I was looking for a waterfall the day I found the George Bush Tree.
According to the Sequoia National Forest’s website, the President George H.W. Bush Tree is part of Freeman Creek Grove (4,192 acres), also known as Lloyd Meadow Grove, which is
the largest unlogged grove outside of a National Park. This grove is the easternmost grove of giant sequoias and is considered to be among the most recently established. The sequoias are mainly south of Freeman Creek with approximately 800 large trees (10 feet in diameter or more). There are several large sequoias to see in this grove. Foremost among these is the President George H.W. Bush Tree.
National Geographic’s Sierra Nevada Geotourism webpage elaborates, stating
[t]here are a couple trees with a diameter of 20 feet, more than 100 with 15-foot diameters, and over 800 with 10-foot diameters. There are estimated to be over 2,000 sequoias with a diameter of over 5 feet in the grove. The largest tree in the grove measures 255 feet high with a diameter of 23 feet.
This tree was named for President George H. W. Bush in response to the proclamation he signed to protect all of the sequoia groves throughout the Sierra. President Bush himself signed the proclamation at this site.
On the day I was trying to find the waterfall, I drove and drove and drove on Lloyd Meadow Road. I never saw the waterfall or even a sign marking the trail to it, but I eventually saw a brown sign marked “George Bush Tree.” I figured I should go see the tree since I was there anyway.
I turned down the decent dirt road (20S78) to the left of the brown sign. I drove about a mile down the road to the small parking area. There was no attendant and no fee to park. The start of the trail was marked with a carsonite. There was no indication of which way to go on the trail. The trail is a loop, and I started off in the direction that brought be around the back of the George Bush Tree. Since I didn’t see the stone plaque identifying the special tree, I didn’t realize it was the tree I had come to see.
The first thing I noticed about the tree was a sort of Hobbit hole at the bottom of it. I went right over to investigate. Yes, it was just large enough for me to crawl into the hole and sit down, so I did. I felt very safe while I was inside the tree, as if the tree were protecting me. I spent some of my time enveloped by the tree enjoying the quiet of the forest. I sat still and listened to the birds and the breeze high above me. I sat in the tree and simply was myself, without moving or talking or thinking. I spent the rest of my time in the tree taking selfies.
When I exited the tiny hideaway, I walked around to the front of the tree and realized this was the tree I was looking for!
THIS GIANT SEQUOIA TREE IS DESIGNATED THE GEORGE BUSH TREE IN CELEBRATION OF THE PRESIDENT’S ACTION AT THIS SITE ON JULY 14, 1992 TO MANAGE GIANT SEQUOIA IN PERPETUITY AS UNIQUE OBJECTS OF BEAUTY AND ANTIQUITY FOR THE BENEFIT AND INSPIRATION OF ALL PEOPLE.
While the George Bush Tree is very big, it doesn’t even make the Wikipedia list of the 48 largest giant sequoias. According to the list, at least two other trees in the Freeman Creek Grove are larger than the George Bush Tree. The first of the two larger trees is the Great Goshawk at 255.2 feet (77.8 m) tall with a circumference of 90.2 feet (27.5 m), a diameter of 28.7 feet (8.7 m), and a bole volume of 32,783 cubic feet (928.3 m3). The second of the larger trees in the grove is the Bannister at 195.0 feet (59.4 m) tall with a circumference of 95.0 feet (29.0 m), a diameter of 30.2 feet (9.2 m), and a bole volume of 25,047 cubic feet (709.3 m3).
The trail to the George Bush tree is unpaved, but I found it very easy to walk. I visited on a Monday morning, and I saw no other people on the trail or in the parking area.
Here’s how to get to the Freeman Creek Grove and the George Bush Tree, according to the Forest Service:
To reach the grove by paved road, you must travel from the south end. From the San Joaquin Valley Highway 99 take County Route SM56 east about 20 miles to California Hot Springs. At California Hot Springs, turn north on to SM50 (Parker Pass Road) continuing about 7.5 miles to Johnsondale. From the Kern Valley, take County Route SM99 (Mountain 99) northwest about 20 miles to Johnsondale. At Johnsondale is the junction with Forest Road 22S82 (Lloyd Meadow Road). Take FR22S82 right about 16 miles to the eastern end of Freeman Creek Grove.
Another route from the San Joaquin Valley Highway 99 is on State Highway 190. Take Highway 190 east about 15 miles until the junction with Western Divide Highway (County Route SM107). Quaking Aspen Campground (GPS NAD 83: 36.12083, -118.54722), and the trailhead for FT 33E20 are also at this junction.
The day I visited the George Bush Tree was a good day of exploration; not only did I see a named tree I hadn’t seen before, but I was also able to add Freeman Creek Grove to the list of giant sequoia groves I’ve visited.