Friday, February 10, 2012

Sequoia National Park

This park is located over 100 miles mostly due north of where we are now parked. During our drive there yesterday we first passed large oil fields, followed by many citrus groves. The trees are currently heavy with oranges. We also noticed a few olive orchards. The land at first was flat but then we came into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Dotted over the rolling hillsides were many vineyards. The road which we took through the park is called the Generals Highway. It is an 80-year-old roadway which once was a wagon road. The road can be seen in the picture above. According to a park brochure, "a skin of pavement" barely improved the original wagon road. A rather intense effort is now being made to upgrade the road, which made traveling through the park a bit difficult for us yesterday. Every two hours the road construction crew opens the road for traffic, so we had to plan our day there accordingly. We did make it into the Giant Forest. Within this forest plateau grow the largest trees on the planet, the giant sequoias. These trees grow naturally in 75 separate locations along the western slope of the Sierra Nevada.  Four of the five largest sequoia specimens are in the Giant Forest.
 Pictured above is the General Sherman tree. It was first measured almost a century ago and remains recognized as the worlds largest tree. It is 2,200 years old. There is very little that can hurt the sequoia. Chemicals in the wood and bark provide resistance to insects and fungi and thick bark insulates them from most fires. I could only stand under this tree, look up at it, and say "wow". We tried to hike on the Congress Trail which is a 2-mile-loop that begins and ends at old Sherman, but snow and ice made that difficult to accomplish.  After about a half an hour of slipping and sliding on the trail, we had to turn back.
The mountain vistas in the park are stunning. While waiting for road crews to open the road in the late afternoon, we stepped out of the car to look out over the foothills and distant valley. It is called the Eleven Range Overlook. The picture below just does not do justice to what we actually saw before us.

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