Our main destination today was Sequoia national park, which is home to the world’s largest trees. The drive began with us heading further up the Central Valley of California to Visalia, where we got some lunch. While we were there we got some petrol and the woman working at the station had been to Middlesex University and had lived in Barnet – small world! With this short errand complete, we drove east towards the Sierra Nevada mountain range which we crossed yesterday. The area before the mountains reminded us both of the Scottish Highlands, with steep hills and a winding road around a lake.
Once we reached the park boundary, we started on the main road through the park called General’s Highway. The road climbs the mountains to reach the ‘Giant Forest’, and it was easily the windiest road yet, with us barely going over 25mph for around 40 miles. It was a fun drive, though we missed most of the scenery due to near-complete cloud cover. It was strange not being able to see the mountain beneath or above us, yet still driving up and up for over an hour. A highlight occurred around halfway up, when all of a sudden a bear walked out into the road! Luckily I was far enough away to brake, and we sat and watched it casually walk across (much like on the California flag) and continue up into the pines.
The Giant Forest is named after the giant sequoia trees which are found there. Its the only place in the world where the sequoias grow due to perfect environmental conditions. Our first stop was the forest’s museum, which has an exhibit about the life cycle of sequoias. It was interesting since the adult trees release millions of seeds, of which only one or two will survive. We then walked the short trail to the largest (not tallest or widest) tree in the world: General Sherman. It is apparently the heaviest tree, and one of the oldest living things in the world at around 2,500 years. The tree was obviously huge to look at, though surrounded by other giant sequoias it didn’t seem to stand out much from the others – well worth the visit though!
Later we completed the General’s Highway, which had some amazing views on the other side of the Giant Forest. The clouds had sunk to lower altitudes so we could see right out over the forest with the clouds below. Unfortunately we didn’t get to visit the neighbouring national park called King’s Canyon. This was mainly because the only way to it is a 40 mile one-way road, and secondly due to there being snow on the roads and signs recommending tyre chains (winter comes early at the high altitudes). Our motel for the night is in Mariposa near Yosemite National Park, which we are going to visit tomorrow.
Photo(s) of the day: me next to General Sherman, the top of General Sherman, and the clouds hanging over the Giant Forest