Giant Forest With My Daughter

My daughter and I had a great time on our first road trip with her doing most of the driving. We went to Sequoia, camped at Upper Stony Creek Campground, and hiked the Congress Trail and a few short extensions in Giant Forest the next day. I was in Giant Forest snowshoeing in January and knew it would be a fantastic first trip. The major factor for the hiking component of our trip was to go to a place with phenomenal scenery that did not require a lot of effort to traverse because it was my daughter’s first hike in a while. Our hike of only about 3 miles and 450′ of gain over a mostly paved trail was interestingly diverse for such a short stretch of trail and intensely awe-inspiring. Within the first half mile we came upon the General Sherman Tree–the largest tree in the world (by volume).

General Sherman Tree (notice the people at its base)

General Sherman Tree (notice the people at its base)–click to shrink image to your screen size.

It is hard to convey the size of Giant Sequoia trees (which is why I sized the above photo the way I did). Unlike a skyscraper where one can usually see the top of the building from close by (often from a few feet in front of the entry), the branches and leaves of these trees prevent one from seeing the tree top from anywhere near its trunk. As a result photos looking up from the base of Giant Sequoias usually capture half or less of the tree’s height. Trying to internalize their size is an exercise in viewing them from multiple distances and angles in order to both get far enough away to take in their overall form and close enough to tangibly experience a direct relationship of the size of at least one small part of the tree to oneself.

Kyle sitting on the Chief Sequoyah Tree. Photo by Sarah (click to enlarge).

Kyle sitting on the Chief Sequoyah Tree. Photo by Sarah

Sarah inside the base of the Lincoln Tree.

Sarah inside the base of the Lincoln Tree.

One of the signs along the trail states that “the largest sequoias in this area are between 1,800 and 3,000 years old.” Wrapping our minds around the reality that these giant objects in the landscape are actually alive and thousands of years old is something I think we are still working on. Sarah pointed out that these trees remind her of the Ents from Lord of the Rings. That they are living and so old feels more like something from science fiction or fantasy than something we could actually touch. Standing next to one of the larger sequoias and imagining that it was alive before I found myself thinking about history and the fact that the older sequoias lived through it (granted they didn’t “witness” anything outside the grove they live in) and how different that is than the presence of inorganic objects on our planet that are just as old or older.

Young sequoias with giants looming large in the background.

Young sequoias with giants looming large in the background.

With sequoias ranging in age from less than a year old to thousands of years old, the texture of the forest is fascinating to behold. There is a tangible history to it.

Texture of Giant Forest. (Note the people standing next to a fallen giant with a comparatively young sequoia growing out of it).

Texture of Giant Forest. (Note the people standing next to a fallen giant with a comparatively young sequoia growing out of it).

One of the signs along the trail point out that the sequoias “thick fibrous bark provides superior insulation against fire. With little flammable sap, it doesn’t burn easily”. These trees do get hit by lightening which is far more likely to scar them than burn them to a crisp. The likelihood of the older trees being hit by lightening at least once in their life is high enough that there are numerous trees that are still alive but also have significant features associated with surviving such intense strikes. These features were often something to marvel at as we made our way through the forest.

View up Chief Sequoyah standing inside a hollowed out portion of its trunk.

View up Chief Sequoyah standing inside a hollowed out portion of its trunk.

There really is a lot to look at. For a while, Sarah became fascinated with the surprisingly small sequoia pine cones and enjoyed looking for and admiring the most perfectly shaped ones and sharing them with me. Hard as it was to do, we resisted breaking the rules and taking any home with us.

Pine cone of a Giant Sequoia

Pine cone of a Giant Sequoia

We didn’t see many creatures during our trek but we were fortunate to come across a marmot hanging out on some boulders.

Marmot

Marmot

Of course I took more photos along the Congress Trail and am looking forward to returning to Sequoia in July.

A Busy Summer Ahead

Valley Bob’s Driving School and I have started teaching my teenage daughter how to drive–one among many causes of the reduced frequency of my posts lately. In California, teenagers (under 18) need to drive for six months with a learner’s permit and adult driver before they can take the test to get a driver’s license. Not wanting to spend our time driving exclusively in LA traffic (we will do plenty of that too), I devised a plan where we would also go on long drives together to interesting places and car camp for the night, hike the next day, and then drive home. Sure, that isn’t the most direct way to get her up to speed to pass her driving test, but we’ve got six months to do the appropriate work driving in LA to get ready for that. I openly admit that I’m channeling her enthusiasm for driving into an opportunity for a prodigious amount of father-daughter bonding time and hopefully lots of  wonderful memories a year before she goes off to college.

Little Lakes Valley (photo by my son the week before his second year in college).

Little Lakes Valley (photo by my son the week before his second year in college).

 

I looked for places within a six or seven hour drive from my house since we would only be staying one night at time. The other key factor was having an amazing landscape to walk through that wasn’t too strenuous an endeavor. The places I’ve chosen are:

Sequoia (Upper Stoney Creek Campground), most likely Giant Forest and Moro Rock.

Little Lakes Valley (one of many first come, first serve campgrounds). I went here with my son in 2009 and the hike is fantastic over seven miles with very little gain. Other opportunities for a shorter hike on the first day exists close by.

Cottonwood Lakes (if we can get one of the first come first serve campgrounds, otherwise we will just keep heading north until we get a spot).

Big Pine Creek Campground (Also in the Sierras. Hopefully we will make it to Fifth Lake with a view of Palisade Glacier).

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest (hopefully going during the week will make it easy to get a first come first serve spot at Grandview Campground).

View from Mt. Whitney

View from Mt. Whitney

I will also be training to hike to Mt. Whitney with my wife and some friends. We have two overnight backpacking training trips left as well as several modestly strenuous day hikes.

Mt. Baldy Loop: We will hike up to Mt. Baldy via the Baldy Bowl Trail and down to Baldy Notch via the Devil’s Backbone Trail. From there we will stop into the restaurant and decide whether to take the ski lift down or walk to Manker Flats via the access road.

Backpacking trip to Mt. San Jacinto: Day one, Deer Springs Trail / Pacific Crest Trail to Little Round Valley. Day two, Little Round Valley to Mt. San Jacinto, Wellman Divide Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Devil’s Slide Trail to Humber Park.

Cucamonga Peak from Icehouse Saddle 

Shuttle hike from Vincent Gap to Mt. Baden-Powell, Mt. Burnham, Throop Peak, Mt. Hawkins, Mt. Islip and ending at Islip Saddle.

Backpacking Trip to the Sierra’s (TBD, as I also need to coordinate meeting up with a friend in Sequoia for part of his week long stay in lieu of a traditional bachelor party).

Three T’s Shuttle Hike (starting from Icehouse Canyon and continuing from Thunder Mountain to Baldy Notch and taking the ski lift down).

Old Mt. Baldy Shuttle Hike (Visitor’s center to Mt. Baldy, down Devil’s Backbone to Baldy Notch, meal at the restaurant, ski lift down).

Mt. Whitney Backpacking Trip (One day at Whitney Portal, one day at Trail Camp, and possibly one day at Lone Pine Lake depending on how we feel after we summit).

So, recently I’ve been pretty busy planning and getting ready to do all that. I’m not sure yet how this level of activity (especially all the overnights) will impact my blogging. I will be doing some kind of post at least weekly and return to my normal pattern sometime in August.