28 August 2009
Beetle Rock ~ my favorite of all the sketches I did this trip. I first read about Beetle Rock as a child in Sally Carrighar's book, "One Day on Beetle Rock". What fun to see it in person!
General Grant Tree ~ trying to capture the sense of height looking up at the tree from down below.
Round Meadow ~ I love how the red trunks of the sequoia stand out from amongst the other trees with their grey bark and deep green needles. The meadow was lovely in shades of green and yellow turning to reddish tones with the coming autumn.
Tunnel Log ~ my second favorite of the sketches I did this trip.
This should be the last of my Sequoia posts... now it's back to work and back to my more usual posts about handwork and crazy quilting... until my trip to Colorado in September!
Warning! ~ Picture heavy post ahead, may take time to load!
For my last day in Sequoia, I wanted to spend my time among the big trees. By now, I had figured out the best settings on the camera and had a better idea of the types of pictures I wanted to take. Sometimes, it's the simplest things that help to give a sense of scale to a picture, like this speed limit sign in front of a sequoia.
I stopped by the same quiet meadow area I had walked the first day. The light was so beautiful in the early morning. I love the dappled glow with meadow flowers dancing underneath the forest canopy far overhead.
Here, my trusty little Subaru Forester helps to give a sense of scale. These were such lovely woods!
Then I hiked the "Big Trees Trail" near the Giant Grove Museum. There were far fewer people present on this day and I had the trail almost to myself. The trail starts near the museum, crosses the road and circles the Round Meadow. These two tall trees called Ed by Ned grew close enough together that their bases merged into one large one measuring 25x35 feet! To help give perspective on this, the footprint of my house that burned down was 24x32' not including the garage! So if you squared off the corners of the the base of these trees and built walls straight up, my two story house would have fit inside of that space! Thats roughly 750 square feet of space taken up by the base of these two trees! Huge!
Around the meadow, there were many young sequoia, some no taller than my knees. Many of them had this yellow red coloring caused by ozone polution that travels down the San Joaquin Valley from the San Francisco area. Sad to see that we are affecting the next generations of trees in such a way as it prevents them from asborbing what they need to make chlorophil. One ranger I heard talking about the trees described the effects of ozone on people as like getting a sunburn in our lungs. Basically ozone allows the tree to get sunburned too. Food for thought.
It was hard to believe that fifty years ago, this meadow was ringed by a road and the area dotted with cabins, restaurants and other buildings. Now the road and all the buildings are gone and just a small footpath left to meander through the trees. The trees are left in relative peace to grow and thrive around the meadow like this trio of brilliant trees.
On the trail back to the museum, the mountain dogwood was catching the light. So lovely!
At the museum, the Sentinal tree stands proud. On this day, there were far fewer visitors and it was easier to take in the enormity of this magnificant tree. The sign delcared it as just an average Sequoia, weighing about as much as two 747 jumbo jets!
Then I made my way up the narrow road to the Tunnel Tree. The opening in this tree is 8 feet tall, and yes, I was able to drive my Subaru right through with no problems! The opening was carved out over 100 years ago and is virtually unchanged. They say that sequoia wood has so many tannins in it that it is extreemly resistant to decay. There are pictures of some of the fallen trees from the 1860's that are unchanged even today!
On the same road, there is a group of trees called the Parker Group, named for some of the early Buffalo Soldiers who cared for the are before it became a park. Some of the trees here grow closely together and standing in the midst and looking up gives a unique perspective!
The burn marks on all the sequoia are from past forest fires. It turns out that the trees are actually quite dependent on fire to reproduce as it takes fire to clear the area in order for the seeds to sprout on bare ground. They also like sunlight and don't like to be crowded. For the first couple hundred years, the young tree shoots straight up until it reaches a maximum height of about 250 to 311 feet tall. Then it will grow in girth but no longer in height. They can live up to 3200 years old. The bark can be as thick as 31", which helps to protect the living part of the tree from fire and insects. After a fire, the bark quickly covers the exposed living wood, leaving the the center "dead" portion exposed. On some trees they are hollowed by fire for a long distance up the center of the tree, but the living portion right under the bark is still protected, so the tree still lives! Some of the trees cut over 100 years ago show evidence of having survived as many as 60 forest fires in their lifetime!
The things that kill a sequoia are mankind and toppling. The roots are shallow, only about 3 feet deep, but extending out as far as the tree is tall. In places where they grow near one another, the roots entangle together to help support each other. When a tree does fall, it's brittle wood breaks into large sections that spread across the forest floor and will lay there for hundreds of years.
