October 16th, 2020

Yesterday after our hike into the slot canyons, we departed at 5:00 p.m. and drove north from Grand Staircase-Escalante on Utah’s Highway 12.

We were in search of camping, racing against the light as we found ourselves amid yet another region of spectacular vistas. The highway climbs through a magnificent stone valley with a river running through it, evident only from the ribbon of yellow and green aspens cutting through the landscape.

Just above this valley, we unknowingly arrived at Pando (“I spread” in Latin), also known as the Trembling Giant. Pando is an immense aspen grove — the world’s largest single living organism, supported by one root system. I read a bit about it last week but didn’t know at the time that our route would lead us through it. It wasn’t until we were driving past hill after hill after hill of endless aspen trees that I realized what we were seeing. The grove extends for miles, at a high exposed elevation, with most of the trees bare after shedding their fall leaves but some sections were still aglow with yellow and orange. Down the hills and to the east, sunset views of Capitol Reef National Park added another layer of red rock grandeur.

I so wish we had arrived at this area with more time to shoot photos and take it all in. It warrants a return trip. Seeing Pando at the peak of autumn must be one of nature’s most vibrant displays.

Our road trip has transitioned from desert rock and dust to fall colors. More tomorrow from Deer Valley,


Photo of the Day: Adding a bit of light to the darkness as we get through the pandemic together. This series features travel photos from my archives, shared with you while staying close to home.


  • I love it when I come across something I knew but I didn’t know it was there. There is a sense of discovery, much more than coming especially for that. So I can relate to the unfolding of your story leading up to the discovery of this giant tree. Have a safe journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  • This is very intersting. Had no knowledge of such groves originated from common roots as clonal colonies.
    Was reading about this, sadly it looks like Pando’s long term survival is currently endangered due to various factors, hope we can help this giant to survive and recover well.


    • Climate change must be one of the threats. Surely drought and fire as well, caused again by climate change. It’s such a large group of connected trees! Would be hard to protect the whole thing but such a beautiful anomaly of nature well worth the effort.

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  • I consider Highway 12 to be one of the most scenic drives in America, Kelly. And aspens in fall, if you catch them at the right time, incredible! By now, I assume you’ve been through Capitol Reef NP. Another fave of ours. Just this past week I was processing photos from our trip this summer through there. Enjoy! –Curt

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    • Thanks, Curt!! The slot canyon was very cool and very narrow! Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to Capitol Reef with the itinerary/schedule we’re keeping with limited time in the region. But the great thing is, I’m already thinking of returning next fall — a bit earlier in October to see Capitol Reef, then Pando in full color, then a houseboat on Lake Powell for a few days. (We tried to rent a boat last week when we were there, but it was too busy.) I think this trio of remaining attractions in the area will be another incredible week! So much to see here, as you well know!


      • Peggy and I have talked about renting a houseboat. I think it would be a blast. We have floated down the the Colorado through the Grand Canyon on an 18 day private trip with friends. That was quite the experience!
        When my post on Capitol Reef comes up you will get a preview. 🙂 –Curt

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  • This is fascinating. I am only familiar with UK plants, but I know that blackthorn sprouts from its roots and that blackthorn thickets could well be ‘one plant’ as it were. But you can transplant a part with the root and it will grow into a separate plant.

    When i read ‘…we unknowingly arrived at Pando (“I spread” in Latin), also known as the Trembling Giant. Pando is an immense aspen grove…’ I saw Giant Pando and thought immediately of Giant Panda!

    On checking the etymology of Pando and Panda they seem related in that ‘Pando’ is to spread out and Panda is amongst other things from Sanskrit paṇḍita, ‘learned, wise’. So perhaps someone who spreads out wisdom.

    And of course if Giant Pando is rare so is the Giant Panda – and we need a lot of wisdom to look after both!

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    • I love your comment! So thoughtful and connective. Interesting parallels between Pando/Panda, as well as the Sanskrit meaning. Thanks so much for sharing and adding to the post! Great to dive deeper and learn from you.


  • Lovely place, and you’ve taught me a new term. You really may want to return to this area — so much to see.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Pando…in the autumn… you’ve given me another reason to return and visit this area again. I mean “immense aspen grove — the world’s largest single living organism, supported by one root system” and I drove right past it… It is good to learn something new 🙂


    • Well, that makes two of us. I want to go back when there are more leaves on the trees and the colors are in full glory. Must be a spectacular sight! Hope to see it through your lens someday, too. 🙂


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