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a walk in the woods

Different than we had imagined it, our visit to the giant sequoias proved to be even better than we had expected. Had we gone rafting as originally planned, we would have only had time for a brief side trip to see some of the star trees in Sequoia National Park. Instead, we wound up spending the better part of a whole day walking among the giants in a secluded corner of the park that had more than 15,000 mature sequoias. By comparison, Mariposa Grove in Yosemite only counts with a couple hundred sequoia trees.

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After breakfast, we piled into Cam’s volvo and drove several miles to Redwood Canyon – a small gorge when compared with the massive Kings Canyon – which has two loop trails that wind their way through an extensive grove of sequoia trees. Even though we had just seen sequoias in Yosemite, it was impossible not to be awed by them, especially since they were clustered in such great numbers. With bark several feet thick and trunks that are wide enough to make cabins when felled, these millenia-old trees are simply breathtaking.

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We chose a 7.3 mile trail and wound up spending most of the day leisurely strolling through the woods. Discussing our options over breakfast we thought we’d be able to do the hike in half a day and then go on another after returning to our campsite for lunch. We had assumed a brisk walking pace, but this was clearly a mistake, especially when D walked with the camera in his hand. Eventually our rumbling stomachs outweighed all other concerns and we put the camera away so as to finish the hike quickly.

After lunch, we decided to visit the nearby Chicago Stump – the remains of a massive sequoia that had been cut down and exhibited at the 1893 Chicago World Fair. We followed the signs down a narrow, dirt road until we arrived at what looked like the likely contender – a massive, burned down stump of a tree that took Cam some effort to scale. There was some doubt as to whether this really was the Chicago Stump – there was no placard indicating that this particular remnant of giant sequoia was anything special – but not enough to convince us to continue driving deeper into the canyon, especially since Cam’s volvo had not been built with off-roading in mind. Only when we had returned to the main road and our cell phones started working again did we confirm that we had missed the real McCoy.

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With the sun beginning a blinding descent towards the western horizon, we turned onto the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway – a thirty-mile road that connects Grant and Cedar Groves, and which Lonely Planet calls one of the most dazzling in all of California. Though far less famous, Kings Canyon is actually quite a bit deeper than the Grand Canyon, and this road offers spectacular views of the canyon’s sheer walls as it skirts the precipice, winding its way all the way down several thousand feet to the canyon floor before ascending again.

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Rather than retracing our steps through the entire park on the way out, we took an alternate route, leaving Kings Canyon via the Fresno road the following morning. This meant that we missed out on seeing General Sherman – the largest living tree in the world. We did, however, pay a visit to the 27-story tall General Grant tree – the third largest – on our way out of the park.

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