Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Trip to the Big Trees (Sequoia National Park)

Location: Sun & Fun RV Park (el 250 ft); Tulare, California

(click pictures to enlarge)

Looking up ?? :)
I figured I would start with a picture of the goal of my exploration yesterday. I packed a lunch and headed out to Sequoia National Park about 9:30. I made sure I had my jacket, fancy camera and binoculars in Freedom. I could have left them behind since I didn't use any of the three items. The trip was about 150 miles in length and lasted 7 hours. 

Sequoia is the name of the large trees that grow on the Western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains between the elevations of 5,000 and 7,000 feet. Surprisingly, they are named after the Cherokee Indian, Sequoya (some question this, but I like to think it is true). We learned about ole Sequoya when I visited the Indian Museum back in Cherokee, North Carolina. He invented the Cherokee alphabet which led to the Cherokee written language. The old Cherokee probably never saw a Sequoia tree, but his name, although misspelled, will live on for a long time. It's kind of ironic that a guy who invented a written language has his name misspelled. 

They are the largest trees on the planet. The term "largest", in this context, means the most timber or volume. There are taller trees, like the Sequoia's cousin, The Redwoods, but in terms of just a massive amount of wood, the Sequoia stands alone. The older Sequoia's are about 3,000 years old. They were seedlings when the newest Egyptian pyramids where being built. When you see the first one in person, it is definitely one of those "wow" moments. I tried to get some pictures to show the massive size of these giants, but it is hard to do so. 
You can see the base of the trees are as wide as Freedom. 

The Sequoia's are mixed in with the much smaller pine trees. As you drive along, you see them everywhere.

This is the little clump of trees I took the picture looking up at the beginning of this post.

Sequoia National Park is the second oldest national park in the U.S. park system. Yellowstone is the oldest and was created in 1872 while Sequoia was created in 1890. Again, they play with the words a little bit by saying it is the second oldest since Sequoia National Park and Yosemite National Park were created in the same year.

Since the campground that I staying is in the San Joaquin Valley, the first 20 to 30 miles is in flat land at an elevation of about 250 feet. The route topped out at a little more than 7,000 feet in elevation. There seems to be a haze hanging over this valley ever since I got here. I asked a local about it and he said it lasts most of the year. I'm guessing it is trapped between the two sets of mountains on the east and west side of the valley. Although the Sierra Nevada Mountains are only about 30 miles away from the campground, you can not see them due to the haze. They finally started showing themselves when I got about 10 miles from the base of them.
The mountains beginning to show themselves about 10 miles out. This is a grape vineyard on the right side of the road.

If we believe the sign, these are orange trees. A lot of the fruit trees are trimmed into cubes with the sides squared off and the tops flat. They are shaped like hedges in front of a house. I was told it is easier to pick the fruit and the limbs are stronger. This little grove didn't have any fruit but others along the way were full. 
It was a pretty day for the drive. The temperature in the valley was 70 and at the top of the mountains it was in the low 50's. 

Entrance sign
I was a little concerned when I saw this sign. I had read about the California state law that required chains in certain areas and that even 4-wheel drive vehicles like Freedom had to use them. I would turn around before running chains on Freedom. When I lived in Minnesota as a teenager, I saw what damage chains can do to a vehicle if not installed properly and I was not going to take that risk just to see some trees. 

The entrance fee to enter the park is $20.00 and it is good for 7 days. I chose the Annual Pass option for $80.00 which will get me into any National Park and other Federal Recreation sites. I am positive I will save more than $80.00 over the next year.

A little lake and valley right before you begin the accent.

The last lake valley on the left and a CalTran bridge inspection crew ahead.

The guardrail on the right side is not up to highway standards and I'm not sure it would take a major impact so I did my best not to test it. It looks great though.

I think that is Moro Rock in the distance. 

This was taken by stopping on the road. I was lucky there wasn't much traffic yesterday. You can see the snow capped Rockies in the far distance.

A good view of the mountains both near and far.

I put this one in the blog because I liked the sky

More view

I even found a "thinking bench". Guess which one I sat in? lol

The snow added a nice flair to the drive. I am glad I saw this place at this time of year instead of the middle of the summer.

