It was also true that this park devoted entirely to such trees was joined to King's Canyon National Park to form one every bit as big as Yosemite. There was another extensive network of trails that if we were so inclined would provide just as much excitement as we were now driving away from. But that was not what we were seeking. We knew such things would be in our near future but our immediate future was reserved for strolls of contemplation amongst the ancient giants who knew better.
It was just before the 4th of July weekend and the park was already filling with early arrivals but we easily secured an amazing camping spot set in a lush forest of more common though beautiful trees. We felt sure paradise was ours and set off to explore the wondrous giants we had come to commune with. Visitor centers tried to explain the Sequoia but in vain such efforts were for once walking beside them words were reduced to man's feeble attempt at communication. The trees spoke eloquently with silence, no more powerful message was ever bestowed than from massive trunks. Their mere branches that made us feel as dwarfs.
The walks were the kinds that make effort easy: ups and downs mixed so well you never lost your breath but still felt good from exertion. It may have been warm or even hot somewhere on this July day but with our friends providing ample shade, it was a heat we knew nothing of. The air clean, fresh, the product of their exhalations. (concluded below in Fondest Memory)
Being on the go is generally a good thing. Life is only so long and standing still can feel wasteful of it but taking the time to reflect, rest, and ready yourself for the next adventure is important too. We were just about three months into a six month trip that had found us on the fly as a rule. We had taken only one real break thus far and had just finished up two weeks of an incredible but physically and mentally demanding stint in Yosemite National Park. Three backpacking trips were a highlight of not only that portion of our trip but would be stand out memories surely for years to come. They also were the precursors of many such adventures we had planned for the coming months as we would make our way around the major backpacking meccas of the National Park system. As chance would have it though, we were headed south from Yosemite, in the opposite direction of those plans. You see, I had to tell a tree about a girl.
That tree was the Sequoia and a forest that fairy tales are made of. The girl was a princess who by way of another fairy tale just happened to be my wife. I had seen these magnificent odes to nature some 15 years prior and on exulting the gains of doing a long camping trip around the US to my wife, along with amazing landscapes and incredible hiking, I used the image of these massive wonders, knowing well a fairy tale she could resist not. So, we were driving to Sequoia National Park to see if a tree might tell us of a time 3000 years ago for you must understand some of these magical Earthly inhabitants have been living here that long. (continued below in Fondest Memory)
This is a real no brainer: the sequoia, a tree so splendid, it makes even mountain obsessed me forget all about the big hike.
Fondest memory: Walking around Crescent Meadow was more or less an afterthought. We had already done two nice hikes amongst the amazing giant sequoias but since we were out this way to drive through the Tunnel Tree and Crescent Meadow was so close and accessible, it seemed silly not to take one more meander.
It was beautiful and with the walk circling an open area, it afforded less distorted views of the giants compared to standing right next to them. We had seen a beautiful deer with a nice rack while lunching at the picnic area at the head of the trail but aside from that little wildlife since coming to Sequoia from Yosemite National Park. After 8 bears in 14 days in Yosemite, this was shaping up to be a decidedly less exciting park. I joked how amazing it would be to see a bear walking next to one of these already incredible trees. Of course, asking for a bear right in a sequoia forest might have been a bit much to ask for, or was it?
We strolled slowly and noticed a small group of people on the trail ahead of us, all pointing across the meadow into the opposing strand to trees. As we neared them, they told us to hurry so as to not miss a bear lumbering around on the other side. I got my zoom out more to see it than take a photo, but no sooner did I raise my camera up as a telescope and the big bear circled right in front of a massive sequoia trunk. I snapped the picture almost in disbelief of our luck. Too much to ask perhaps but if you never ask, you never receive and on a trip filled with many answered prayers, this was one that would leave us shaking our heads in disbelief for quite a few days.
Tearing ourselves away and returning to camp, we needed sustenance. Unlike our friends, we have not sorted out how to take nutrients so efficiently from the soil beneath us. Cooking outside was pure pleasure and sitting to eat surrounded by such beauty, breathtaking. We only had one problem. No, it was not the mountain lion that rangers had warned had been in the campground the night previous, feeding on a deer. It was our fellow man, in the form of camp neighbors. It was a big group and their idea of holiday camping was a bit more boisterous than ours. They talked loudly and endlessly. It soon grew dark and cooled considerably. Rather than stay outside and listen to their inane conversations, we retreated to our tent, set back a bit further, hoping to find an earlier peace.
