Monday, June 9, 2008

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park is America's 2nd oldest National Park and it turned out to be a “WOW” moment. We knew we were going to see giant sequoias, we just did not realize how really huge they would be and how awe inspiring. Pictures do not do these trees justice. The National Park and adjacent Sequoia National Forest are absolutely beautiful. The sequoias grow mostly in 'groves', about 75 groves in all, and the rest of the park is populated with all manner of evergreens. The park smells just like Christmas!!!

In volume of total wood, the giant sequoia is the largest living tree on Earth. At least one tree species lives longer, one has a greater diameter, three grow taller, but none is larger. Sequoias grow only on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada.

The General Sherman Tree is an estimated 2,200 years old. It is the world's largest living tree. Its largest branch is almost 7 feet in diameter. The top of General Sherman is dead but the rest of the tree lives and each year grows enough new wood to make a 60' tall tree of usual proportions.

What really amazed us was the size of the cones. The assumption was that the cones would be of a size befitting the tree. Not so. The cones are the size of a chicken egg or a little smaller. The cones hang on the trees, green and closed, for up to 20 years. Fire is the key to the cones opening and seed dispersal.

Many of the sequoias show signs of fire damage but they are very resistant to fire and in addition to helping the cones open, the ash residue from fires is important for keeping the ground fertile.

If you ever get to this part of the country – I would vote for skipping Yosemite NP and opt for a tour of Sequoia.

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