One of the experiences unique to California I was most looking forward to was seeing and hugging the giant trees out here. Yes I said hug. I’m a tree lover and proud of it! I was more choked up seeing my first Sequoia than my first sight of the Grand Canyon. It is humbling to stand next to such a huge living thing that has been alive for 2000 years and survived so many storms, fires, and…well, humans.
Tim had planned to boondock along forest service road 14S46 but to our dismay it was not going to work. We drove up a couple miles up a very narrow, very windy road before deciding to turn around, luckily there was a spot to turn around. We attempted calling the National forest district office for advice but the guy was absolutely no help, saying he had no idea about the condition of forest roads (you don’t know if the roads in your district are open or not? Really? -Tim) and places to disperse camp (Every other ranger has been extremely helpful, He probably wasn’t a real ranger, just answers the phone -Tim). It wasn’t until after we paid to stay at Azalea campground and talked to the National Park ranger did we realize that we could have disperse camped at any of the turnouts along 180. Azalea campground is very nice don’t get me wrong but it sucks paying $18/night for no hookups. We arrived at the campground after dark because of our attempt to boondock. Tim was having trouble backing in the fifth wheel because he couldn’t see well. We were both exhausted having just driven the longest driving day, 12 hours on the road. I was on the brink of tears. After finally finding a site in the cold, dark night, I prepared our emergency Ramen noodles dinner and we both crashed.
They next day I felt refreshed and excited to see the biggest trees in the world. First we checked out Big Stump Trail, a short 1.5 mile trail that takes you to see about 5 Sequoia stumps (hence the name) cut down a long time ago. One of the tree stumps, named the Mark Twain stump, was cut down for educational purposes. You may have seen the cross section of the tree on display at the Museum of Science and History in New York. There were so many huge trees on the Big Stump Trail, the first one is a mere 50 feet from the trail head. Sequoias can live up to 3000 years old. When they start growing the young trees boost into the sky about 300 feet. Then they quit growing tall and they grow wider and wider, up to 40 feet in diameter. Even after they fall they don’t die. Their wood is highly resistant to decay and therefore in a way they continue to live after death, providing nourishment to the other trees. General Grant is the second largest tree in the world. He is fenced off to help him keep growing. Apparently foot traffic around the giant trees compacts the soil, making it harder for them to grow. General Sherman is THE largest tree in the world and he is in the park too.
After visiting General Grant, we drove to King’s Canyon, about an hour from Azalea campground. The hour goes by fast as you wind your way into the canyon. We stopped a few times along the way to see waterfalls and take in the views of the canyon. We parked at Road’s End and hiked to Zumwalt Meadow, an easy 3 mile hike. The lovely green meadow is surrounded by granite canyon walls. You can’t help but to stare up open-mouthed at the thousands of feet towering above.
The next day we learned some bad news of the possibility for snow. When we woke up it was cold and gray. Then an ominous fog rolled into camp and we decided to get the hell out of there. I was disappointed because we were supposed to hike the Redwood mountain grove and see General Sherman. But since General Sherman was an hour south of Azalea campground, we knew we couldn’t do it. We had to leave and play it smart. If it was going to snow we didn’t want to be stuck up there in our fifth. At least we had a blast the one day we spent out and about, and I’m glad I got to hug a Sequoia (another item off my bucket list). We will be back to see you one day Sherman!