Where the big trees are

Hey there! It’s been a long time since i’ve written about our all-american adventures. I managed to injure my back at the Feldberg (on the baby slope. don’t ask me how i did it.) which kept me out of action for a while. But i recently started reading this book and it’s made me feel quite nostalgic about the trip… So i’m back on it! We left off at Zion Canyon, so that’s where i’m picking up. What followed after Zion National Park was probably the longest stretch of road that we travelled in one day on that trip – no less than 841 km, if you please.

roads_nevada

nevada_road

Of course we arrived exhausted and dead tired, but we got to drive through three States in one day and it was not too bad in the end (especially considering Chris did most of the driving!). We stopped at Vegas again and checked out the place by day (not that different), drove past the Mojave desert and towns with cool names like Enterprise, Jean (named after the postmaster’s wife!), and (my personal favourite) Caliente, and stopped for dinner in Bakersfield.

Now, Bakersfield has some pretty interesting claims to fame: for one, it has a great concentration of french basque cuisine restaurants, for some obscure reason. That explains why we stopped for dinner… Also, it has the most polluted air in the US! (which probably explains why we didn’t hang around any longer :-) – poor Bakersfield).  After driving around its highways and underpasses, we had a strange but quite tasty dinner at one of the city’s basque restaurants, where our neighbours insisted that we “had to try the blue cheese”, and then proceeded to order it for us (that was mighty kind of them, except that we had to pay for it in the end), and drove on to our basecamp for the night: a Super 8 motel in quaint little Visalia, in the San Joaquin valley. The plan was to visit our first two Californian national parks the next day: Sequoia and King’s Canyon.

Sequoia NP sign

These two parks lie in the southern Sierra Nevada and are right next to each other. They can be visited together and they are home to some of the world’s largest, tallest and most impressive trees: the sequoiadendron giganteum, more commonly known as giant sequoia or giant redwoods.

We decided to do a couple of hikes in Sequoia National Park – most of the day hikes there seemed fairly easy; not too steep and not too long. We started off on the Moro Rock trail. We took a small detour on the way to visit the Hanging rock – a steep rocky viewpoint with a chunk of rock balancing mysteriously over the edge. Chris was fascinated – he sat down on the rock and admired the view, but i was terrified for some reason. It was so steep and sleek and it seemed like we were sitting at the edge of the world and could just slip down at any moment!

Hanging rock

That’s how far away i was actually sitting:

Hanging rock amazing view

Moro Rock itself is a granite dome that stands about 100 m tall (but at an actual elevation of about 1800 m.).

moro rock

It can easily be reached after a short stroll in the trees and a climb up the (part wooden, part carved in the rock) steps:

Path to mrro

The view from the top is amazing – you can see the whole valley, and the snow-capped peaks of the Great Western Divide of the Sierra Nevada in the distance:

sierra_nevada

Since it was December (a crisp sunny day though), we had the top of the rock all to ourselves, which was admittedly pretty cool…

Top of moro rock

After taking in the incredible 360 degree view,

we stumbled back down the steps and resumed our stroll in the shadow of these gigantic trees. Walking around in that forest was so surreal – everything around us was somehow on a different scale. It wasn’t just the massive trees – everything that pertained to them was proportionately sized, to our great amusement – check out the size of this pine, er, i mean sequoia cone:

Huge sequoia cone

It was like being in a land of giants – i half expected the trees to come alive like Tolkien’s Ents.

Ents

Sequoia NP

We of course took turns taking the obligatory tree-hugging pictures – so here’s an idea of the kind of scale we’re talking about:

Huge Sequoia

Sequoia trees

Tree hugger

(can you spot me in the picture below? hint: look left!)

Where's Vicky?

We took the short Big Trees trail, and, well, admired the big trees some more…

Monkey boy

Looking up at these giants was awe-inspiring (and this is what happens when you walk around looking up and not at what you’re doing:)

zipper_mixup

We dutifully went through the famous tunnel log,

tunnel log

and paid our respects to what is probably the world’s most famous tree – General Sherman (the largest tree in the world in terms of biomass)

general_sherman

before driving into Kings Canyon to see another one of the world’s most famous trees – the General Grant.

General Grant tree

After a whole day walking aroung the sequoia, i have to admit we were a little bit big-tree’d-out (ok that is not an actual word, i know) and by the end we were much more blasé (“here’s another big tree. whoop-dee-doo.”). Looking back at these pictures, i am once again impressed – how could i ever tire of this forest??

Under the tree

Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks are definitely worth a visit – Moro Rock was one of the coolest spots ever, and measuring yourself against California’s giants is good fun. You can explore the parks in a day (although we wish we’d had more time to hike the trails in Kings Canyon) – which is exactly what we did before heading to Yosemite to spend a night camping with the bears (well, sort of) and a day hiking to the waterfalls – more on that in the next post! Until then, let me leave you with a shot of the sunset in Kings Canyon:

sunset

 

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