Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Sequoia and King's Canyon National Park (Grant's Grove), 4/29/2016

With much nicer weather predicted for today, we made dinner in the crockpot, packed lunch/snacks, and made our way back to Sequoia National Park to explore Moro Rock, Crescent Meadow, and Grant's Grove (giant sequoia grove in King's Canyon). Generals Highway is a very windy road up Ash Mountain with many hairpin turns and is 10 to 45 mph. 

To reach Moro Rock, we made in the Giant Forest before reaching the Museum. Before reaching there we stopped at this fallen sequoia called Auto Log. It fell in 1927, had a 21' base, and many vehicles have been photographed on this log "driveway." As you can see in the second photo, the roots of the giant sequoia do not extend very deeply into the soil.

Located near the fallen log is the Colonel Young Tree, named for Colonel Charles Young. He was a West Point graduate, commander of several Calvary units of Buffalo Soldiers assigned here in 1903, and the first African American national park superintendent. He started many initiatives to provide access to the Giant Forest and Moro Rock while preserving the fragile ecosystems in Sequoia National Park. 

Moro Rock, a granite dome, is an outcropping of the Sierra Nevada batholith (a huge mass of granite that runs north to south for 400 miles!) It is 6,725' high and you can see for 150 miles from the top on a clear day. A wooden staircase was replaced in 1931 with the rock one that is carved into the rock with strong railings. It is a steep 400-step climb, but, oh so worth it!

The expansive views from Moro Rock are spectacular. The snow-covered mountains range from 12,200' to 13,700' in height are the Great Western Divide. Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states in the US at 14,494 feet, is behind these although you cannot see it. To the south you can see Generals Highway, the winding road that provides access to the park. 

On the road to Crescent Meadow, we came upon Buttress Tree. It fell without warning in 1959. Its estimated age was 2,300 years with a length of 275 feet. 


This is the Parker Group of sequoias named in honor of Captain James Parker and his family. The US Calvary guarded the park from 1891 to 1913 (as the National Park Service was not created until 1916). The soldiers protected the natural resources here and built roads and trails for visitors. Parker was the second superintendent here in 1893-94.

Tunnel Log fell in 1937 and was 275' in length. The Civilian Corp carved this gateway through it that is 8' high and 17' wide. Cool!

Near Crescent Meadow in the Giant Forest, begins the High Sierra Trail that ends at the top of Mount Whitney through 60 miles of rugged Wilderness terrain. The trail was built 1928-1932 and has been heavily used by adventurous backpacking hikers. (Wilderness permits are required for all overnight hikes.) We opted for the 1.5 mile round-trip hike to Tharp's Log via Crescent Meadow!

Spending time among this majestic, enormous trees, is truly a spiritual experience. 

Tharp's Log was home to Hale Tharp, the first settler to live in this area (1860). He and his two sons brought cattle here for summers beginning in 1869. This was their home and subsequently a shelter for others traveling in the area. 

The Lodgepole Visitor Center is not yet open for the season (opens May 6), but the Lodgepole Market was. Only in a California national park will you find such a nice selection of wine! We stopped here and ran into Ian, a very nice young man, John had met at an earlier stop in the park. He and his mother (from North Carolina) are on a road trip, exploring some of our nation's beautiful parks. John and Ian were fast friends! 

We continued north on Generals Highway through a portion of the Sequoia National Forest to Kings Canyon Visitor Center and Grant Grove. As always, there are some great exhibits here and an interesting and informative video about King's Canyon. An analysis of fire scars (including the year of the fire) found in a cross section of a giant sequoia is shown in the picture below.

There is a paved loop trail through the Grant Grove where you can see the General Grant Tree, the third largest giant sequoia. Some other interesting facts about this monarch:
  • Named for the leader of the Union forces in the Civil War.
  • Diameter of the base is 40.3 feet (3.5 feet larger than the General Sherman) but quickly tapers to 29 feet by about 5 feet.
  • It is as tall as a 13-story building, but relatively young as 2,000 years old. 
  • It was proclaimed as "the Nation's Christmas Tree" by President Coolidge.
  • President Eisenhower designated it a living National Shrine in memory of Americans who have died in war. 

There are many other massive trees in the grove, many of them named for states. You can pick up a guide to the trail for $1.50 at a kiosk at the beginning of the trail. 

Fallen sequoias resist decay lasting for centuries or even thousands of years on the forest floor. This one, Fallen Monarch, was used for shelter for construction crews in 1900 and then for housing horses for the Calvary. How cool is that!?!

This is the Centennial Stump (24' diameter) so named because it was cut down in 1875 and sent to the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, PA, 1876. It took 2 men 9 days to cut it down. Sixteen feet of the tree were hollowed out and reassembled after shipping. People refused to believe the stump was a single tree and dubbed it a "California hoax."

We loved spending time among the regal giant sequoias here. The serenity and elegance of the setting is unsurpassed, truly!

On our drive south on Generals Highway, we were thrilled to see a black bear foraging in a meadow near Wuksachi Village. What a treat.

Admission is $30/vehicle for a 7-day pass. Some areas are closed during the winter and information is available online about when they open in the spring. Depending on the weather, tire chains are sometimes required. The rangers at the entrance stations will advise you if this is required when you visit. Chains can be rented in Three Rivers for about $30/day or bring your own. For additional information about Sequoia and King's Canyon National Parks, check out their website. 

Website:  www.nps.gov/seki

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