Left Sedona Tuesday night. Made it to a rest stop east of Bartsow, California. Slept there six hours in the back of my Sexy Sienna.
The Mojave Desert ain’t the Sonoran. No hay saguaros. No hay colores. The Movaje is brown desolation. And the towns along the way, from the border to Bakersfield, ain’t too comely either.
But Tulare County is interesting. There are orange groves everywhere! The whole county seems like one big grove. Add to it lots of pumpjacks and, well, you can see there is some money flowing into this part of California.
But I came here for Sequoias. And they are here. But you have to search for them, as John Muir once did. That’s because they don’t grow in large swaths like pines and fir. They only grow in isolated groves between six and seven thousand feet on the western slopes of California’s Sierra Nevadas.
Though the Sequoias’ cousin, the Coastal Redwood, had been know from almost two centuries prior, the Sequoia itself wasn’t seen by white people until 1852, because of that isolation. And, from the beginning, there was controversy about what to do with them. Allow commerce to log them? Make the government protect them? The Sequoias advocates were the first California Tree Huggers.
I guess I’m glad the huggers won the fight. After all, the Sequoias still stand, here at Sequoia National Park, and other GOVERNMENT preserves throughout the Golden State. I don’t have to trudge miles through alpine wilderness. I can just drive up to them along winding roads of color and vistas.
And they jump out at you! Though the firs and pines that surround the sequoia groves blend into monotony, the sequoia cannot. Each one commands attention. Each one makes you stare to determine if you are looking at a real and living thing. You are. They are that big.
Take the above General Sherman Tree. This is the biggest living thing on the planet. The diameter is 36′. It stretches 275′ to the sky. As your eye follows the branches, bulges, curves and snags to the top you lose perspective. You think there’s now way it’s that big.
Then someone walks next to it. Then you compare their puny body to its majestic one. Though there are trees that are wider or taller, the volume of wood of the General Sherman is the most on the planet. Yes, it is that big, and old at roughly 2,400 years, from the times literally before Christ walked the earth.
But the General Sherman is one of many in just that grove. There are about seventy-five isolated groves of sequoias throughout the Western Sierras. I won’t see them all. I’ll only see some. Regardless, for what I have seen, and what I will see today, and tomorrow, I do thank God.
This trip was like a pilgrimage. The Sequoias were #1 on my bucket list. Why? Perhaps it’s the buzz of seeing things that seem to defy reality, like Grand Canyon. Perhaps it’s the deep curiosity of what conditions of land climate come together to create these spectacles of nature. Perhaps it’s the hope that God would reveal something more of his majesty here.
But, frankly, dunno. Don’t care either. I’m just happy to be here.