Is the secret surrounding the location of the Grove of Titans out?
I took an afternoon stroll within the Grove recently (well, the most popular part of the Grove) and it felt different. Quite different. The small, social trails approaching the Grove were no longer hidden from view — or if they were hidden, were badly hidden. There was more than the usual amount of trampling of vegetation. Fern clusters within the Grove had been intentionally if not expertly trimmed. The smell of cigarettes (marijuana?) permeated the small bog nearby. And then there was a motion-detection camera I noticed strapped to a redwood, trained on Screaming Titans.
I got on the phone and email and chatted up some folks I know connected with the National Park and trees. And while cameras within National Park boundaries are normal — usually placed to observe wildlife, check on the presence of bears…generally tied to issues of wildlife and wildlife management — both buddies of mine said that there is a growing concern that too many visitors to the Grove are destroying the health of the Grove and of specific trees.
One has to wonder if the near-poetic naming of certain, especially tall, large and dramatically shaped trees — with names like El Viejo, Screaming Titans, the Lost Monarch, Fused Titan — add unnecessary sizzle to a species that is grand enough to entertain and awe whether named or not.
Mario Vaden, a friend, photographer and self-taught scholar of the trees (and obvious lover of the Grove) says that the camera placed by the Park Service may be tracking how many people are going into the Grove. Specifically, the NPS may be looking to capture locals guiding people to the grove on a regular basis, for pay (possibly in hopes of fining someone for guiding without a permit, he added). He mentioned a growing conversation surrounding policy that would address and hopefully slow the wear and tear on the Grove.
In any case, the camera is there and it likely represents a concerned constituent. Probably for the better.
My take-away. If your perfect day includes a walk through the forest, as mine often does, it is becoming more and more important to stay on established trails. I am probably through with the Grove. I have seen these named and spectacular trees plenty, and don’t need to see them again and again and again.
So yesterday I said good-bye to Chesty Puller and to El Viejo del Norte. Good-bye to Lost Monarch and to the Screaming Titans.
Maybe the day will come when the Park Service will need to establish rules or trails or to otherwise creatively manage access to this special place. Maybe that is a good thing. Only time will tell.