If you’ve never been to the Calaveras Big Trees State Park in California, I suggest you plan a trip. The enormi- ty of these giant sequoias is beyond
description. In fact, when they were first
discovered, the bark from one tree was
stripped and taken on tour. People had to
see it to believe it.
Our family camped at the Big Trees state
campground—three days and two nights
of family fun—trail walking, cooking over
a fire, roasting marshmallows, fending off
bees. Yes, bees. Yellow jackets, to be precise.
They were everywhere and in everything.
My wife found one crawling on her in the
middle of the night.
The camp host told us the year had been
especially bad for these little yellow pests.
Ignoring them was our best defense. They
didn’t seem aggressive, just a nuisance. At
least until my daughter disturbed their nest.
My wife and youngest napped while I
took the other children for one more look
at what I call “the biggest trees you ever
saw.” We decided to measure some of the
trees listed in the trail brochure. Taking a
string and wrapping it around the trunks
of various trees at the same height gave us
a comparison from tree to tree. Then we
laid the string on the ground and measured
with a steel tape. You wouldn’t believe the
circumference of these behemoths.
Measuring the trees made the trail walk
much more interesting. One woman walked
by us and commented to her walking mate,
“They must work for the park services.” We
My children were taking turns wrapping
the string around the trees, and Abigail
reserved the last, and biggest, for herself.
The final tree we were to measure was the
“Discovery Tree.” Cut down long ago, the
stump is there so visitors can walk upon
and marvel at it. Twenty or thirty park visitors were reading information about the
tree and taking pictures as we began our
science observations and measuring. Lydia started around the tree with the string.
When she was out of sight on the other
side, I remembered that Abigail wanted
to measure this tree. I called for Lydia, but
she didn’t answer. I didn’t see Abigail, so
I told my son, “Go find Abigail. She was
supposed to measure this one.” Calling
Lydia again, I wondered why she didn’t
hear me. Then, off to my side and away
from the tree, I saw her.
By David West
Trees and Bees:
Spiritual Lessons at the Campground
The bees didn’t seem
aggressive, just a
nuisance. At least
until my daughter
disturbed their nest.