Forest of Giants
There is no sign of the giant trees as you first drive into Sequoia National Park. It is a twisty road up and up into the unknown. After what feels like an eternity, the trees are present. It is as if they have emerged from nowhere. You are hiking in a secret place hidden from the rest of the world.
It is hard to describe what it is like hiking up to a living thing this large. There is a sacred aspect to it like you are visiting a holy place. Rarely do we see things that cause us to be awestruck, but the General Sherman tree is truly awesome.
This is a moment that will stick with you always. It is like seeing something that should not be here. You feel incredulous like this tree is a species that used to exist but went extinct long ago. You have only heard stories about them or seen them in books. It is a dinosaur. It is the largest living tree on earth.
We arrived in April 2017 and there is snow everywhere still. California had a record-setting winter this season. We want to go hiking away from the crowds, so it is off to discover Tharp's log on the Trail of the Sequoias. We have no preconceived notions about this destination. That may be what made this hike so special for us. This is another reason being impulsive is often so great. You have no time to form expectations of what something is going to be like, and as a result, you do not set up comparisons. The experience just is.
We hike for hours in the snow with an intermittent trail. This gives us a great opportunity to practice our navigation skills, which is good because we are going to be on the PCT soon. The trees out here are still the giants we saw among the paved streets with the rest of the tourists. Although out here beyond the crowds, they are enchanting. With the snow all around and no other hikers but us, it is as if no one has been here before. The forest is ours.
A meadow stands before us and at its end is a strange structure. It looks like a log cabin attached to a hollowed out Sequoia tree. As we get closer, Tharp's log is just that. We peer inside to see a small table and bed. It is hard to imagine settlers living in this remote area without wondering were they lonely? Did they think it was beautiful or was life too hard to consider this place anything other than hostile? It is difficult to know, but interesting to think about as we sit outside of Tharp's home.
Hiking in the Snow
The snow is what made this hike so great. There were hardly any other people out on the trail. Navigation was more difficult because the trail was covered up outside of the grove of the giants. The trail is marked by symbols nailed to the trees above the snowlines. Each trail has its own symbol. It is a game to try to find the next marker in the forest, some are hard to find, others are easy. You had better have a good idea which way you are going if you happen to lose the trail. Making sure you know where you are on the map is a good way to stay found.
People may think that hiking in the snow is terrible. That may be true for some people and not for others. It also depends on how far you are going and how well prepared you are for it. It was not actively snowing during the hike, and we were not post-holing. All that said, we had mild jackets on, trail running shoes, and no one else around. The hike was great!
Heading up the coast, the trees get taller, as we get ready for more camping and hiking in the Redwoods read here.
- Bring your bug spray.
- Always hike with a map.
- Be prepared for all weather.
- For more information visit: https://www.nps.gov/seki/index.htm
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