The Cactus Patch
September 2017

Big Trees and Other Adventures
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves


On the 27th of July we set off for Sequoia with Lora, Anne and two kids Lora was baby-sitting.  Why? Because it was just announced that Senior Passes for National Parks would go up from $10 to $80 in August!  Lora and I had never had one and Polly can’t find hers.  (Anne had obtained a replacement for hers when she went to Grand Canyon, but went along for the ride.) The trip was uneventful until just before the Park.  Then traffic slowed to a crawl.  As we rounded a corner we could see there was a continuous line to the entrance!  And this was on a weekday.  I’d hate to try on a weekend or holiday.

Our first stop was at the museum/shop for the foothills.  Then we continued to Hospital Rock where we had a picnic lunch prepared by Lora.  I was happy to see the rock art is still OK.  I had heard that the place had been ruined.  I guess this was a reference to all the adjoining development.  The buckeyes were brown and the yuccas past blooming so the foothills were a bit boring.  We did stop to see the view of Moro Rock.

Finally we reached Giant Forest and the big trees.  Parking has become a real problem, even with shuttle services.  The kids had a great time “climbing” the Sentinel Tree. (There is a line on the walkway that had the length marked out.)  I was happy to note the redwoods looked healthy, although there were dead and dying pines next to them.  After a look in the museum and shop we turned around and went back to the valley.  At Porterville we had dinner at the Black Bear Diner.  The kids were well behaved and sang most of the way back.

On the 31st we picked John up from the airport bus and heard all about his scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, visits to two caves (one with cave swallows) and, of course, the international convention of spelunkers. On his dives he managed to film a minke whale underwater.

On the 2nd of August we went to the African art exhibit at the Martin Luther King Center.  “Sankofa Heartbeats” was an eclectic showing of works which Bakari Sanyu has accumulated.  The name Sankofa comes from the Akan of Ghana and means “to go back and fetch”.  It was an unexpected treasure to see in Bakersfield. The refreshments were good, but the viewers few.

On the 4th we ate at the Firehouse and then took part in a “Plant Night” which is similar to the “Paint Nights” we have been to.  In this case we were given a small wooden box, gravel, soil, some succulents and some top dressing.  It is not my cup of tea, so I merely watched and took pictures.

On the 8th we went to the Cactus Valley, only to find a sign on the door saying they were remodeling the kitchen and were therefore closed!  Polly had made reservations and given them her phone number, but they did not even have the courtesy to let us know!!  Fortunately, we were able to move to the Old Hacienda for our dinner.

On the 16th we saw Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Sequel”.  We had seen “An Inconvenient Truth” at our film club in Botswana where I gave an introduction and was told afterward by the second-in-command at the U.S. Embassy that I made America look bad!  I’m glad I didn’t have to introduce this one as recent events have made America look bad on Climate Change with no help from me!!

The July-August Cactus and Succulent Journal (U.S.) had two articles which especially interested me.  The first by John Lavranos describes a new subspecies of Dracena from Saudi Arabia which is rapidly disappearing due to human activities.  I find this interesting as it supports my contention that there were once Dragon Trees and other succulents right across what is now the Sahara and what we see in the Canaries and Soqotra (and Arabia) are remnants of widespread species.

The second article by Graham Williamson describes how succulents survive in the moist Miombo woodlands of South Central Africa.  I touched on this in my first succulent publication “Succulents of Chitipa – the Muddy Place” which was published in a supplemental volume of the Cactus and Succulent Journal (U.S.) in 1975. [This was before Hazeltonia was started.]

Did you see the diatribe by Stephen Montgomery regarding the Bakersfield Train Robbers logo?  He said, “What’s with those saguaro cacti in that logo anyway? Except for those who may think if you’ve seen one cactus you’ve seen them all, being native to Arizona and not seen in any natural setting in California, those things simply don’t relate.”  Saguaros may not occur anywhere in the Bakersfield area, but there are some natural to a tiny corner of California.  Arizona does not have a monopoly on them.

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