Introducing a Mountain Treasure
Southeast of Three Rivers in the Sierra Nevada is a kingdom of giant sequoias reachable on foot, mountain bike and horseback. Ancient giants here measure as much as 16 feet across, likely wider than your dining room. Springs flow out of this grove and into picturesque Salt Creek. Southern spotted owls, Pacific fishers and the rare plants Sequoia gooseberry and Kaweah brodiaea, a delicate purple flower, live here. This is Case Mountain, and it’s home to wonders of human history as well: Granite basins as big as hot tubs are among the largest enduring artifacts remaining from California Indian civilization. The basins are perplexing and fascinating; though experts agree that native people used and perhaps created them, their origins and exact purpose remain a mystery.
A few miles away, every spring and fall, hundreds of sixth-grade students are immersed in science and nature education through the Santa Teresita Youth Conference Center. Students spend several days participating in outdoor classes and activities here. Environmental educators teach the youths about subjects such as birds, insects, geology, astronomy and plants. They could learn about the amazing giant sequoias just miles away. But even though Santa Teresita sits at the foot of Case Mountain, the students can only see the trees from a distance. A private 60-acre property called Craig Ranch lies between the youth center and the magical sequoia grove, hindering public access to the forest.
Save the Redwoods League is working with Sequoia Riverlands Trust (external link) and the Bureau of Land Management to buy Craig Ranch and provide easy access to the majestic ancient trees.
The current access point to the Case Mountain trail, which leads to the sequoias, is overcrowded, and it lacks adequate parking, especially for equestrians with horse trailers. Purchasing the property would improve access for the students from Santa Teresita, as well as hikers, mountain bikers, anglers, equestriansand other visitors. Acquiring Craig Ranch would not only establish a gateway to the giant sequoias, but it would also safeguard the last unprotected part of Salt Creek. The rest of the creek is protected by the Bureau of Land Management’s surrounding Case Mountain Area of Critical Environmental Concern, an 18,530-acre giant sequoia forest.
The designer of Santa Teresita’s youth camp program, Monsignor John Greisbach, said that if the students could visit the sequoias, they would be able to learn about the special trees—including how to protect them. In addition to acquiring the property, we plan to help create Santa Teresita’s giant sequoia curriculum.
Programs like these that educate, inspire and bring kids to the redwoods – often for the first time — are inspiring future caretakers who will protect our redwood forests and, in turn, encourage others to do the same.