Please excuse my awful title–I thought of it on the drive home from the park and convinced myself that it HAD to be used.
My last post, from the Short and Feisty Finances Series, brought you the budget for this trip, so now it’s time to get down to the Nature Nitty Gritty.
I was a Girl Scout for most of my formative years and grew up running through the trees, singing the hits of the Spice Girls, and preparing the silliest possible skits to share at the campfire. I can’t remember a time in the last 5 years where I spent a significant time exploring the flora and fauna of our untapped lands, so I figured it was about time.
While watching the nature documentary series Planet Earth (now streaming on Netflix), I learned that largest known living single stem tree on EARTH was 3.5 hours north of me.
So I packed up my car (read: I got into it with my phone, keys, wallet, and iPad mini–remember I neglected to plan) and mapped the route using the Google Maps app.
Through my AUX plug, I streamed the Overdrive app on my iPad and listened to some audiobooks that I’d checked out of the LA Public Library system–all over the internet.
WHAT IS THIS TECHNOLOGY!?
The fairly tedious drive is accented with giant oil rig farms, rows and rows of orange orchards (including the orchards for the clementine brand Lil’ Cuties!), and a good deal of run-down architecture–as if time forget this pocket of the state and left the buildings untouched.
I got through a good chunk of the beginning of “Dracula” when I started seeing signs for the park. Near to the entrance, a lake popped up to my left. This was especially puzzling to see for a SoCal transplant that moved one year into an on-going 4 year drought.
“What is that wet stuff down there,” I asked no one in particular, for there was no one in the car.
More puzzling were the lines in the mountains that looked like they’d been carved there:
Obviously the drought has taken it’s toll on this lake as that mark is where the water USED to be.
Further along and I encountered this cute little Happy Valley that gave me warm fuzzy feelings–for many years, I would daydream about California (most of my knowledge based off of 1960’s Disney live action movies) and this setting just brought back all of that TV nostalgia:
Up some more sloping hills, I came to the entrance of the park where I was given a map, a quarterly newspaper of park information, and where I bought my pass.
“Will there be signs pointing me to the General Sherman Tree?” I asked the booth attendant.
“Oh yeah, there’s tons of signs.”
WRONG. The signs for the General Sherman Tree didn’t start until you got close to it–before that, you have almost an hour’s worth of a drive to get up there. And it’s all through winding mountains, on a two lane road, some of which has absolutely NO barrier between your car and the gaping crevasse in the mountains.
As someone who has both an anxiety disorder AND a giant fear of heights, the 7,000+ foot ascent was no easy task–my hands were clutching the steering wheel so hard that I thought they may bleed and my foot remained so light on the gas pedal that I felt badly for anyone traveling behind me.
Lucky for me, since it was the middle of the week, there weren’t so many people traveling into the park, so I could go as slowly as I wanted.
When I entered The Giant Forest, my jaw dropped to my chest. HOLY MOLY I had never seen trees so tall or THICK. Some were so big that I guestimated you’d need at least 20 people linking arms to hug these giant plants.
The Big Daddy of them all, The General Sherman Tree, sits at the top of my must-see list. But first, I had to hike a half mile to get there.
For someone in moderately good shape, the hike down is a cinch. There were plenty of old people moseying down the trail and a long-legged Norse family that was walking slower than them and taking up the WHOLE FREAKING PATHWAY HOW ARE YOU SO SLOW YOU BLONDE HAIRED AMAZONIANS?!
At the base of these mountains, it was about 90 degrees that day but when I reached The General Sherman Tree, it was only a cool 67! NATURE! WONDERS! NATURE!
I got to the foot of the trail and was ready to meet the big daddy tree of all big daddy trees–
Stay tuned for Part 2!