Tag Archives: Sequoia National Park

Trail of 100 Giants

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IMG_3077The Trail of 100 Giants is interpretive trail located on the Western Divide Highway in the Sequoia National Forest.

IMG_3106According to http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/sequoia/recarea/?recid=79825,

Trail of 100 Giants is an easy, accessible walk through Long Meadow Grove, one of the premier groves of giant sequoias. The grove showcases monarchs estimated to be up to 1,500 years old. About 1.3 miles of paved trail offers several loop options with interpretive signs…This gentle trail (6% maximum grade) is paved and suitable for wheel chairs.

Trail of 100 Giants is part of the Sequoia National Monument. According to the previously mentioned website,

On April 15, 2000, President William J. Clinton proclaimed the establishment of the Giant Sequoia National Monument and made his announcement beneath one of the giant trees at the Trail of 100 Giants. IMG_3421

The grove contains approximately 125 giant sequoias greater than 10 feet in diameter and more than 700 giant sequoias less than 10 feet in diameter.  The largest tree in the grove has a diameter of 20 feet and is 220 feet in height.  The grove defined by the outermost giant sequoia trees covers 341 acres.  It is estimated that the ages of larger giant sequoia trees in the grove are up to 1,500 years old.

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Sometimes giant sequoias grow close to each other and fuse together, like the trees in this photo did.

I visited the Trail of 100 Giants during the summer of 2015. It is a magical, holy place. As the name of the trail implies, the visitor sees so many massive trees. I think it is difficult to comprehend the enormous scale of the trees from a photograph. Trust me, these trees are BIG, not just tall, but wide as well, with bark that is inches thick.

IMG_3101When I walked the trail, visitors were allowed to leave the path in order to get right up next to the trees, proving ample opportunities for tree hugging. (In the Sequoia National Park, the most famous trees–the General Sherman and the Sentinel Tree, for exampe–are fenced off to protect their root systems from the huge number of tourists. Read more about the General Sherman Tree here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/07/31/the-general-sherman-tree/. Read more about the Sentinel Tree here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/08/13/giant-forest-museum-and-the-sentinel-tree/)

IMG_3094Some of the trees on the Trail of 100 Giants have hollow trunks, allowing visitors to stand or sit inside the tree. It is absolutely magical to be able to exist within such an ancient living creature. One of my favorite trees is called the Goose Pen. A person can stand entirely within that tree and look up and see the sky through an opening in the trunk.

This is the view when standing in the Goose Pen tree and looking up.

This is the view when standing in the Goose Pen tree and looking up.

Of the many places I’ve visited, the Trail of 100 Giants is one of my favorites. I highly recommend it as a destination for tree huggers and nature lovers.

I took this photo while standing in the hollow trunk of a giant sequoia. The dark frame around the edges of the photo are the walls of the trunk of the tree I was standing in.

I took this photo while standing in the hollow trunk of a giant sequoia. The dark frame around the edges of the photo are the walls of the trunk of the tree I was standing in.

IMG_3081I took all of the photos in this post.

Giant Forest Museum and the Sentinel Tree

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The shuttle I took from Visalia, CA to the Sequoia National Park dropped me and the other passengers at the Giant Forest Museum, so I decided to start my day there.

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This is the building which houses the Giant Forest Museum.

According to http://www.hikespeak.com/attractions/giant-forest-museum-sequoia/, “The rustic building that houses the museum was built in 1928 on a design by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood.”

I think the museum is intended for people who don’t know anything about sequoias because the information presented seemed pretty basic to me. One exhibit I did find informative was the comparison of giant sequoias and coast redwoods to other trees and things like the Statue of Liberty and skyscrapers. I also enjoyed the pound of giant sequoia seeds in a large plastic jar. The sequoia seeds look so much like oat flakes that when I saw the jar, I thought Why did someone leave a jar of oatmeal there? Upon closer inspection, I realized I was actually looking at over 80,000 giant sequoia seeds.

According to http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/tree/seqgig/all.html

The average number of cleaned giant sequoia seeds per pound
is approximately 81,000 (200,070/kg).

The Sentinel Tree stands outside the Giant Forest Museum.

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The Forest Service schtick for the Sentinel Tree is how average the tree is. The informational sign goes something like this: You think this tree is big, don’t you? In fact, it’s just an average size giant sequoia. It weighs more than two fully loaded jumbo jet airplanes–700 tons–but it’s just average! Ha!Ha! Tricked you! This tree’s not so big after all. There are bigger trees around here.