It was not quite as noisy but still there was one guy who talked loudest and with few replies, it appeared to no one. He went on and on about something only he cared about. He spoke perhaps more loudly than the sequoia, but not with as much certainty. Would he gain this wisdom in 3000 years? Would death give him the answers he was seeking? Of that we were not sure, but we hoped his race would be around to share some silent thoughts with the sequoia for we were pretty sure that they knew better.
I would suggest finding lodging within the park. We stayed at Three Rivers, and it was a one hour drive to the Giant Forest. We didn't go much further, and nobody was up for another hour drive over the same territory the next day.
I would also walk Congress Trail. It's a two mile hike off the General Sherman Trail.
When there's a forest fire, or trees fall, space is cleared in the forest for new growth. We came across this stand of Sequoias and Sugar Pines less than 3 feet tall. The Sequoias are marked with the red flags.
Fondest memory: Take a hike and explore!
Favorite thing: From the end of the Tokopah Valley Trail, you have a great view of the sharp Pinnacle of the Watchtower towering over the valley. If you come early in the year (spring or early summer) you can see tiny waterfalls of snowmelt plunging down cliffs in the valley. This was one of the most beautiful scenes in Sequoia National Park.
Fondest memory: Watching the sun set on the Siliman Crest from Wuksachi Lodge was amazing. The sharp peaks, normally gray, were fiery red. After the sunset, I waited for a moonrise, but it ended up not coming; instead, I saw Jupiter and four of it's moons :-). It was quite an amazing experience, since the skies here were so clear, with no smog, clouds, or light to get in the way.
Favorite thing: Castle Rocks are a formidable formation visible across the Middle Fork Kaweah Canyon from many areas, including the Generals Highway, Moro Rock, and the High Sierra Trail. The multitude of granite outcrops makes it very beautiful.
Favorite thing: Not as impressive as the Senate Group, but still worth a visit. The trees here are smaller but more numerous. It's a little further down the trail from the Senate Group. And technically speaking, I like this House better than I like the one in DC. Voting for one of these makes a lot more sense than voting for anyone else on a ballot nowadays...
Favorite thing: The Senate Group of giant sequoias is alot more impressive than the Senate Group at Capitol Hill, for three reasons: they're bigger, they look nicer, and they aren't corrupt. You can get here by walking the Congress Trail about a mile. They aren't too far down from the President Tree. Not as nice as some other sequoias, but very much worth a visit.
Just south of Sequoia NP you are in a very different area. Everywhere you look there are oranges. The weather here is also very different. I started the day with beautiful warm weather, the sun is shining : 'a short skirt would be perfect for today', I thought. But I forgot that Sequoia NP is in the mountains and that it could be cold in the mountains (forgive me for this stupidity, but we don't have any mountains or hills in Holland). And it was cold : it was foggy and there was still snow on the ground.... brrrr. Take a look at the pictures earlier on in the page and imagine walking there with a miniskirt, not the best way to dress, LOL.
Like every national Park you have to pay an entrance fee for Sequoia National park :
per person on foot, bicycle, motorcycle, or bus : $5 for 7 days
per vehicle $10 per 7 days or $20 annual
If you plan to visit more than one park it might be very interesting to buy a National Parks Pass which costs $50.00. The National Parks pass is personalized. It's valid for one full year from first use in a park. Your Pass will admit you and any accompanying passengers in a private vehicle. At those parks where a per person entrance fee is charged, the Pass will admit you, your spouse, parents, and children.
Operating Hours, Seasons:
The two main entrances (on highways 198 & 180) are open daily year-round. Winter closures: The Mineral King area in Sequoia Park & the Cedar Grove area in Kings Canyon Park. Mineral King is open late May through October 31. Cedar Grove is open mid-April to mid-November. Crystal Cave, some campgrounds, and several side roads close for the winter. The main park road may close between Lodgepole & Grant Grove during & after storms for plowing.
Highest visitation is in July & August. It can be difficult to find a campsite at popular campgrounds on summer Saturdays.
It's now the 6th day of my vacation.
Today I am going to Sequoia NP. I entered the park on the south side (Near Visalia) and I ended my trip in Fresno. It took me the whole day to make this tour. Sequoia is a beautiful park, I even liked it better than Yosemite.
There are a lot of tourists in the park (but not as much as in Yosemite). The famous parts of the park were it bit crowded, especially around the General Sherman Tree, but on the whole it was a very relaxing drive.
It's not only the famous big Sequoia trees that make the park beautiful, it's all of it. All those trees, forest, water, animals, viewpoints, etc. It is a park that you must visit when your in California.