One is named ''Correspondent" in honor of many hard-working knights of the quill, who are constantly trying to amuse and instruct the public. Next are "Fred" and "Electra;" they form a remarkably fine row as they stand side by side, the outposts of the vast army within. They have an average circumference of forty-five feet, or a diameter of fifteen feet; their average height being two hundred and fifty feet. Our party next reached the "General Custer," an immense tree having a circumference of eighty feet, and a height of three hundred and twenty feet. Proceeding, two celebrated Canadians are met, namely, the "Sir Francis Hucks," measuring sixty feet six inches in circumference at its base, and three hundred feet high. On the opposite side of our path stands the "Dr. J. W. Dawson," measuring fifty feet at its base, and of a similar height.THESE SPLENDID TREESHave no limbs for fully one hundred feet above the ground. Like all the other trees of the Sequoia family, or Sequoia Gigantea (being named after an Indian chief), they show marks of the great fire that raged upward of one thousand years ago. The "Dawson" has a large cavity burnt out at its base, capable of holding many persons. Following the path, "Dr. Eugene Nelson" is seen on the tourist's right hand measuring at the base sixty-one feet in circumference, height three hundred feet. These trees form an isosceles triangle. Further on are the "Two Lovers," named by a lady, a stately pair of trees; next, a huge tree named "Massachusetts, "one hundred feet in circumference at the base, thus having a diameter of thirty-three feet and one-third, and a height of three hundred and eighty feet. The "Ohio " measures one hundred and four feet in circumference and towers aloft three hundred and twenty-eight feet; then "Connecticut," having a circumference of ninety-six feet and a height of three hundred; the "General Garfield," recently named by an admirer, is three hundred and forty feet high, and has a circumference of ninety feet. Do not imagine that "Hancock " has been forgotten. A friend of his duly named another monster after him; so the presidential contestants confront each other on the mountain top. "New York" measures one hundred and six feet in circumference, and is also three hundred and forty feet high, or a diameter of thirty-five and one-third feet. Now, what does this mean as to size? A mid section of the tree broken perpendicularly would give a front of that extent. Houses in terraces or alone, with a frontage of twenty-five feet, are considered large. Words fail to convey an idea of the exact magnitude of these gigantic denizens of the forest. Twenty yards east of "New York" stand "Grover Cleveland" and "Mrs. Grover Cleveland," each over ninety feet in circumference and more than three hundred feet in height. "Cyclops," a live tree, has an immense cavity at its base, which has actually heldTWENTY-FOUR MEN ON HORSEBACK.Next, the "Palace Hotel," one hundred feet in circumference, and three hundred feet high. The tree is so named on account of its spacious interior, after the "Palace" at San Francisco---the largest hotel in the world---a fitting monument to one now, alas, no more, whose energy and enterprise did more to develop the Pacific Coast, than any hundred men now living---the late Mr. Ralston. The "Palace" has a burnt out cavity extending upward ninety feet, the same within is fifteen feet across, and yet these giants have survived that dreadful mutilation, and live, and "are as well as can be expected." The "Knight of the Forest" measures seventy-two feet in circumference at the base, and is three hundred feet high. Near by, on a gentle slope, is a group of five unnamed sequoias; they average twenty feet in diameter and three hundred feet high. They are followed by a host of trees of equal magnitude, and the "Three Graces" of this grove, well and fitly named. "Noah's Ark" is a monster; it has a large and long cavity caused by the action of fire, in which two horsemen could ride side by side, as it lay on the ground. Recently the upper part of the shell was broken in by a heavy snow deposit. "Old Goliath," is the largest fallen tree in the Grove; it measures as it lies one hundred and five feet in circumference, and has a present length intact of two hundred and sixty one feet. A limb alone measures twelve feet in circumference. "Smith's Cabin," so named after a hunter and guide, who lived in its burnt-out base for two years, is alive and flourishing, despite the cabin. We measured the interior carefully, and fancy our astonishment in finding it to be sixteen feet by twenty-one and a half. Its height is three hundred and forty feet. Here Smith weathered the terrible gale that was the downfall of "Old Goliath," his neighbor. During the progress of the hurricane he did not dare to venture out, as limbs and trees were constantly coming down.THE FALL OF OLD GOLIATHHe compared to an earthquake. This mountain Crusoe still lives. The Grove extends half a mile beyond the "Cabin," in a northerly direction. Having come in by the east side, we turned and left the Grove by the west. Many young sequoias are seen having an average circumference of fifteen feet, with a height of two hundred. Infants of the family also appear in various stages of growth intermediate between these and mere saplings. We paced the surface of "Old Goliath," the largest fallen tree; it was two hundred and sixty-one feet long. It required no stretch of the imagination to make it the deck of some long ship. Sitting upon the upper part of the base of the tree we were twenty-three feet above ground. At two hundred and sixty-one feet, where it is broken off, it measures forty-five in circumference. It has also suffered from fire. Its base has been put to a highly practical use, being no less than a stable for horses. Scientific men of note pronounce the trees to be from two to four thousand years old, their age being judged by the number of circular woody rings they possess. That fire of one thousand years ago raged among the sequoias alone. Nor does this seem incredible, when vast sugar pines twenty-seven and thirty feet in circumference and two hundred and fifty feet high, now growing side by side with these trees, show no sign of fire, proving conclusively that they had no existence at the time. All the sequoias, wherever found, show marks of fire. There are no exceptions among the old trees, as they and they only had existence then. A charming day, never to be forgotten, was followed by a soft moonlight, which, as seen from the Hotel, amidst the Calaveras or Home Grove, was indescribably grand.


Big Trees, Calif.

Date Original

1900 Aug 23


Original letter dimensions: 26 x 41 cm.

Resource Identifier


File Identifier

Reel 11, Image 0325

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The unpublished works of John Muir are copyrighted by the Muir-Hanna Trust. To purchase copies of images and/or obtain permission to publish or exhibit them, see

Owning Institution

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Muir-Hanna Trust

Copyright Date


Page Number

Page 4


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