Leaving the park to head back down to Visalia and the road home, the road splits to go through these trees. They make a splendid gateway between the big trees and the rest of the forest. I hated to say goodbye to them.
One last picture from my morning in the quiet meadow. One of my favorite pictures from the trip, I love how it shows the ordinary forest growing beneath these stately giants. Such an amazing place!
While in Sequoia, I also did a number of small watercolor sketches that I'll post in a day or two.
Warning! Picture heavy post ahead ~ may take time to download!
After my sleepless night, which thankfully was undisturbed by bears, I was deeply thankful for the "bear box" provided for each camp space. It holds all food, coolers and any scented items (such as lotiona and toothpaste!) to prevent bears from getting to them. The bears can't get at the latch to open and it's stronger than a car, which they have been known to break into!
After breakfast and cleaning up the campsite to prevent bear marauding while I was away, I headed north to see the Kings Canyon part of the park. At Grant Grove, I stopped to see the General Grant tree. Another amazing enormous tree, I took pictures of it in segments in order to show the whole tree.
These big sequoia truely are collosal trees!
From Grant Grove, I continued north to the main part of Kings Canyon. I'd seen pictures of a stunning glacial valley and lakes, which I was hoping to see. From an overlook, portions of the lower river carved canyon were visible along with the grey granite peaks overhead. From here you can see the road winding down into the canyon far below.
As the road twisted and turned, the rocks and canyon wall changed. Sometimes, the differences were almost startling!
Coming around a corner, this stunning cut in the canyon became visible. Boyden cave, which you can tour, is near the base of the sheer rock face on the right. I didn't stop to tour the cave as I wanted to get up to the glacial gorge!
At Zumalt Meadow, the south fork of the Kings River flows between the peaks. The water is clear as can be and is pale green in color. Simply beautiful. Instead of walking the trail around the meadow, I walked up the river a ways.
Every direction I turned, the view was beautiful.
At the end of the road, I discovered that you cannot get into the glacial gorge without doing some serious hiking. How disappointing! I was simply not prepared for that and my ankle, while doing really well since it's break 9 months ago, tolerates moderate short hikes, but not strenuous ones just yet.
So I drove back down the canyon, feeling disappointed, hot, tired and sorry to say, a bit cranky. Then I passed a sign for Grizzly falls and realized it was quite close. I stopped to see this small waterfall come tumbling down the rock face, probably 20 to 3o feet or more, changing directions as it came. Seeing it felt like a gift after being disappointed about the glacial gorge.
The drive back offered different views than the drive in, which also helped to lift my spirits.
Back at the campground, I discovered that I was now just about the only person left camping on my end of the loop. Too far to call for help should trouble arise. I just didn't feel safe, so I packed up my gear after watching two young deer playing in the meadow, prancing around, leaping and having a wonderful time. It reminded me so much of the scene in Bambi where he and his friend are playing in the meadow! I drove back to Grant Grove and was able to get a small Rustic Cabin for the night! It's knotty pine walls and dark green bedspreads seemed perfect for a forest cabin. Like the campground, I still needed my flashlight to find my way to the communal bathrooms in the dark! It was well worth it for a peaceful night's sleep!
27 August 2009
Post 2/4 Sequoia Trip
Warning! Picture heavy post ahead!
The morning light was beautiful when I rose on the second morning of my trip. The Lamp Liter Inn where I stayed had lovely landscaping and lush pots even on the second floor walkways.
Heading down the highway, I had my first glimpse of the Sierras through the morning haze.
The orchards and vineyards continue right up to the base of the golden grass covered hills.
I loved the colors of this valley, with the Kaweah river in the bottom. At one time, you can see that the Kaweah resevoir was much higher (marked by a line where the green stops on the hillsides). Now there are full grown trees, roads and campgrounds where water used to be.
After driving up a winding road through the lower hills, at last you enter Sequoia National Park. The road continues to wind through the foothills. One of the sights along the way is Tunnel Rock, which you can no longer drive under.
From the Hospital Rock site, you gain a great view of Moro Rock far above. It is a granite dome, much like those of Yosemite. What you can't see from this picture is that from the top side, you can drive up to the base and climb 300+ stairs to stand on the top! My knees don't like stairs very well, so I passed on this opportunity!
