“In wildness is the preservation of the world.”
Henry David Thoreau
By now it’s pretty obvious that we love the national parks. So while visiting Sequoia National Park we planned to also visit Kings Canyon National Park, as the two are contiguous and administered jointly.
Kings Canyon National Park is a massive park that protects a total of 461,901 acres. But the road into Kings Canyon was still partially closed while being cleared of rocks and debris that fell during winter. So we had to alter our plans.
Fortunately the Grant Grove, the grove in Kings Canyon National Park that contains the world’s second largest tree, was still accessible. And, since we’d just seen the world’s largest tree we had to see the second largest as well.
So we planned to make a day of it driving out to the Grant Grove and then as much of the rest of the road as was open. We figured that the drive on the part of the road that was open would be scenic. With a little mystery since we didn’t know what exactly we’d see.
But it would also be a long drive, since our campsite was near the entrance to Sequoia, not Kings Canyon. A hint for future visitors is that the entrance from Fresno is much closer to Kings Canyon.
The day of our visit was a cool day, so we took Angel along, knowing that she’d spend a brief period in the car while we walked to the General Grant Tree, since it was pretty close to the road.
As we entered the path, I ran across a man with a beautiful parrot, which I of course had to hold. He said something about her being Queen of a Galaxy far away… All righty then.
Onward to the mighty General Grant Tree. It is the second largest tree in the world based on its total trunk volume. The tree is 267.4 feet high, has a circumference of 107.6 foot at the ground (wider than the General Sherman Tree). Its trunk has a total volume of 46,408 cubic feet. It would take 20 people holding hands to complete the circle around the base.
Because of its wider circumference at the base, the General Grant tree was thought to be the largest tree in the world and President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed it the “Nation’s Christmas Tree” in 1928. In 1931, when the first precise measurements were taken they discovered that the General Sherman Tree was slightly larger.
But, even more interestingly, the General Grant Tree is the only living object to be declared a national shrine. This was declared by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 in living memory for those who had given their lives for their country.
These trees were so unexpectedly large that when a section of a cut tree that had a 24-foot diameter, named the Centennial Stump, was sent to the Philadelphia Centennial exhibition of 1876, Eastern people refused to accept it as part of a single tree and called it a California hoax.
And Sequoias are also extremely resilient. There is a photo of a troop of men and their horses in front of a fallen giant named the Fallen Monarch taken in 1900. The cavalry kept their horses in the hollow log, and early construction crews camped in beds inside the tree.
We saw and walked through the Fallen Monarch and it looks much the same as it did in the photograph. Sequoias endure hundreds or even thousands of years on the forest floor. And they must have many stories to tell.
It’s hard to think that these trees are not all there is to see in the park, but as we continued our drive into Kings Canyon, we found much more. As the road climbed beyond the altitude where the Sequoias thrive, the magnificient trees were replaced by views of glacial gorges, granite cliffs, mountain meadows, and rivers.
Kings Canyon itself, with a maximum depth of 8,200 feet, is one of the deepest canyons in the U.S. It is said that for a short distance it is indeed the deepest canyon in the U.S. But the road was closed way before we could reach it.
Hector had been feeling much better on our last couple of days in the area. He wasn’t having any more coughing attacks at night, and just had a very slight occasional cough during the day. And we’d saved a short climb for the end figuring he’d be feeling better.
So back in Sequoia National Park on our last day, we climbed Moro Rock. This is actually an easy climb which almost anyone should be able to handle.
There are 400 steps to the top on a stone stairway. The stairway is impressive, it was cut directly into and poured onto the rock, blending with the natural resources and following natural ledges and crevices.
In fact, the stairway was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 for both its design and the quality of its workmanship. It was designed by the National Park Service and built by the Civilian Core of Engineers in the 1930s after the first stairway, which was made of wood, deteriorated.
With metal railings and large jagged rocks acting as barriers to the edge, it’s accessible even (maybe) for people that are afraid of heights. We had fun watching a few folks tentatively taking the last steps to the edge at the top and getting photos capturing their adventure.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are both stunning. And, incredibly, they don’t get as many visitors as many of the other national parks. And with less people around, they do feel a little more wild.