Trees, trees, and more BIG TREES!

Sorry guys, but I’m falling behind again!  So I am back in catch-up mode.  Tonight I will catch up to where we are now (in Lake Tahoe) and then I will give you the scoop on Lake Tahoe tomorrow.  Here’s a hint though–I LOVE Lake Tahoe.  I can’t get enough of it–I’m watching sunsets that go on forever every night and toodling around during the day trying to see as much as I can so I can tell Bob what he’s missed.  As most of you know, he’s back in Virginia taking care of family, so I’m keeping the momentum going while he’s gone.  But enough about that–you will hear all about Lake Tahoe in the next couple days!

Last Sunday was a travel and orientation day.  That is we traveled in the morning, arriving in Plymouth, CA in the early afternoon.  I then got oriented, i.e., I went on a quest for WALMART!  On the way I checked out 4 little towns whose roots go back to gold mining frenzy days: Plymouth (where we camped Sunday night–not one red light in the “downtown” area, but it seemed to have a pretty active saloon!); Sutter Creek (has a wooden boardwalk lining Main Street, with a variety of cute shops and an old-fashioned ice cream parlor/confectionary/general store); Amador City (much smaller town with interesting buildings lining the main thoroughfare that appear to be originals back to the gold rush era); and Jackson (the biggest town in the general area where I found beautiful views and overlooks of rolling hills, valleys, and vineyards, a refurbished downtown area that looked lively and flourishing–and a Walmart!).

I didn’t really want to hit the Big Box that night, but let’s just say Walmart was a necessity since a very important drainage pipe sprung a leak and Walmart was the closest place to find a replacement.  I just don’t trust tape in certain situations.  So to motivate me to go in search of Walmart, I “dropped by” these cute little gold rush towns since they were kind of on the way and my curiosity got the better of me.  Luckily, I suppose, most of the stores and museums (not many of those since the towns were rather small) were already closed when I pulled into town but it was enjoyable walking along the wooden boardwalks and peering into shop windows.

Monday was a BIG day, filled to the brim with BIG–BIG parks, BIG mountains, and VERY BIG (Giant) trees!  You’ve probably guessed by now–we visited Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park–a BIG challenge in one day! Although we had only one day to see as much as we could, it was impossible to do anything but skim the surface.  I would definitely want to go back there again just to soak up the beauty of this area on a slower schedule and see more of this simply breathtaking place that is astonishing at every turn in the road–and boy are there a lot of those!  Mother Nature worked double time in this neck of the woods!

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The drive through the park, even before reaching the Giant Sequoias, was one beautiful scene after another. And there were turns aplenty, twisting through canyons, round mountains, up and down roller coaster-style–just a little disorienting.  We were constantly checking our map to make sure we were headed in the right direction.
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The scenery was so varied as we moved deeper into the Park; it seemed like a movie unfolding as we turned each narrow corner.

After the sparseness of the southwestern deserts, and being the Easterner that I am, it was a relief that this park was overwhelmingly green with wildflowers sprinkled throughout in the most unusual places.  I can of course appreciate dry arid climates that some plants call home, but green still means forest to me.

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Amazing flowers growing out of rocks, on the side of the road, hanging off cliffs…
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No, this is not a Sequoia! But we are getting closer!

Highlights?  The Sequoia Giants, of course, some of them standing sentinel over these forests for over 2000 years.  It is breathtaking to even look at these giants.  You start at the bottom and scan up the tree and by the time your eyes reach the top, the sun is shining directly into your eyes, your head is spinning from trying to look up so far, and your mind is boggled from taking in the immensity of these living creatures who have seen more of the world’s comings and goings than our ancestors from hundreds of years ago.

For a Sequoia tree, size and age doesn't necessarily older is bigger.  It mostly depends on growing conditions--if the tree is in the right place it can grow very quickly outpacing a much older tree.
For a Sequoia tree, size and age doesn’t necessarily mean older is bigger. It mostly depends on growing conditions–if the tree is in the right place it can grow very quickly outpacing a much older tree.

Each of these trees has a story–even it we don’t know what it is.  You can stand there gazing at its magnificence and imagine what adventures it has had–wildfires (a necessity for the existence of the Sequoias), lumberjacks, heavy snowfalls, and a multitude of other things that can occur over thousands of years–we can only guess!  You may be surprised about the wildfires being needed by the Sequoias.  Well, the Sequoias have a very tough bark that make them rather impervious to fire and insects which contributes to their longevity.  However, the catch is that the Sequoias NEED the fire to propagate!  If too many weedy things are growing below them when they drop their pine cones in order to start the fertilization process to grow more trees, then the trash weeds get in the way of the cones being fertilized and sprouting new trees.  So fires are needed to burn the trash greenery so the mighty Sequoias can grow baby Sequoias.  This may be a simplistic way of explaining it but I did read lots of placards and my Sequoia book.  So I am kind of an expert now!

Driving into a Sequoia grove is like going to a party with mostly very tall basketball players.  Nobody notices the regular trees because they are staring at the Sequoia team.

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I called these the twin trees; they stand guard over the parking lot as you enter the Grove.
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The largest Sequoia tree in the General Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park, the General Grant Tree was designated the National Christmas tree as a result of the suggestion of a visiting little girl’s comment saying what a wonderful Christmas tree it would be. As a result of that overheard comment, Christmas services are held at the foot of this tree each year in celebration of the holiday and the spirit of America.  General Grant is over 267 feet tall and its circumference at the ground is almost 108 feet.

There were other challenges as well for this protected grove of trees at the Sequoia NP prior to its being made a park.  It must have been scary as a youngster, when a young Sequoia, only a few hundred years old, was seen as a major source of timber and humans approached them with axes and saws.  Scary times not just for them but for us as well, since if they had all disappeared we would not be able to see them today.  At Grant’s Grove, there is a tree cemetery of giant stumps, testimony to the lumberjack era endured by the giant Sequoias.  I am not going to show you a picture because it is sad.

But a success story as far as survival is definitely the General Sherman tree.  General Sherman is the biggest giant redwood tree based on measurements of trunk volume, excluding branches.  It is not the tallest tree nor is it the thickest at its base–it’s just BIG all over with a volume of 52500 cubic feet–not counting branches!  This makes him the biggest tree in the world although there are others that are taller or wider.

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I like this picture! I like that this fellow is so big it makes me look teeny weeny!

 

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A little distance away he looks even bigger. (And I look smaller–yeahhh!!!)  I feel like I am in that movie “Honey, he shrunk the humans!”
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Just look up, up, up…

Did you know I can do magic tricks?  Just watch me walk through a tree!

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OK, here I go! Bob looks at it and walks away. Maybe he thought there could be a rattler in there? Actually that thought did occur to me…
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OK, I am in the middle of it. Scary… It is very long.
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I’m out! I made it all the way through the tree! The people on this side (the root side) are trying to decide if they really want to walk through it.  Hey, this is NOT Disney World–there really could be something in there.  Like a Sequoia ghost….

We left our amazing Sequoia friends behind as we continued our way out of the parks.

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I’m not sure how it is done, but this tree is used to mark time. It stands in front of the Forest Service Office.
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Doesn’t this look like a giant elephant’s foot?

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That’s it for tonight!  I promise to get my next posting up quickly.  Mikaela and Sammy like to read my posts on the way to school so I sure don’t want to get lazy!  Thanks for being such diligent readers–it’s good to know I have fans!  Mikeala, I passed your comment on to Pappaw about how yucky it is to eat snakes.  You may have to talk to him about that!

Many good wishes to all of you at home and on the road!  Can’t wait to compare pictures with my traveling friends.  Happy trails, family and friends!