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Sedona and California

by Kathy 15. April 2012 22:51

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Kings Canyon National Park

About 3 ½ hours south of Yosemite is another national park that most people have probably never heard of—Kings Canyon. The park is fondly known as “Big Trees” by locals. The nickname comes from the abundance of giant sequoia trees that grow there.

Near the park entrance:

Giant sequoia trees are often confused with the giant redwoods, which are also big, reddish in color, and found in California; however, they are very different trees.

Giant sequoias grow naturally only in the high elevations along the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and they are considered the largest trees in the world (by volume). In fact, the second biggest tree in the world grows in King’s Canyon. And today we stood in its presence.

The tree’s name is “General Grant”, and its location is an area named “Grant’s Grove.” The grove was protected by Congress over 120 years ago, in response to a public outcry over loggers cutting down some of the largest sequoias in the late 1800’s. Here is a photo of loggers on top of the stump of the Mark Twain Tree in 1891:

Although many of the park roads and trails are closed in the winter (and spring) due to snow, the 1/3 mile General Grant Tree Trail is kept plowed. We knew that we were in for a treat when we saw the “smaller” trees in the trailhead parking lot. Here are Genevieve and Sebastian standing in front of one of the first trees:

The trees were so immense they were hard to photograph and give the right perspective. Here is another view of that same tree:

As we turned a corner, we could see General Grant in the distance through an open patch of trees:

A better look at the thick upper branches:

A protective fence kept us from getting too close to General Grant, but here is one side of this 1700 year old beauty:

And since the above photo doesn’t really convey the true size, here is a photo from 1936 with people in front:

To better understand the size of General Grant, its height is as tall as a 27-story building, and the base measures 40.3 feet across—wider than a 3 lane freeway. This base is greater than any other giant sequoia, and is even 3 ½ feet wider than the world’s largest tree (by volume), General Sherman, located in the neighboring Sequoia National Park.

One side of General Grant showed fire marks along the bottom of the trunk:

The bark of a giant sequoia is squishy to touch and remarkably fire resistant. Mature trees can have bark that is 3 feet thick. Sometimes fires will even burn out the interior of the lower trunk, and the tree will survive. This is because the living part of the tree consists of a relatively thin layer that lies just below the bark. So long this living part is not severed all the way around, the tree can still transport nutrients from the roots up to the tree branches and thus keep growing.

Beyond the General Grant tree was the Gamblin Cabin (on its third reincarnation):

The cabin was originally built by the Gamlin brothers in 1872 when they were logging in this area. After Grant’s Grove was protected, the cabin was used as a storehouse by the U.S. Calvary, and later the home of the first park ranger. (Note: The papers that both Genevieve and Sebastian are carrying are their Jr. Ranger booklets, in which they are recording answers and observations during our walk.)

Continuing down the path, we encountered the Missouri Tree to the right of the Lightening Tree—so named because the missing upper portion was originally attributed to a stroke of lightening:

A large fallen tree, named the Monarch, had a hollow interior that allowed us to walk from one part of the path to the other. Here are Genevieve and Sebastian entering from the roots side:

Inside the tunnel:



The Monarch is believed to have fallen hundreds of years ago, but has changed very little—in part to the fact that the sequoia’s tannins make its wood indigestible to insects, fungi, and other decay organisms. Among many uses, the Gamlin brothers once lived in the tree while they built their cabin, and the U.S. Calvary later sheltered their 32 horses inside.

Back in the parking lot, the double tree called Twin Sisters loomed overhead—two giant sequoias that had started life as separate trees but then had fused together as their trunks kept expanding.

There were only a handful of others in our campground tonight. Sebastian and Genevieve quickly made a new friend:

Oh, happy day indeed:

Kings Canyon National Park had been a huge surprise for me. Although I’ve lived in California for 25 years, I was one of those people that had never even heard about this place until last year. And still, I was unprepared for the magnificence. Unprepared for the awe that arose when I stood, a very small and transient presence, before these trees. Grateful that a group of people had the bravery and foresight to stand up to the loggers and to petition the government to protect Grant Grove. And grateful today to have experienced this sacred place.

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Comments (4) -

4/16/2012 7:36:18 PM #

Tiffany  Manchip

   I'm speechless.....awestruck.  Thank you for introducing me to such a magnificant place!!

Tiffany Manchip United States | Reply

4/16/2012 8:24:00 PM #

Kathy

My pleasure, Tiffany!  I hope that you get to experience the Big Trees one day--I know that you would love it!  Kathy

Kathy United States | Reply

4/19/2012 7:42:08 AM #

becky

i love that you've discovered  king's canyon...and i love your pics - my camera has never been able to capture the entire tree.  and it's even more magical with snow on the ground - there's a breathless quiet about the place...a stillness that speaks to the soul.  and if you come back in the spring/summer - there's wonderful hiking to be had.  

becky United States | Reply

4/19/2012 8:23:08 AM #

Kathy

Yes, it was an amazing place that we definitely would like to revisit in the summer/fall, without all the snow (and in a smaller vehicle).  The trees were so humongous, even our photos (stitched together for the up-close, full shots) don't capture the actual magnificence. And this is all practically in your backyard--lucky you!

Kathy United States | Reply

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Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

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