General Sherman Sequoia

General Sherman Sequoia

We spent a day in the Sequoia National Park only scratching the surface of its awe inspiring wonders. From Three Rivers we entered the Ash Mountain entrance and stopped at the Foothills Visitor Center. After taking a picture of Tunnel Rock we slowly climbed from about 1,700 feet to an elevation of almost 7,000 feet on the steep, narrow, and winding Generals Highway. Vehicles longer than 22 feet are not recommended on this stretch of road with 10 mph hairpin curves. We descended 212 feet in a half mile on the Sherman Tree Trail. The General Sherman tree claims to be the largest tree on earth. Sequoias are the world’s largest trees due to the volume of their trunks. Other trees are taller or have greater width, but none has greater volume. The top of the General Sherman sequoia is dead, but the trunk continues to grow. This 2,200 year old sequoia is 275 feet high with a girth of 109 feet. Its volume is 52,500 cubic feet and weighs 1,385 tons. From this landmark tree we hiked the 2 mile Congress Trail loop where we saw many incredibly large trees such as The President, the 4th largest tree, Chief Sequoyah, and the groves named The Senate, The House. We walked through a tunnel carved from a downed tree. An informational sign in front of the cross section of a sequoia told us that this 2,210 year old tree survived some 80 different fires that left a scar. We learned that the thick, fibrous bark insulates the sequoia from fire. In fact, these trees often experience a growth spurt after a fire has decreased competition for nutrients and water. The famous naturalist John Muir visited this area in the 1870s and named it “The Giant Forest.” We enjoyed a picnic lunch in the Pinewood picnic area where we observed fire personnel returning from a prescribed burn. Our first afternoon hike climbed 300 feet of staircases in a quarter mile on the Moro Rock Trail. The top of this granite dome is 6,725 feet above sea level and offerrs spectacular mountain views of the central valley and the Sierra Nevada. Some of the mountains include Mt. Stewart (12,205 feet), Lawson Peak (13,140 feet), Kaweah Queen (13,382 feet), Black Kaweah (13, 765 feet), and Lippincott Mountain (12,260 feet). Several ecological zones are present in the park: the foothill zone (1,000-5,000 feet) has oaks and shrubby chaparral, the montane zone (5,000-9,000 feet) has conifer forests, the subalpine and alpine (above 9,000 feet) has small, cold-tolerant plants.

Black Bear

Black Bear

Our final hike for the day was on the paved Tharps Log Trail. On our way we watched a black bear use its claws to find insects in the bark of a downed tree not far from Log Meadows. Tharp’s log cabin is in a fallen sequoia. We returned on a dirt trail where we observed two deer feeding in the woods. We saw another black bear feeding in Crescent Meadows, the gem of the Sierras. Back on the road we stopped at Tunnel Log where we learned that young men in the Civilian Conservation Corps carved on 8 foot hole in a sequoia that fell on December 4, 1937. This tree was 275 feet long with a base of 21 feet. Our final stop was at the Giant Forest Museum where we learned more about lightning fires that occur every 3 to 9 years in the area. The heat opens cones on sequoias and seeds rain down. The heat kills insects and fungus and offer possibilities for new growth. The Sentinel Tree, considered an average sequoia, stands near the museum. It has a base of 28 feet, a height of 257 feet, and volume of 27,900 cubic feet. Sequoia National Park is awesome! As John Muir has said, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

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