In California’s southern Sierra Nevada mountains, Sequoia National Park and its neighbor, Kings Canyon, are home to the world’s largest trees, the namesake sequoia. From 180 to 250 feet tall, these gentle giants manage to reach for the sky, thanks in part to a chemical in their bark called tannin that protects them from insects and fire. In fact, the low winters and fire history in the mid-Sierra area are ideal for these massive trees, as low-intensity fire actually prompts sequoia cones to open and drop their seeds. On our recent visit we were humbled by and in awe of these majestic beauties, including General Sherman, the park’s biggest resident at 275 feet tall and 36 feet in diameter.
We opted to join a Sequoia Parks Conservancy guided tour and learned so much from our guide, who shared the history and biology of the park and pointed out animals like chipmunks, mule deer, bluebirds and more. Our 4-year-old soon declared that he wanted to snuggle a chicory chipmunk since they were so tiny and cute. Had we tried to read some of this information out loud to our own kids, they likely would have walked away or expressed disinterest, but coming from a friendly guide, who brought facts and details to life, it was well received. The nonprofit conservancy works to protect the park and share its wealth with visitors through small group guides among the giants as well as Crystal Cave, a marble cavern so fragile it can only be visited by timed ticket.
We also built in some downtime to play hide and seek among the trees, climb rocks and take the Junior Ranger oath (and receive a badge) at the visitor’s center. The granite dome Moro Rock trail was also a favorite, with the reward of vistas of the Great Western Divide after the 350-step climb. We all felt renewed after a weekend breathing in the fresh mountain air, being in nature and perhaps pondering our own purpose in life while face to face with a 3,000-year-old tree.
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Editor’s Note: Photo by Tanvi Chheda