According to http://www.hikespeak.com/attractions/giant-forest-museum-sequoia/, the Sentinel Tree is about half the size of the General Sherman Tree.

There are two lines on the ground outside the Giant Forest Museum representing the Sentinel Tree. One shows how wide the base of the tree is, and the other shows how tall the tree is. By walking along the line representing the height of the tree, a person can pretend s/he is climbing the Sentinel Tree. Every twenty or so feet, there is a metal tile with a drawing showing the height represented and the width of the tree at that height. I was walking that line, metaphorically climbing the tree, when the rain started coming down hard, sending me into the Giant Forest Museum for the second time that day.

After the museum closed and I was waiting outside for the shuttle to pick me up for the ride back to Visalia, tourists started hopping the fence around the Sentinel Tree so they could have their picture taken with it. The older couple who’d been working at the gift shop in the museum tried to tell the first group (teenage boys) why they should stay off the tree’s side of the fence, but the mother of the boys was the one with the camera, and she would not be swayed from getting the photo she wanted. Later, as the photo family walked near me to get to their car, I heard them laughing at the improbability of their actions killing the tree. Humans can be so short-sighted while imagining their own specialness.

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The whole view of the Sentinel Tree.

All of the photos in this post were taken by me.

To read more about giant sequoias, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/07/31/the-general-sherman-tree/

Tharp’s Log

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After I left the Chimney Tree, I headed to Tharp’s Log. I’d read about this fallen sequoia turned into a cabin, and I wanted to see it too.

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tharp%27s_Log,

Tharp’s Log is a hollowed giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) log at Log Meadow in the Giant Forest grove of Sequoia National Park that was used as a shelter by early pioneers. The log is named after Hale Tharp, who was described as the first Non-Native American to enter the Giant Forest.

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More of your tax dollars at work for signage. Beyond the sign is the cabin Tharp built in the fallen sequoia tree.

Tharp had arrived in 1852 in the goldfields around Placerville, becoming a cattleman rather than a miner. Tharp moved to the area of the Kaweah River in 1856, and with guides from the Potwisha people of the area he explored the mountains above. Tharp went back in 1860 with his two sons. They climbed Moro Rock and made an encampment near Crescent Meadows. It was not until 1869 that Tharp moved a cattle herd into the Giant Forest area.[2]

Tharp established a small summer cattle ranch at Giant Forest and used a fallen log as a cabin. The log was hollowed by fire through fifty-five feet of its seventy-foot length. A fireplace, door and window exist at the wider end, with a small shake-covered cabin extension.[3]

John Muir described it as a “noble den”.[4]

It was cool to see the fallen tree Tharp made into a cabin. A sign asked folks not to go all the way inside, so I didn’t. I think it would have been cooler if the cabin had been furnished with items similar to what Tharp had when he lived there, but I don’t think the Forest Service is in the business of historical reenactment.

In any case, it was very dark in the cabin, and fairly dark outside too, since the day was cloudy and giant trees were blocking the available light. My photos didn’t come out looking very good, but I’ll share with you what I’ve got.  (I kind of like that the photos look rather ghostly.)

Entrance to the Tharp's cabin.

Entrance to the Tharp’s cabin.

The interior of Tharp's cabin. I went as far inside as the sign allowed.

The interior of Tharp’s cabin. I went as far inside as the sign allowed.

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The side of the cabin tree. The light inside the cabin comes in from the window under those projecting boards.

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Tharp’s cabin’s side yard.

All photos in this post were taken by me, even the ghostly/shitty ones.

Chimney Tree

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While walking around Crescent Meadow Trail, I was soon annoyed with the incessant talking of the other humans walking in the same direction. I got off the paved trail and started walking on a dirt trail, but quickly became concerned about bear attacks and getting lost. I know I’m not supposed to hike alone. I backtracked and got myself on the the paved trail again. (Paved trails are safe, right?)

I hadn’t gone far when I saw a sign that read “Chimney Tree” and pointed down a dirt path. I decided to go that way, figuring I wouldn’t get lost in 3/10 of a mile, especially if I stayed on the obvious path. And I decided that if I was attacked by a bear, well, maybe that was better than me attacking one of those yacking humans.

