Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park

After rounding up some packages in the desert Cori and I headed North, but not without stopping in the Mojave one last time to get my picture with a Joshua Tree. I'm not exactly sure what my fascination is with these odd looking trees, but I've always been intrigued by them. To me they look like alien palm trees, but in fact are the largest species in the Yucca family. They exist mostly in the Mojave Desert, the hottest desert in North America, and their pollination is solely reliant on the female pronuba moth that lays her eggs on the yucca seeds which then hatch and provide food for the larvae.

Our drive into Sequoia meandered through the western foothills of the Sierra Mountain range. Here, elevations below 5,000 feet are too dry to support much vegetation beyond grasses and shrubs. I was surprised by this, thinking that we were far enough north to be out of the desert. I guess I'm spoiled by the lush green vegetation of the Southern Appalachians. Still the tall grass rolling hills were a welcomed change of scenery.

It's so hard to believe that these grassy hills lead the way to some of the largest organisms in the world. Mind boggling really. This past year I read The Wild Trees_by Richard Preston, a novelistic style non-fiction book about the Redwood and Sequoia's of Northern California. An excellent read for anyone interested in the adventure and science of these trees. My mind kept regressing back to the books passages about the discovery of the groves, their magestic nature, and the thrill of discovering such a magnificent organism! And here I was, wiggling around in my seat like a two year who has to pee. I was just giddy with excitement. "Redwoods! We're going to see Redwoods!" I exclaimed. "No we're not", Cori replied, with a thin lined smirk rising across her face. "We're going to see Sequoias. Not the same thing. " Leave it to the plant physiologist to bring me back down to earth. She's correct though, although easily confused and often described interchangeably, they are in fact different species. One of the most notable differences is where they are found. Sequoia's are found on the western slopes of the Sierras between 4,000 - 8,000 feet. The Redwoods, on the other hand, are located along the Pacific Coast. There are also many other physical/biological differences that distinguish each species. You can read more about their differences on the National Park Service website if you're interested.

It was the end of Easter weekend as we pulled up to the park entrance. I was hoping to get a campsite in the Lodgepole campground to sleep near the trees, but the welcome sign noted that the site was full. Bummer. We quickly snagged a campsite at Buckeye instead which is in the foothills. More desert. Yay!!! (Please note the sarcasm). Honestly though, this worked to our advantage since the night temps would drop below freezing up at Lodgepole and we would be much warmer camping at 2,900 feet than at 6,500 feet. Thank you fate.

After securing a spot to camp we headed North along the Generals Highway, stopping to get a glimpse of Moro Rock and it's neighboring peaks.

The drive up to the Giant Forest was slam-on -the-breaks spectacular. Thank goodness for pull-offs.

Sequoia National Park is the nation's second oldest National Park, and the first National park created to protect a single living organism. So it seemed fitting to make our first hike to see General Sherman, the largest (by volume) and one of the oldest trees on earth. General Sherman stands nearly 275 feet tall and is 106.5 feet across at its widest point. The tree is estimated to be between 2,300 - 2,700 years old.

The tree itself is fenced off for protection which was understandable but still slightly disappointing. Luckily there were plenty of other trees to admire up close and personal.

The second largest tree, General Grant is in Sequoia's neighboring park, Kings Canyon. The Grant Tree is the largest tree within the Grant Tree grove and is currently the second largest tree in the world. It stands 267.4 feet tall and measures 107.6 around its base.

A snow storm is moving into the region so we drove out of the park a day early and took refuge at a Quality Inn (Thank you Christine for the hook up!). Next stop, Yosemite!

No comments:

Post a Comment