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Wednesday, August 11, 2010 : Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

 

Today, we have an appointment with the world's tallest trees, the giant sequoias of Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks. We pretend to visit both parks in the same day, which is kind of ambitious.

 

We have only 45 miles to drive. The freeway rapidly gives way to a two-lane road in pretty good condition, which later becomes a mountain road that winds along the bends of the Kaweah River. And we already reach the entrance of Sequoia National Park.

 

Sequoia, park entrance

The park entrance

 

The name of Sequoia comes from a Cherokee chief of the early 19th century, who gave his people a written language.

 

For the time being, we drive along a tiny mountain stream, and we already climb up. The park entrance was less than 1,500 ft high, we are going to reach as much as 7,000 feet.

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Sequoia, Kaweah River

In the midst of scrubland, the Kaweah Rivers runs almost dry

 

We have not yet reached the land of giant trees. Here, the vegetation is very sparse. And whatever little water flowing in the river should not be expected to irrigate anything.

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Sequoia, Tunnel Rock

Tunnel Rock, a highly available ranger

 

A few miles later, we reach Tunnel Rock. We meet a very friendly ranger, who really owns his subject. He explains us that the road used to pass under the rock but, when they got fed up pulling away trucks stuck under the rock, park authorities simply diverted the road. Some black metal scars can still be seen under the right part of the rock, but now you have to walk !

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Sequoia, Hospital Rock, bear country

This, too, is bear country

 

As in Yosemite and in several other parks, human beings are essentially guests. The animal owns the place and you'd better not mess with it too much, especially if it's a bear !

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Sequoia, the Giant Forest

Here are the giant sequoias

 

We have now reached the land of giant sequoias. Cars give an idea of the size of those trees.

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Sequoia, a sequoia slice

A sequoia is that wide ... at least !

 

A little further, this sequoia slice really shows the diameter of the tree. Even the two of us can only span a small part of it.

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Sequoia, General Sherman

General Sherman, 252 feet tall

 

Here, the tallest trees have been given names. This one, General Sherman, is 252 feet tall. What's even more impressive, its 52,000-odd cubic feet of wood would allow to build something like 500 mountain houses.

 

But who would want to fell such a wonder ?

 

What's more, a sequoia ages rather gracefully. The oldest ones are more than 3,000 years old. Let's say they need some time to grow more that 250 feet tall !

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Sequoia, Tokopah Falls

Tokopah Falls

 

At the Lodgepole Visitor Center, we make a long stop, to have our picnic and walk up to the Tokopah Falls, one of the numerous springs of the Kaweah River, which we saw earlier at the base of the mountain. Of course, considering what the spring gives off, no wonder the river runs dry !

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Sequoia, Kings Canyon overlook

Kings Canyon National Park, seen from Sequoia

 

We make a few more stops, including this one, where we take this beautiful picture of Kings Canyon National Park, out there in the back, on the edge of the mountain range. Time is running out, and there are still so many things to see !

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Kings Canyon, half-burned sequoia

Even half-burned, the sequoia still lives !

 

We have now reached Kings Canyon, but, unfortunately, we will only visit a small part of the park. We see that sequoia, struck by lightning, half-burned, but still giving off leaves. See, even a wildfire has a hard time killing off these giants !

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Kings Canyon, General Grant Grove, twin sequoias

Sunset behind the twin sequoias

 

We visit a last site in Kings Canyon, General Grant Grove, very rich in giant trees as well. Here, too, trees have been given names : we saw Oregon, Tennessee and, of course, General Grant himself. Quite logically, it turns out that confederate generals somehow did not get the same attention.

 

While taking this picture, we realize that it's really late. This time, we have to leave for good. Goodbye, Kings Canyon, but ... we'll be back !

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