I felt like I walked a long way before I got to Chimney Tree. It was a nice walk, peaceful. The air was cool, and while it wasn’t raining, the world felt moist. All I had to listen to was my own breathing and the occasional bird song. I saw so many giant sequoias in various stages of life and death. None of those trees lived in a gated community, and yes, I hugged a few. The whole scene was heavenly.

I didn’t know what Chimney Tree looked like, but since the Forest Service generously put a little sign next to it, I knew when I arrived.

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Little sign generously provided by Forest Service. Your tax dollars at work.

According to http://www.americansouthwest.net/california/sequoia/crescent-meadow-trail.html, the Chimney Tree is “an aged sequoia destroyed by fire in 1914 leaving a hollow blackened trunk, still standing defiantly.”

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The defiantly standing Chimney Tree.

See that little dark circle at the bottom of the tree? If one ducks a bit, one can go through that portal and into the tree! Of course I went inside. I like being inside trees. I spent a few moments wrapped in the tree energy before more humans arrived, and I felt compelled to move on.

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This is what I saw as I stood inside the Chimney Tree and looked out. Can you see the man (wearing red, just beyond the log and to the left of the small tree) taking a photo of me taking a photo of him? I didn’t see him when I took this photo.

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View of sky and tree from inside the Chimney Tree.

I took all of the photos in this post.

Crescent Meadow

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According to The Sequoia Visitor (“The Official Guide of Tulare County, CA”), “Crescent Meadow was one of John Muir’s favorite meadows.” He called it the “gem of the Sierras.”

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After I climbed Moro Rock, I took the shuttle to Crescent Meadow and started walking on the flat, paved trail running alongside the meadow. The Sequoia Visitor says the trail is “well maintained and not strenuous,” which was true. Because of these factors, there were a lot of people on the trail, adults talking loudly about ridiculous things I had no interest in hearing and kids shrieking, howling, and squealing.

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Crescent Meadow

As soon as I could, I got off the popular trail and started hiking on the more strenuous dirt trails, even though my backpack was heavy with laptop, I hadn’t brought my walking stick, and I was mildly concerned about getting lost or getting attacked by a bear (or getting attacked by a bear after I got lost). Despite my concerns (“fear” is really too strong of a word for what I felt), it was heavenly to be way from people and on my own in the moist quiet while I walked among the sequoias.

I’m not a church-going woman. The last time I attended a church service must have been some time during the last century and that was an accident. But when I’m in the woods, especially among the big trees, that’s holy to me. I want respectful silence or, at most, reverent whispers. I don’t want to be subjected to inane human conversation.

But I digress…

Crescent Meadow was lovely. I see why Mr. Muir liked it.

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The lovely Crescent Meadow. I see why Mr. Muir liked it.

But I’ll tell you, I’m just not that into meadows.

Within the last year, a friend told me she’s not so excited by waterfalls. They’re nice and all, she said (I’m paraphrasing), but they just don’t do much for her. I thought it was a little weird. How can a person not find a waterfall exciting? It’s water tumbling over rocks! But now I understand because that’s how I feel about meadows. They’re nice, but what’s the big deal?

I’ve met people at my campground who are really excited about meadows. Campers like the meadow adjacent to my campground. They walk around in it. (I tried that one day, but I got worried about snakes possibly hiding in the grass, ready to bite if disturbed. I exited the meadow before going very far.)

One day a male/female couple were looking around my campground as a future camping possibility, and they went on and on about how beautiful a nearby meadow was. Then they insisted on showing me photos they had taken of the other, beautiful meadow. I was too polite to say it, but the beautiful meadow in the photo didn’t look any different from the meadow we were standing right in front of.

In the photos below, can you tell which is Crescent Meadow and which is the meadow I live next to?

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Another time, when I asked people driving around my campground if they were looking for a place to camp, the woman in the passenger seat said no. She said they were looking at the meadow because she was thinking of painting a picture of it. Why would anyone want to paint a picture of a meadow? There’s nothing in it but grass (with maybe a snake or two hiding out there) and maybe some wildflowers. My meadow has a few rotting logs and sometimes cows are in it. Not a lot of excitement out there. Grass…not very visually stimulating.

Maybe it’s just because I grew up in a land of much vegetation, but meadows seem rather boring to me.

However, Crescent Meadow is very pretty, and I can see why John Muir liked it. I could never pick a favorite meadow, though, because they all look pretty much alike to me.

All photos in this post were taken by me.

I Climbed It!

