Distance: 1 Mile
Elevation Gained: Negligible
Time: Wasn’t keeping track, to be honest
– Probably the most beautiful place in the Sierra Nevadas, which makes it one of the most beautiful places anywhere.
– Some of the most incredible light I’ve ever seen.
– No such thing when it comes to Crescent Meadow
Crescent Meadow is the scene of some of my greatest hiking experiences. Hardly a trip to the Sequoias goes by where I don’t stop here and take a hike. Some of the hikes are lazy strolls around the perimeter of the meadow. Other hikes go for miles and miles, but always ultimately return. If I have a favorite place within my favorite place, it is this. I suppose that makes this my favorite place on the planet.
As I write this, I’m full of a desire to go back. I want to sit on a log and listen to the deep, rolling reverberations of sound off of the towering wall of sequoia trees rimming the meadow. I want to watch the evening light fall lazily in shafts onto the long, rolling sea of grasses and corn lillies. I want to see bears poking their scruffy heads out of the vegetation, looking in peplexity upon the stunned on-lookers. Few places are so beautiful as to create a sense of need. Crescent Meadow is one of them.
The meadow exists because multiple creeks have flowed into a depression in the landscape. As the creeks damned up in the end of the meadow, the water collected, forming a huge, crescent-shaped marsh. Lush grasses, flowers, and ferns took root in the marsh, and one of the most verdant, vibrant, colorful places in the forest was born.
Sequoia trees, which are beyond massive, surround the meadow. Sequoias have very extensive, but shallow root systems. Very few things can kill a sequoia tree; they are resistant to bugs, disease, funghi, and even fire. The main cause of death for a sequoia is toppling. When these trees get so big that their root systems can no longer support them, they fall over, which is much like a 30-story tower falling over.
The swampy soil within the meadow is too soft and damp to support the root system, so when a tree gets too big, it will fall into the meadow. Numerous logs cross the meadow, allowing a person to walk along the logs and across the meadow. These logs are an excellent place to take in the scene, and much sitting, capering, walking, and exploring takes place here.
On this hike, we had very little agenda. We came to soak in the scenery. On this day, the scene was enhanced by some of the most magnificent natural light I have ever seen. A prescribed burn kicked up a generous amount of smoke nearby, and that smoke was filtering into the meadow. While the smile and acrid burn in the nose were definitely drawbacks, the timbre of the early evening light filtering through the smoke created beautiful shades and colors all across the meadow. Visible shafts of life dove into the grass, while the sun glowed a striking orange between the trees.
One of the most incredible things about this meadow is the way light affects it. I’ve seen it in the early morning, when dew trapped on spiders’ webs caught brilliantly in the rising sun. I’ve seen it in the harsh light of noon, which did little to dim the meadow’s beauty, even when it renders other places far less appealing than they would otherwise be. I’ve seen it at sunset, when the deep gloom and soft light creates a soft, gentle pallet of color. However, the smoky light is the most beautiful I’ve ever seen here, and I won’t soon forget the sites on this brief but rewarding hike.
I guess the only con here was that there was neither time nor energy to spend more time roaming this meadow and the two nearby meadows, Log and Huckleberry. Next time I come hear, I’m devoting a full day of aimless wandering just to this small slice of heaven.
June: 55 Miles
Year-to-Date: 676.1 Miles