My first stop among the Sequoia was at Giant Forest. There I took the short walk from the parking lot to Beetle Rock. I first read about Beetle Rock many many years ago in the book, "One Day on Beetle Rock" by Sally Carrighar. When I was young, I dreamt of becoming a naturalist and Ms. Carrighar's books along with those of Ernest Thompson Seton were the fuel of my dreams! How exciting to finally see a place in person that I'd read about so many times! I had no idea that Beetle Rock was so big! This is actually the middle of three flat rock domes like this that together comprise Beetle Rock!
Around the visitor center at Giant Forest, there are many of the big trees. There were so many people it was hard to enjoy them, so I ended up driving down the road a bit. I stopped at a pullout where I could see a lovely small meadow filled with flowers and many of the big trees. To my delight, there was a quiet trail that led off through them. I spent a couple hours, walking among the trees, enjoying the flowers and plants.
It had rained the night before and water drops were clinging to many of the plants. These crystaline droplets caught my eye! I have yet to look up what type of plant the pale sage green leaves are. This is one of my favorite photos from the trip.
At one point on the trail, I noticed this sign, almost completly concealed by the trees and plants that have grown up around it. The quote by John Muir expressed exactly how I was feeling walking amongst the big trees.
"When I entered this sublime wilderness the day was nearly done, the trees with rosy, glowing countenances seemed to be hushed and thoughtful, as if waiting in concious religious dependence on the sun, and one naturally walked softly and awe-stricken among them." ~ John Muir
Eventually, I drove down the road, parking and taking the long steep walk down the hill to see the General Sherman tree. The largest of the Sequoias, its base measures 40 feet in diameter and is taller than the Statue of Liberty (including the base)! While there are taller trees, the girth of this tree plus its height combine to give it the largest mass of any tree on earth! At first I tried to take pictures of it with no people showing, but found that it is only with some people in the picture that to give it a sense of scale that you begin to see just how enormous it really is!
Another view of the General Sherman Tree shown with hoards of visitors. On the far side (out of sight in both pictures), there is what appears to be a fallen tree, but the ranger present noted that it was actually one of the limbs of the tree that fell a few years ago. It is over 6 feet in diameter and came from nearly 200 feet up in the tree!
I ended my visit to the General Sherman tree by walking down to the shuttle bus stop for a ride back up to the parking lot. The path goes through a tunnel in another fallen tree, the opening tall enough for a man to stand upright in it!
By late afternoon, I was ready to make my camp. I was able to get a lovely spot in the Dorst Campground, near a lovely meadow. With the tent set up and the campstove going, I was ready to settle in for an enjoyable evening!
There is a real sense of contentment to be out in the woods, with a kettle steaming away for a nice cup of hot chocolate!
Dinner hadn't been done for long when a neighboring camper shouted, "BEAR!!!!!" And right there in the meadow directly behind my tent, was a black bear, wandering by! All the campers rallied with their pots and pans, banging away, shouting and blowing whistles to scare the bear away from the campsite! Needless to say, while it was a thrill to see the bear, I didn't sleep terribly well that night, wondering if it was going to come visiting again during the night! In reality, it seemed pretty unconcerned with most of us and was busy turning over logs in search of grubs!
Post 1/4 Sequoia Trip
I love heading out on a road trip! The anticipation of sights to see, watching the countryside slide by mile after mile, ever changing is something I love to experience! This most recent trip was no different. I got off to a late start and was a little concerned that I'd be driving into the hot sun all day, which can make for a long day. Instead, within a few miles, the clouds came over and the first couple hours of my trip were in the rain. I loved the way the clouds hung low over the hills between Seligman and Kingman, Arizona on I-40.
Past Kingman, the rain stopped and the clouds dispersed somewhat and I had a good view of the Needles as I neared the Colorado River.
Across the Colorado River and now in California, the road traverses the Mohave Desert. Miles and miles of dry land, sand, rocks and creosote bush and little else. It's sort of like looking the earth without her clothes on. All you see is the skin and bones.
The light was amazing all the way across California. Near Boron, where they mine borax for the laundry additive, the light came down in glorious rays.
Just past the town of Mohave, I was amazed to see hundreds upon hundreds of windmills on the hills (the same ones you can see in the distance on the last picture). Don't they make it look like the hills have been turned into giant pincushions?
As soon as you come over the mountains and start heading down into the San Joaquin Valley, brilliant golden grass covers the hillsides making a beautiful contrast with the deep dark green of the oak trees.
The evening light was luminous! Such a dreamy quality to the landscape in this light! It lingered like this as I arrived in the valley, orchards and vineyards lining each side of the road. I ended the days journey in Visalia, California, excited about the next day's journey into Sequoia National Park!