Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Land of the Giants

It was day 1 of our roadtrip today and the plan was to leave the small town of Three Rivers, drive through the Sequoia National Park and end up in Fresno ready to head north. The motel we stopped in was basic but fine, though it had a shower that suited children better than adults and it was a minor contortion to wash one's hair. That really is a minor quibble, though. We had a bagel for breakfast, stocked up on trail mix and water, and drove to the park.
The Kaweah River

Historic Stone Bridge over Kaweah River at Pumpkin Hollow

Both Caroline and I were suffering a little bit of jet lag (Caroline was worse than me) so we were both glad of a relatively short drive today. In total we were driving a bit under 4 hours but with the sightseeing, our day took lasted from maybe 10.30 am to 6.30 pm. So breakfast was had at Antoinette's Coffee and Goodies. The bagel was great, and the coffee was pretty good too. I really liked the place, it had a local buzz to it, and it wasn't hard to start talking to people there. Next door there's petrol and a shop rolled into one, so we stocked up on trail mix and water and fed the car too. Three Rivers is a gateway town by the southern end of the Sequoia National Park, and it was 5 miles to the park entrance. Entry to the park for a car was $20, but we bought a pass for all parks costing $80 seeing we hope to take in quite a few more yet.

Entrance to the National Park

Rocky scenery dominated the drive into the mountains
We weren't sure really what to expect, except maybe for some big trees. However, the drive along the General's Highway has to be one of the most amazing little drives I've ever been on. It twists across rivers, around mountains, through forests and takes you the heights in excess of 7000ft (2100+ metres). First we followed the Kaweah River along a valley, and then the road started to climb. The climb takes in some breathtaking rocky scenery, before hitting the forests. Sequoia only grow at certain altitudes, not generally below 1400 metres and not generally above 2100 metres, so the road was pretty high before we saw any. However, once they appeared there was no missing them.
The scale of the Sequoia is huge, wider than a car

And they can grow taller than the Statue of Liberty

Biggest Tree in the World, The General Sherman
The biggest of them all is the General Sherman which is just absolutely monstrous in size. This tree is situated about 20 minutes walk from a parking spot, and if you're quiet, and there aren't too many other people around it is great for spotting birds and small animals. For instance, we saw a mule deer on our travels today, as well as a Western Scrub Jay (no bears yet, though). To be honest, it's the feeling of being in the forest which will remain with me and which I can't describe very well in words. It is impossible to convey the pine fragrance, and the freshness of the mountain air. There was a stillness in the forest today, and sound didn't carry making it a place of great peace as well.. And walking around trees of such enormity, living things which are up to 3,000 years old (The General Sherman is big, but nowhere near the oldest tree, only being about 2200 years old) was really quite humbling.

After the forests, we drove to Fresno which is a city of about 500,000 people. We are only stopping off here, and will not explore the city. It is our base for a night before the longest drive of the trip tomorrow.

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