Growing up, summer meant beach, soccer tournaments and a big ol’ family camping trip with my aunt, uncle and cousins. Usually, this was a trip to Yosemite, but no matter where we were there was sure to be a lot of fun, and a few calamitous events. Family members getting lost on hikes, floods in the campsite, dinners that take five hours to prepare, somebody falling into the fire…lots of memories.
So imagine my excitement when my cousin Lianne and her husband Brian invited me to tag along on a quick trip to Sequoia National Park. No really, I was excited. Despite the aforementioned issues that can arise, I LOVE camping. I love hiking, wading in the rivers, making s’mores and laughing at the idiots who find bears in their campsite because they can’t put their food away properly. Sequoia and Kings Canyon is situated in California along the eastern Sierra Nevada range, so you can enjoy the vistas at high altitude, and then drive down into the canyon to hike along the river. However, the biggest draw is, of course, the Giant Sequoias. These trees are awesome. They are some of the largest and oldest living things on this earth, and beyond a few rare exceptions you can only find them here!
So, the first full day in the park we spent walking through the big trees including the biggest tree in the world: General Sherman.
For those unfamiliar, I’ll lay down some Giant Sequoia facts.
The estimated ages of the General Sherman and other sequoias are between 1,800 and 2,700 years old. The history nerd in me can’t help but marvel and imagine the events these trees have lived through. Civilizations rising, falling, religions founded, wars fought, fires, droughts- I could go on but that’d just be annoying.
The largest of the sequoias are as tall as an average 26-story building, and each year, the trees continue to grow, and create an amount of wood equal to the volume of a 50-foot-tall tree one foot in diameter.
The Sequoia’s impressive life expectancy is due in part to some pretty awesome characteristics. Sequoias thrive on fire. Their thick bark is flame retardant, and although many trees bear blackened scars of fires past, they simply grow around damage. In fact, the fires are necessary to clear off the underbrush that inhibits the growth of new saplings, and releases the seeds of their small egg-sized cones. Additionally, the tannin-rich, fibrous bark of the trees wards off insects and the diseases they carry. One of the only things that these trees are susceptible to is toppling over on account of their shallow root system.
I know that’s a lot of facts, but, I mean, these trees are incredible.
Lianne and Brian were so organized, we didn’t have a single calamity. Meals were delicious, and on the table at normal dining hours. Plus, they had great plans and suggestions for hiking, seeing and doing.
I must say, part of the enjoyment for me was observing a lot of the foreign tourists. I know it’s silly, but it makes me happy when I see them in these special places. All too often, a trip to California consists solely of Hollywood, Disneyland and a side trip to Vegas. Blech.
The next day was a beautiful drive down into Kings Canyon. The temperature climbed, but we kept cool by a couple of waterfalls.
We found a deep and slow moving part of the river where brave people took turns jumping off of the rock you see below. I didn’t partake as I was not equipped with a bathing suit, but it was still fun watching people launch themselves into the freezing cold water.
We saw bears, bucks and lots of trees. We played Mexican train, had tons of awesome food and drinks. But most of all, we had a relaxing and much needed getaway in a beautiful place.