G. Sam Piatt
PDT Outdoors Columnist
There are lots of places I’d like to visit and sights I’d like to see before I leave this world for regions beyond.
One of them is the land of the giant trees – the Sequoias or giant redwoods that grow in national parks high up in the meadows of Sierra Nevada in western California.
Trees taller than the length of a football field, wider at the base than most city streets.
In 2006, naturalists “discovered,” in a remote grove, the tallest of them all – 379 feet, or about six stories higher than the Statue of Liberty.
They are the oldest living things on the planet. Some were an infant a thousand years old when Solomon built the temple at Jerusalem; two thousand years old when Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
And they are still growing, in spite of fires, drought, tornadoes and other natural disasters.
Around Humbdolt, California, there are many of these huge redwoods in different groves, though not all so tall or as old as the giants.
They belong to all of us. About 200 miles of hiking and backpacking trails run through them.
In the 1960s, John Steinbeck, American Nobel prize winner for literature, traveled the length and breadth of the United States in a camper truck. Out of the trip came his book, “Travels with Charley.” Charley was a large French poodle who accompanied him.
It was the Sequoias that seemed to impress Steinbeck the most on the trip.
“I stayed two days close to the bodies of the giants,” he wrote. “There’s cathedral hush here. Perhaps the thick soft bark absorbs sound and creates a silence. The dawn comes early and remains dawn until the sun is high….Then the green fernlike foliage so far up strains the sunlight and distributes it in shafts or rather in stripes of light and shade….Birds move in the dim light or flash like sparks through the stripes of sun, but they make little sound….Underneath is a mattress of needles deposited for over two thousand years. No sound of footsteps can be heard on this thick blanket….One holds back speech for fear of disturbing something – what?”
Deer hunters, how would you like to place your stand in a Sequoia?
The woods and tree stands in these parts are filled with people toting guns and clad in bright orange vests and hats.
Come mid-November and time for hunters to replenish the supply of healthy and delicious venison for their freezers.
Which is the most humane way to die – by bullet or with the front ends of automobiles?
At any rate, hunting by seasons and controlled numbers is the method used to keep deer populations in check. Without it, the herds would soon outstrip available food supplies, resulting in starvation and disease.
The annual thinning of white-tailed deer herds began yesterday in Kentucky. Reduction of deer numbers in woods and fields means less chance for vehicle collisions with the roaming animals on highways, which sometimes can bring death for motorists as well as deer.
Kentucky’s 16-day gun season opened at one-half hour before sunrise Saturday, and runs through one-half hour after sunset Nov. 29, while Ohio’s seven-day gun season opens at one-half hour before sunrise Nov. 30, and runs through one-half hour after sunset Dec. 6.
Ohio regulations call for the use of shotguns with slugs, which offer much less carrying distance than Kentucky’s allowance of high-powered rifles.
Pick up booklets listing all the regulations at stores where licenses are sold.
A stiff fine for breaking the regulations can negate the cheap prices offered in bringing home a hundred pounds or so of dressed and packaged meat.
I was visiting at Hill View Retirement Center in Portsmouth one day last week when Becky Drake, 51, who works there, hailed me in the hallway.
Two weeks ago, she said, she was driving west on Flat Hollow Road when a large black cat crossed the road in front of her, in broad daylight.
“It was too big to be a house cat, and it wasn’t a bobcat, because it stopped briefly on the other side and twitched its long tail” before bouncing on into the woods, she said.
The sighting was just east of the road leading up to the radio towers overlooking the river and Portsmouth.
Kentucky wildlife officials have in the past said there are no black panthers anywhere but in the jungles of South America and that people who report such sightings are seeing either a dark-colored coyote or a small black bear.
Drake scoffed at such an idea.
“I know what I saw,” she said, “and I know the difference between a cat and a dog or bear.”
“For all your days prepare
And meet them all alike:
When you are the anvil, bear –
When you are the hammer, strike.”
—— Charles Edwin Markham 1852-1940
Reach G. SAM PIATT at (606) 932-3619 or [email protected]