Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sequoia & Kings Canyon Parks

General Sherman tree is in the middle. There are people standing near it.Memories are starting to fade and yet we still have a lot of writing to do, which brings me to the second part of our trip. The major difference for us was that while the first several days were spent in brutal summer sun the following days we have seen very little of it.

Papa near a pine. Snow all around.The road was taking us back west. We were also moving north and what is probably more significant — up. We made a trip from the lowest point of -200 feet below sea level to over 6500 feet above it. The temperature drop and the surrounding flora and fauna change was dramatic. From over 100 degrees in Death Valley to water freezing temperatures in the mountains. Sand and desert to magnificent forests.

Sugar Pine cone.We arrived to Sequoia National Park after the dark and we could only see the silhouettes of the trees. The last 20 miles of the road that was supposed to take us to our lodge was so narrow and had so many twists and turns that in most places we couldn’t go above 10 miles per hour. A sleepless coyote greeted us for a few seconds before disappearing into the dark of ageless mountains and trees. We were getting closer to the kingdom of ancient giants with which Christ himself seems young in comparison.

Giant Sequoia. The fires are actually good for them.I for one heard of these trees long ago and couldn’t wait to see them in person. Then a sign appeared on the side of the road — Entering the Giant Forest. And we started seeing trees unlike the others — extremely thick trunks of reddish color lighted by the headlights of our car. Everyone General Grant.was pointing each new one out that we would come upon and wowing, except for my poor mom who was starting to feel really sick from the twisting road.

Soon after we arrived to Wucsachi Lodge where we had a pair of rooms reserved for the next 2 nights. They screwed up and set us up in the different parts of the lodge, but there was nothing we could do at that point. We were all tired, freezing and I was feeling very sick from all the sneezing and a running nose that was plaguing me starting from a day before. We just went to sleep.

Pretty much the first Sequoia we got close to.In the morning we put several layers of sweaters and jackets on and took on exploring this magic place. We were very happy to learn that pretty much all points of interest were actually withing 5 miles from our lodge and we wouldn’t have to do the crazy drive over and over again. In fact, we didn’t have to go down that route a single time, since there was another road leading out of the park that was much straighter and was leading north in the direction of Yosemite National Park, our next destination. But more on that later.

Over 2 meters of snow.The sky was gray, the sun was nowhere to be seen and we were surrounded by mountains of snow that were way over 6 feet tall, judging by a convenient measuring device called Alёna. P But since most of the sun would be blocked out by the forest either way we were determined not to let it ruin our day nor our photography, for I brought my trusty friend, the tripod. And if you combine the tripod with multi-exposure shots you end up with pretty decent photographs.

Giant Forest Museum.We started our tour with a stop at a Giant Forest Museum. It didn’t have much inside, but we did learn a couple of interesting pieces of information. For example the biggest cones that could be found in the forest come from Sugar Pines, and Sequoias in turn have one of the smaller cones. Also if you put Sequoia on its side it can go from one end of the football field to the other and can weight as much as 10 whales. It also turns out that fires are good for them, since they kill off the competition and Sequoias can take much more than all the little trees around.

The smaller cones on the right are Sequoia cones.One such tree was only a few miles away and is named after a civil war general — General Sherman Tree. The thing with Sequoias is that you absolutely can not tell the scale of it from the photograph. That’s why I tried to place people in all my Sequoia pictures — so you, dear reader, could gain at least the slightest level of appreciation for these giants.

Us near General Sherman Tree.General Sherman Tree is not the tallest (“only” 275 feet) nor it is the oldest (estimated to be “only” 2,300 to 2,700 years old), but it is considered to be the the largest tree in the world — such measurement is done by the volume of its trunk. It’s 11 meters in diameter and its circumference is 31 meter. Yes, just read that again, stand back and try to imagine that.

Needless to say we were nothing short of amazed by these trees. And touching it it’s hard to imagine how many things happened in the history of mankind, while this tree was alive and growing. If only they could talk.

One of the overlooks on the way down to Grant Grove.On the same day we drove down to Grant Grove and Kings Canyon National Parks. There were several overlooks on our way, but the day was so foggy that we couldn’t really see much. We did see General Grant tree and many other famous trees.

Rays of the morning sun filtering through clouds.The scary part for us was the fact that they were predicting snow fall during the night. Usually that results in road closures or a requirement of having chains on your tires. If the roads get closed, we get stuck up there in the mountains with nowhere to go and our trip was on tight schedule. In the morning thought we got lucky — nothing stuck and there were spots of blue sky visible even. However right after breakfast it all started to change rapidly, so we decided to load into the car and pretty much haul ass. After all, Yosemite was awaiting.
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