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This is Moro Rock, and I climbed it!

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Moro Rock is in the middle of the Sequoia National Park, near Crescent Meadow. As the shuttle bus I was riding in approached the park from the south on the General’s Highway, we could see Moro Rock towering above everything.

I’d never heard of Moro Rock before I started researching my trip to Sequoia National Park. In my research, I learned the rock is there, it’s big, and people climb it. Since it was in the part of the park I’d be in and it was one of the things to see (and on a shuttle route), I decided I should get a look at it. I didn’t decide to climb it until I was in the park. Why not? I thought. I’m here. I should do it.

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moro_Rock,

Moro Rock is a dome-shaped granite monolith. Common in the Sierra Nevada, these domes form by exfoliation, the spalling or casting off in scales, plates, or sheets of rock layers on otherwise unjointed granite. Outward expansion of the granite results in exfoliations. Expansion results from load relief; when the overburden that once capped the granite has eroded away, the source of compression is removed and the granite slowly expands. Fractures that form during exfoliation tend to cut corners. This ultimately results in rounded dome-like forms.[6]

The climb up Moro Rock includes over 350 steps on a railed staircase. According to the Moro Rock Wikipedia entry, the

stairway, designed by the National Park Service and built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, is cut into and poured onto the rock, so that visitors can hike to the top..[T]he…stairway adopted a design policy of blending with the natural surfaces to the greatest extent possible. The 797-foot-long stairway was designed by National Park Service landscape architect Merel S. Sager and engineer Frank Diehl, following natural ledges and crevices.

In some places with a less steep incline, there are no steps. The hike up Moro Rock covers 1/4 mile, and there is a 300 feet increase in elevation from bottom to top.

I’m in better physical condition than I was at the start of the summer, but I’m not necessarily in great shape for climbing large chunks of granite. Also, since I didn’t have a safe place to leave my laptop, I was lugging it around in my backpack. It would have been an easier climb without that weight on my shoulders.

The sky was overcast when I arrived at Moro Rock, and I appreciated not having the sun beating down on my head. However, there are warnings at the bottom of the rock saying it is a bad idea to do the hike if there are dark clouds in the sky. People have died after being struck by lightning on Moro Rock. I decided to make the climb anyway, justifying my actions because

#1 I was already there, and I didn’t know when or if I would be there again

#2 the dark clouds were over there and not directly over the rock

#3 I saw no bolts of lighting in the sky

#4 (the ever popular) lots of other people were doing it.

I took the climbing slow and stopped to rest as often as I needed to. There were many spots with amazing views, so I was able to see lovely scenery and take many photos while I was resting.

A view from Moro Rock of the twisty, turny General's Highway.

A view from Moro Rock of the twisty, turny General’s Highway.

There were also several informational boards to read along the way. I stopped to read them all while catching my breath.

A rock formation below Moro Rock.

A rock formation below Moro Rock.

In some places, the path was very narrow, with room for only one person to pass through. Many other hikers just pushed pass me, even if they had room to step aside and let me through first. Also, groups of four, five, eight people often plowed right past me, even though it would have been more sensible to let the single person (me!) pass first. Most people seemed to be in a big hurry, first to get to the top, then to get off the rock. (Maybe everyone was worried about lightning.)

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A photo I took during one of my rests.

The view from the top was amazing, even with clouds covering the mountains.

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This is the view from the top of Moro Rock, taken as far out as I could get without crossing the barrier. Unlike my father, I don’t feel the need to cross barriers obviously put there to protect my safety.

Again, my photos and words don’t do justice to the awesomeness of the natural world.

Looking down on Moro Rock.

Looking down on Moro Rock. There’s a good view of the stairs on the right.

I’m proud of myself for making it to the top. In the grand scheme of outdoor activities, climbing Moro Rock probably isn’t all that impressive. But for me (a bookworm and an “inside kid”), it was quite an achievement.

When I got back to the base of the rock to wait for the shuttle to take me to nearby Crescent Meadow, the muscles in my thighs were trembling. A week later, I could still feel the ache in the muscles of my hips and butt.

The General Sherman Tree

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The main reason I decided to visit Sequoia National Park was to see the General Sherman Tree for myself.

For weeks I’d been answering visitors’ questions about the location of the General Sherman Tree. No, the General Sherman Tree is not here. It’s in the Sequoia National Park. It’s about three hours away.