Mountains for as far as you could see.
 The decent was down Highway 245. It was 30 miles of nothing but reverse curves and "kiss your a$$ curves". There were some curves that Freedom needed half of the other lane to make it through. By the time I got to the bottom, I was worn out. I will never take that route again. 

Once back into the San Joaquin Valley, you parallel the mountains for a while. The haze had lifted and I was able to get these shots. I think those are the "Saw Tooth Mountains" in the distance with the snow on top. 

A nice green field of some unknown crop with the mountains and a pretty sky in the background. It was a nice day.

I enjoyed the drive even after having to suffer through that last 30 miles of curves. It was a nice weather day with few visitors to the park. Just the way I like it.

Yesterday was my granddaughters birthday. Happy birthday Olivia Grace. :)

Tomorrow is moving day and I'm not sure where I'll be going. I'm thinking maybe the coast, or further north. 

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.


  1. Very beautiful pics! I know you sat on the snow covered bench.

  2. I don't know your age, and I'm not going to ask, but if you qualify for this it is a lifetime pass. Beautiful pictures and what an adorable little grandaughter.

    1. Hello Betty. I still have 3 years before qualifying for the senior pass. I'm glad you liked the pictures. Thanks for your comment

  3. We did this when I was 7 and I have a picture with my parents at the largest tree. Repeated the trip with Ed and William when David was 7. Took the same picture but didn't even realize it till we got back with pictures for mom. De ja vu but very rewarding! Keep having fun.

    1. Hello Robin. I'm glad the blog post sparked some memories for you. Take care.

  4. The redwoods are my favorites..We went there a few years ago and HAD to find a tree to drive through. Cheesy yes but I loved it.

    1. Hello Cat. I do plan to see the Redwoods, after it warms up a little there

  5. Ah, if you didn't like all of those curves, best not to take Hwy 49, especially with the trailer. I live in the foothills east of Sacramento, and only once or twice in my life have I encountered the "4 wheel drive with chains required" and believe me, if you don't absolutely have to go on, just turn around and go home. It is really really NASTY when they put those conditions on. Discretion is the better part of Valor in that case.

    The prettiest part of the coast is on Hwy 1 from north of Hearst Castle, up to Monterrey. If you are going up that far north, is is not to be missed. There are come curves, but you will be too busy eyeballing the scenery to notice. Also, going north, you are on the inside, and miss out on looking straight down to the ocean below in some places. On a nice day, this is one of the prettiest drives going. Going up 5 or 99 is just drudgery. 395 on the east side of the Sierras is beautiful, too, but you could get some winter weather this time of year still, and it is kind of tough to cross back to CA (if that is your plan) until you hit I80 at Reno. There are several other ways across, but they are smaller Highways, and more adventurous with the trailer.

    North of San Francisco, if you want more Pacific Ocean, stay inland until you get to about Petaluma, and then cut over to Hwy 1 at Bodega Bay, where they filmed "The Birds". It is a little twisty and turny up to Fort Bragg, but easily doable with the trailer. If you get to Fort Bragg, be sure to take a ride on the Skunk train, but only halfway and back. The second half is kind of dull and boring. From Fort Bragg, I would turn east to Willits, and then up 101 to the Redwoods. If you get as far as Willits, you need to go see them. If you liked the Big Trees, you will love the Redwoods.

    1. Hello KCD. Thanks for your comment and suggestions. I plan to drive towards Big Sur tomorrow and will see some of the coastal road. I will also be going north to Washington state then east towards South Dakota before heading south so I able to go anywhere :). I'm just waiting for the weather to warm some. I will also check out the train you suggest,,,,I like those kind of exploring.

    2. Highway 101 through Oregon is beautiful - make sure you don't miss it!! Traveling north you will be on the land side so should make for easy driving --I don't like hairpin curves either..

    3. Hi Jenny. Thanks for the suggestion. The Oregon coast and Crater Lake are two things on my Oregon list.

  6. From Crater Lake over to 101 & the Oregon coast then follow 101 up around the Olympic Peninsula, past Forks, Port Angeles & on around to where it connects to I-5 in Olympia.
    Nice trip!

  7. Better put lots of things on your Oregon/Washington/Idaho list and plan on staying awhile----do you want a list? lol

    1. Hi Jenny. I'm always interested in a list of places to see and explore.