The sequoia trees high up on the Sierra Nevada Mountains were calling. And we came to meet the giants. To get to our campground at the foothill of the Sierra Nevada, we had no other choice but to take the winding road 245. A warning sign erected by the roadside at the south entrance of the road alerted drivers. The narrow two-lane mountain road climbs up the mountains twisting and curving like the tail of dragon. Endless deep switchbacks and sharp turns on the road tested Stephen’s driving skill and our nerves. Luckily, there was little traffic. Redbuds and wildflowers gleamed among the deep forests. After over 30 minutes on the 25 miles of the winding 245, we finally arrived at Sequoia Resort at Badger in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Early in the morning, we took 245 north to the Big Stump entrance of Kings Canyon. Snow on the ground told us that we were on a high elevation. It was about 8:30 a.m. and the visitor center was not open until 9 a.m., so we headed to the Grant Grove. The cinnamon colored huge trunks of mature sequoias stood out from the forest. There were some beautiful sequoias right by the parking lot. A twin sequoia joined at the base live peacefully for years. On the other side of the parking lot, a group of sequoias rose tall and straight above the ground. Their big trunks were almost parallel to each other, forming an enormous fence. The Fallen Monarch is a downed sequoia which was hollowed out for living by pioneers Israel Gamlin and his brother Thomas. It also sheltered other visitors and horses. We entered from the root end opening and walked through its hollowed body. We walked from the darkness to the opening on its side. It was roomy inside and the height was probably twice the height of Stephen who is about 6 feet tall. It was way cool to walk inside a hollowed sequoia.
The monarch of the Grant Grove is the General Grant Tree. At 268 feet tall and 40 feet wide, it soared above the grove and welcomed the morning sun. Although it is over 1700 years old, its rounded crown looked exuberant on top of its gigantic golden hue trunk. It is the second largest tree on Earth and the national Christmas tree. The huge black fire scar at its bottom doesn’t seem to affect its health. It is the bark which can be as thick as two and a half feet that protects sequoias from fire. And the high content of tannin helps sequoias fighting against rot and insects. The cut down small branches laying on the ground displayed the beautiful red colored wood of sequoias. Sequoias are truly amazing!
The information board at Kings Canyon Visitor Center told us that the scenic byway to Kings Canyon was not open until April 26. But the informative short movie of the park took us to a virtual tour. Then we took the winding mountain road to Giant Forest at Sequoia National Park. There was more snow on the higher elevations. Snow was plowed and piled up by the road like tall walls. Melting snow ran down the hillside and sometimes flooded the road. Small waterfalls cascaded along the rocky hill and entered the creeks. Sequoias grow between 5,000 and 7,000 feet on the west of the Sierra Nevada where it has gentle slope and moist soil. When we passed the General Sherman Tree View Point, we only saw handicapped parking lot by the road and didn’t see regular parking lot. So we kept going towards the Giant Forest Museum. But to our disappointment, both parking lots at the Big Trees Trail and the museum were packed, and we couldn’t find a spot. Then we returned to the General Sherman Tree View Point and turned to Wolverton. After circling around the parking lots, we finally found a spot to park our truck.
It was in the middle 50s at 7,000 feet. And I was eager to see the giant, the General Sherman Tree. I walked fast down the steep trail and soon I came to the overlook point and saw the giant. People looked so small at the foot of the General Sherman Tree. It is the king of the trees, the biggest tree on earth by volume. Its girth is about 109 feet (33 meters). Its top is dead, so it stays at 275 feet tall and grows wider. Lots of mature sequoias vied for attention along the trail. I stopped at the twin sequoias to touch the cinnamon colored bark. Finally I stood in front of the General Sherman Tree. Everybody was awed at its gigantic size and had photos taken with it. I was so happy to meet the biggest tree in the world eventually.
After lunch at Lodgepole Village, we drove back to the museum but still had no luck to find a parking space. It started to rain on our way back. Sections of the road was misty and the visibility was very low. Several mule deer appeared by the road and swiftly ran up to the hillside. At last, we stopped at the Big Stump Trail. It leads to the area where giant sequoias were cut down for lumbers in the 1880s. Fifty men can stand around the edge of the immense Mark Twain stump. We didn’t go very far on the snow packed icy trail because of safety concern. It would be sad to see the beheaded sequoias anyway. Our truck had only half tank of diesel left, and the nearest gas station was probably 50 miles away. There were no cell phone service in the park and we couldn’t find out. Although we didn’t finish the “to do” list, we were satisfied with meeting the giants in our one day tour around the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
FYI: Shuttle buses are available from May 23 to September 8 of year 2019.