Last Day at Sequoia

I’m a fan of auspicious moments.  As I drove into Sequoia, the woman who checks passes said “Welcome Back!”  I was floored. “You remember me?”  “Of course, you and your dog–you make a great team.”  Auspicious. As was the weather:

Early morning at Sequoia
Earl Morning Sequoia Muntains

I decided we should start at the sort of top.  Stopped at  Lodgepole and asked for a better map of Converse Basin, but they had the same not great one I had gotten from Mr. Shouldn’t Work in a Vistor Center.   Drove past Big Meadows and stopped at Grove Village, where I met a  lovely  family–the parents both work at the park service in Virginia and their two adorable children loved and loved on Calliope.  “Mom, can we get a dog just like this one?  This dog?” Told them all about where Calli came from and found out all about what they do for the Park Service.  I always want to take pictures of the people I talk to, but that’s intrusive. So I don’t.

Not too far to Grant’s Tree, a major draw (translate: not enough parking spaces and frustating finding them).  Finally found a place in the shade, put down the windows and left Calli (it’s in the park so no dogs).  Took lots of photos of Grant’s Tree. Best I think is the “panoramic video”

Panoramic Video

But there are photos too:

Grants Tree
Grant’s Tree from further off

Grant’s Tree is pretty far up in Sequoia.  My ultimate goal, Converse Basin, is even further. But on the way is the Chicago Stump, so called because in the 19th century folks didn’t think other folks would believe trees could grow as big as Sequoias. So, they chopped down a 3200 year old tree so they could reassemble it for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.  They really did.  But! It was so big and impressive the folks at the Chicago Worlds Fair thought the tree was a hoax.  What a waste.

Unlike Sherman’s tree and Grant’s tree and Sentinel, the Chicago stump lives down a long Forest Road (read: thank God I have a Subaru):

Forest Road to the stump

I parked the car about 3/4 of a mile away and walked. At the end of the forest road was a Trail Head sign right next to the trail. Life as it should be:

A Trail Head sign actually next to the trail head!

The open sun turned to a shady forest path with a beautiful meadow

Meadow by Chicago Stump
Forest Path near the meadow

The stump itself sits by itself in a little clearing. I wanted it to have more fanfair.  But you have to really want to see the stump and search it out, make it the object of a pilgrimage, just to appreciate how big it is:

Chicago Stump: big

Big, indeed. But to get an idea of HOW big, here’s a bit of scale

Calli for scale next to Chicago stump

Don’t you think this fallen warrior needs a bit of fanfare more glorious than a trailhead sign right next to the trail?  (Esp. since you need to drive a mile along a dirt road to see the trailhead sign).  On the other hand, you get to hang out with Mr. Stump all by yourself for as long as you want in a peaceful little clearing.

No one tells the story of Mr. Stump’s friend in the same little clearing:

Mr.. Stump’s stumpy neighbor

Big, but next to Mr. Stump, not really big.

Well, we’ve come this far, so, sure, we’ll drive to Converse Basin, a three mile hike through Giant Sequoias, including the Boole Tree.  We have, at this point, driven more than two hours into the park (not counting stops) all UP, to get to the recommended easy enough for the lady with dog trail, a trail which, it turns out, is chiuso.

Road Closed

If you zoom in, you will see my road IS CLOSED.  Inauspicious? Nah. The math was clear: got to the park at 8:15, it’s now almost noon; three mile hike will not be  a quick one in the forest; then two hours down, another hour to Visalia.  So I turned back.  (I did, however, make sure I stopped on the way out to tell my buddy from the Vistor Center that the recommended trail was closed.  Excuse: Forest Service’s problem: they tell us nothing)

On the way out I stopped at Lodgepole again to walk Calli and “support the park” (i.e. buy souvenirs). Stopped at the Forest Museum (glorified gift shop), leaving Calli in the car.  The gift shop is in the midst of giant trees:

Giant Forest Museum with giants looming over

Including the Sentinel:one of the largest of the Sequoias (more than 250 feet high).

All in all, a bit of a weird day.  Lots of driving, back a bit tetchy. Dog mopey and not eating.  Didn’t get to see the Boole Tree or the grove of giant sequoias.  But still very cool.  Plus, I have really mastered the art of downshifing an automatic car on ridiculous downhill grades with hairpin turns and no guardrails before you tumble to oblivion. Not that I thought of tumbling to oblivion.

I have also mastered the art of tire-freak-out. My air pressure was low yesterday and a guy at the air pump in Three Rivers put air in my tires (at my request–I fear I’ll overfill).  He didn’t use my gauge–he did it by sound and kicking the tires (they make a different sound, I guess). Well today at a high elevation the tire pressure light went on–not the ‘low pressure’ light but the ‘you have a issue light’, the TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system).   I stopped at the gas station in the park and a guy told me that pressure lights always go off at high elevations. Not to worry, it would go off as soon as I wasn’t at 7000 feet.  But all the way to Visalia the light stayed on. Called Subaru Roadside service; called a Subaru dealer in Fresno.  Asked Jon to look at them. The guy yesterday had over-filled them. Jon took some air out and they are fine. Whew.  Next time, I’ll do it myself and not be such a weenie.

On the way out got a shot of Bald Dome:

Bald Dome

Just outside of the park is Kaweah Lake, fed by the Kaweah River that runs through the park.  These are not the most spectacular shots of a very spectacular lake surrounded by golden (right, Annie? not parched) hills. But they were the shots I could get:

Recreation area at Kaweah Lake
You’ll have to trust me that the lake is spectacular

Jon came to Visalia and we had Japanese food and then came back to the hotel so he could submit his paper.  It’s been a lot of fun–kind of like taking a kid to college.  Sad to leave…

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