The big tree is nature’s first masterpiece, and, as far as I know, the greatest if all living things.
– John Muir
amongst the monarchs
I spent this day in Sequioa National Park Park experience as much as I could of the park. I took the shuttle up from my campground in the morning and took the last shuttle back – maximized my time best I could. I was alone in the shuttle up and the driver would just whip around the corners of the crazy twisty road. I have to admit that by the time I got off at the Giant Forest Museum I was feeling somewhat queasy.
The museum had some interesting exhibits on the life cycle of the sequoia and the history of this area. The Giant Forest is one of the biggest sequoia groves on earth with over 2500 tress with a greater than 10 foot diameter. But I wanted to get out amount these trees so shortly I was on the Big Trees hike which makes its way around a forest meadow. These meadows are essential sequoia habitat as they need huge amounts of water but with teir wide shallow roots they can’t actually be in a wet meadow. So they like to grow on the edge and dip into its water.
The trees are just magnificent, huge gnarled bases then the thick knotty trunk rises up and up. The lower branches die off on the older trees so they have a stalk of broccoli kind of look. On the oldest trees the crown also dies off and there is bare wood at the top. There were several big fallen trees here, laying like huge pipes across the forest. Many of them had the burn scars that is so common of these old timers as they slice century after century through all manner of conditions.
One particularly interesting thing about the Giant Forest grove was that by the 50s it had been extensively overdeveloped with over a hundred buildings, plus campsites and all the services at many people demand. All this right on the shallow roots of these ancient monarchs. Well the forest service really turned things around from the 70s on and almost all of those buildings are gone and they built a new lodge outside of the grove for visitors. But I’ve seen this time and time again at these old parks, how they were focused on the people and car culture at the expense of the natural environment that they are actually there to experience.
From the Big Tree trail I hike out to Beetle Rock which give a nice view into e foothills and the smoggy San Joaquin Valley. Then it was back to the shuttle bus where I took it up to the General Sherman tree. The other of the “generals” this tree is the largest being on earth by mass. And it is truly huge and just stunning. Several places on the hike you could see the entire tree – which is often difficult – as well as the signed location where people basically went one after the other to get their picture taken with the tree.
I used the shuttles to go to Lodgepole where I ate my lunch and then up to Wakushi Lodge, which was the one built to replace the Giant Forest lodge, where I took advantage of their internet connection. In the later afternoon it was back to the Giant Forest where I hike up to Moro Rock. This was the longest hike I did this day and the most hike like. That is it was a dirt path in the woods that while not too challenging was virtually deserted. It went right by some big trees, that you could walk right up to and feel there tough skins. There was a fire in this area, ever deliberate or natural and thus there was burnt sequoias as well as regular trees. A couple of the sequoias had holes burn right through the base.
I took the short trail to Hanging Rock where I got a view of Moro Rock which is a big fin like chunk of granite right on the mountain edge with a dome at the top. Really neat and you could see all the people on top. Climbing Moro Rock itself was via a series of 600 stairs at I almost ran up as I was pushing it to catch the last shuttle. These were decent stairs but went right through natural openings and such that sometimes were really narrow. But they blended right in with the rock and didn’t alter it’s character.
The view from the top was absolute amazing, nearly 360 degrees you could see the eastern mountain range where Mount Whitney is (though it itself is obscured) and then the southern range who’s rampart like rock faces stop the view. But then the long view down the San Joaquin toward the coast range all lost in mist-like smog. A really fitting overview of a lot of the park and a perfect final view of Sequoia National park.
buried under giant trees
clear blue sky