Sunday, May 25, 2014

Monarchs of the Sierra Nevada

Top two-thirds of the General Grant Tree
Kings Canyon National Park

In all the world, giant sequoia trees grow naturally only on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, usually between 5,000 and 7,000 feet in elevation.  But what a tree this narrow strip of California produces!  At least one tree species lives longer, three grow taller and one has greater diameter but no single tree can equal the sequoia’s total volume of wood. (Aspen tree clones make up the most massive tree organism in the world.)
Sierra Nevadas from Sequoia National Park

Hume Lake, Giant Sequoia National Monument
our campground for the week

The majority of the 75 groves of giant sequoia are located in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and the surrounding Giant Sequoia National Monument and Forest.  We camped at Hume Lake in the northern section of the national monument located between the two national parks.  The lake, originally a holding pond for the Hume-Bennett Lumber Mill, was a beautiful place to camp and we were within 30 minutes of both parks.  Plus there were several hiking trails in the national monument where we could hike with Maya.  Although we didn’t make it to all 75 groves of sequoia, we had a grand time among grand trees.

General Sherman Tree from a distance
What a trunk!

General Sherman posing for tourists
It is very hard to get 'him' all in one picture

Typically we spent part of our day hiking and then drove to one of the national parks to visit a sequoia grove or see the beautiful canyons and mountains.  We visited the Giant Forest and saw the General Sherman Tree with its circumference at the ground of nearly 103 feet, its height at 275 feet and weight estimated at 1,385 tons – the largest single tree in the world.  Coming in at third place was the General Grant Tree and the Boole Tree at number eight.  We saw them all and many other giant sequoias as well.  Pioneering conservationist, John Muir, who explored and named the Giant Forest summed up how it felt to be in the midst of the sequoias “…one naturally walked softly and awe-stricken among them.”  I can’t think of a better way to put it.
Boole Tree in the fog...
Maya and Cindy at the base of the Boole Tree
the 8th largest tree in the world and
the largest tree in the national forest system

One of our favorite hikes was the Boole Tree Trail.  The Boole tree stands in the Converse Basin which was essentially clear cut of sequoias back in the late 1800s during the historic logging of that time.  No one really knows why this tree was spared but when the logging was done, this lone monarch remained.  Over 100 years have passed since then and pines, furs and new sequoias have filled in the basin.  It looks like a forest again though it will be 1000 years or more before the sequoias will be mature.  Hauntingly the old stumps of the sequoias that were logged still remain throughout the basin as reminders of the many giants that once stood here.
Sequoia stump in Converse Basin
That's a big stump! 
This year's snows were light and came late to the Sierra Nevadas.  We were surprised that there were still some road closers in the higher elevations of Sequoia National Park.  And snow fell one day during our stay.  So we cooked soup, snuggled up with good books and watched the snow for a few hours one afternoon.  There was just that one day the weather kept us off the trails although we had fog and mist parts of two other days.  After several weeks in the desert, we were not upset by a little snow and fog and even the cold felt nice.  But we were glad to see the sun later in the week.

Incense cedar and pines with snow

Middle Fork of the Kings River, Kings Canyon National Park

Kings Canyon as the clouds lift

We are in Fresno for the Memorial Day Weekend and it is in the 90s here.  The groceries are bought and our RV, car, clothes, David and I and Maya  are all washed and ready for another adventure.  Tomorrow (Monday) we will head through Yosemite National Park on our way to the Inyo National Forest and the Ansel Adams and John Muir Wildernesses on the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevadas.   We are not going to stay in Yosemite as it is one of the best loved thus most crowded of our national parks.  (And we have been there before.)  But we are looking forward to exploring the two nearby wilderness areas which we have never seen.  Also after a couple of days in the 90s, getting back into the mountains and cooler temperatures will be most welcome.

We hope you all are enjoying your Memorial Day Weekend.
Wolf lichen on tree trunks
Wolf lichen on branches

David's Stats:
Days Hiked     6

Snow Days     1 
Total Miles Hiked   22.56      
Ave. Miles per Day      3.76
Total Elevation Gain       2,466
Ave. Elevation Gain per day   411

Snow Plant
a parasitic plant of unusual red color

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