A lot of people wanted to see the tree, and I wondered what the fascination was. At first I chalked it up to the American obsession with superlatives. We want to say we saw the biggest, oldest, tallest, heaviest. But it wasn’t just Americans who asked about the tree, and I got curious. What was it about the tree that caused so much interest?

I first saw the General Sherman Tree from a distance. Even from a distance, the tree is obviously big.

The General Sherman Tree from a distance.

The General Sherman Tree from a distance.

However, the General Sherman Tree lives in the Giant Forest. There are big trees all over the place. (Four of the five largest measured giant sequoias live within the three square miles of the Giant Forest, which was named by John Muir in 1875.)  I didn’t fully appreciate the tree’s size until I got close to it.

Close to the General Sherman Tree. It was difficult to get a shot of the tree without tourists standing in front of it. There was a nearly constant parade of people standing behind the sign so someone they were with could take a photo of them with the tree. I was alone and didn't want to ask a stranger to take a photo of me standing there, so I have no photo of me standing in front of the tree. You'll just have to believe I was really there since I have no photographic evidence.

Close to the General Sherman Tree. It was difficult to get a shot of the tree without tourists standing in front of it. There was a nearly constant parade of people standing behind the sign so someone they were with could take a photo of them with the tree. I was alone and didn’t want to ask a stranger to take a photo of me standing there, so I have no photo of me with the tree. You’ll just have to believe I was really there since I have no photographic evidence.

I don’t even know how to describe the size of the General Sherman Tree. Start with big and multiple by massive. Contemplate immense. Imagine tilting your head back, back, back in order to get a look at its crown, then keeping your head leaned back until it starts to cramp. I have no words to adequately describe the tree. And photographs? My little camera is certainly not capable of capturing the majesty of this tree.

Measurements of the General Sherman Tree were made by the American Forestry Association in 1975. Here’s what they reported forty years ago:

The height above the base of the General Sherman Tree was 274.9 feet.

General Sherman’s circumference at the ground was 102.6 feet.

The diameter of the tree’s largest branch was 6.8 feet.

The height of the first large branch above the tree’s base was 130 feet.

The General Sherman Tree is as tall as an average 27 story building. Its first significant branch is as high as the 13th story of such a building.

If the General Sherman Tree were placed in the middle of a California three-lane freeway, it would completely block all three 12-foot-wide lanes.

It’s ok if you can’t comprehend the tree’s size from reading these facts and figures. I stood right in front of the tree, looked up into the sky to see its crown, walked all the way around it, and I still can’t quite comprehend its size. It’s big. B.I.G. Did I mention massive? Have I used the word “enormous”?

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That really big log? That’s a branch from the General Sherman Tree that crashed to the ground some years ago. A branch!

There’s a wooden fence around the General Sherman Tree. It’s more of a psychological barrier than a physical one, since most folks in reasonable shape could easily get over the fence. It’s to keep an honest man honest, as my father would say. (Of course, at the Grand Canyon, a ranger had to give my father a stern talking to when Dad climbed over a wall that was obviously meant as a barrier. Perhaps the fence around the General Sherman would not keep my father and his ilk honest after all.)

This one's for Dad.

This one’s for Dad.

The fence is there to protect the General Sherman. It’s there to keep millions of visiting feet from compacting its root system and/or eroding the surrounding soil and exposing its shallow roots. It’s there to keep idiots from carving names and initials into the tree’s bark.

I understand why the fence is there, and i wouldn’t do anything to hurt the General Sherman, but I was a bit sad that I didn’t get to hug that tree. I did walk around the tree slowly, silently, trying to block out the chatter of the other visitors and feel the tree’s energy. (Luckily, I visited the General Sherman early in the day when there were relatively fewer people around.)

The other side of the General Sherman Tree. Notice the large fire scar.

The other side of the General Sherman Tree. Notice the large fire scar.

I’d like to be able to explain how it felt to be in the presence of a living being of such age and size, but really don’t have the words. I hope someday you can visit the General Sherman Tree and have your own experience.

Here's one more look at the General Sherman Tree.

Here’s one more look at the General Sherman Tree.

I took all of the photos in this post.

Much of the information in this post came from the booklet The General Sherman Tree by William Tweed. I picked it up for 99 cents at the Giant Forest Museum gift shop. It was money well spent.

To read more about giant sequoias and the Giant Forest Museum, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/08/13/giant-forest-museum-and-the-sentinel-tree/.