Sequoia National Park - spending time among the Giants!

In late May 2017, my family took our summer vacation in California. We enjoyed a visit to Disneyland with good friends, then left them and headed northeast to see THE TREES. 

Sequoias are different from the Redwoods, which are coastal trees. These giants grow inland in a series of groves on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada (California) from about Yosemite National Park to southern Sequoia National Park. The largest accessible groves are in Sequoia, Kings Canyon or Yosemite National Parks, but others are scattered along moist areas on the western slopes.

Giant sequoias are the world's largest single trees by volume. They reach a height of 160 to 279 feet and a diameter of 20 to 26 feet. Record trees have been identified at 311 feet tall and 56 feet in diameter. The oldest known giant sequoia is estimated at 3,500 years old. Until you see them in person, you can't imagine how massive they are.

One fascinating thing about these trees is how they have responded to fires over thousands of years. Sequoias need fire to thin out and reduce competing species, and they need it to reproduce! They have fibrous, fire-resistant bark that can grow up to two feet thick.  Check out this video about this phenomenon. Note the fire scars on the tree below. 

You can drive throughout the park, but we chose to take the shuttle. The shuttle system is very easy to use and is heavily recommended and encouraged. Parking is somewhat of a challenge and the shuttles make things much easier. Note the blue roads on the map - once we had finished driving those roads up to the Lodge, we were happy to let someone else take over from there ;)

My family stayed at the Wuksachi Lodge, which is in the National Park. We had a suite - nothing fancy, but plenty of room for us, and in the perfect location to explore the park.

You can see my youngest daughter peeking out of the sitting room window!

The Wuksachi Lodge is especially wonderful because of the views (look at that June snow!), the location, and because the restaurant in the Lodge itself is wonderful. More on the restaurant later.

Our last afternoon was spent on the Sherman Tree Trail. General Sherman is the 'headliner' of the park - the world's largest tree.

Can you guess which tree is General Sherman?

To get a sense of perspective, look for the people at the base of the tree.

It's pretty much impossible to get a picture with the entire tree, but we tried!

This concrete and brick work pattern demonstrates the actual diameter of the tree. I found this to be really cool. That's my husband and daughters standing near the center. (We couldn't get to the center as the man there was just not moving, not that I blame him....)

We also spent time on other trails in the park. Here are some of my favorite photos from those very memorable hikes.

Note the fire scars on this tree. (Also note my daughter IN the tree).

One of our more challenging hikes was to Moro Rock, seen here in the distance.

My husband is not a fan of heights, but his photographer's eye and adventurous nature couldn't resist the climb.

Walking through the Crescent Meadow area was really neat.

My daughters spotted a young sequoia on the edge of the trail and set out to protect it from feet.

We enjoyed coming back to the Lodge each evening, and having a fabulous dinner at The Peaks restaurant (advance reservations strongly suggested). The walk there from our building was only five minutes. There is no lodging in the main Lodge - just a shop, bar, and restaurant.

Pork shank with apples.

Homemade lavender ice cream (accompanied by our new souvenir).

We took some time for some card games and then had a great night's sleep!

It was very difficult to leave the trees, but we were headed to San Diego for the last leg of our vacation. Driving down the mountain and watching the trees get smaller was sad, but memorable. Note the size of the road sign next to the tree!

If you are in California, take 2-3 days and go see the Sequoias. Personally, I can't wait to go back, and would like to visit King's Canyon as well. As a fellow guest there said to me, "the trees get under your skin and speak to me."  It really is a magical place!


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