Gen. Sherman is a tree

By Mary K. Hamner
Journal Correspondent

Sequoia National Forest is located in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains of California and is named for the Giant Sequoia trees, which populate distinct groves within the boundaries of the forest. Covering 1,193,315 acres in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, its Giant Sequoia groves are part of its 196,000 acres of old growth forests.

We entered a part of the forest by walking through a giant tree that had fallen on the ground. The old hollow tree made an impressive entrance to one of the forest trails leading through the old growth forest. The trail with traces of snow on either side led up and up, through giant sequoias, some of the largest and oldest on earth. A partial fence, signs and pavement surrounded the outside area of the General Sherman tree said to be the largest tree on earth. "Some trees grow taller, and some are bigger around, but no tree has greater mass," a sign said. According to other sources, "The General Sherman is neither the tallest known living tree, nor is it the widest, nor is it the oldest, it is however among the tallest, widest, and longest lived of all trees on the planet. It was named in 1879 after American Civil War general, William Tecumseh Sherman.

The giant trees were well photographed before we ended our visit to the park and checked into our rooms at the motel. After a good night's rest we waked to the fragrance of rosemary and the beauty of red bud tree blossoms planted outside. It is easy to understand how some people become wanderers and explorers like John Muir. We began the drive to Yosemite on Saturday morning; having allocated most of the day to exploring the place Muir described as "By far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter."

Lemon Cove, Woodlake, Exter, added interest to the drive and we expected to arrive at the entrance to Yosemite around eleven a.m. Signs along the way said "Stop Psyllid from Killing Citrus". I later learned that this is an aphid like insect posing a serious threat to California citrus. As we turned on Highway 41, from flat farmland toward rockstrewn hills and valleys we were soon traveling through the Sierra National forest. Then we were entering Yosemite in its prime season.

We entered the park at the Visitor's Center and were surprised that we paid no admission fee. It was National Park week and we had opportunity to celebrate Earth Day and John Muir's birthday along with a crowd of other people. There was a lot going on besides, National Junior Ranger Day, Save the Frogs Day, and National Volunteer Day. Events were planned throughout the day that sounded interesting. However, since time was limited, we began our drive through the tunnel to see Nevada Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, the Merced River, and El Capitan.

Trails beckoned up steep slopes to the waterfalls. and our day became focused on what we could see and do in the time we had. Hair and clothing were bathed in the mist of the waterfalls but soon dried in the sunlight. We stood in line with other tourists for lunch and ate under an awning and watched as sunlight cast rays across the green meadows.

Leaving the crowd for a quick walk down a trail, we wandered past a marker telling the story of an early settler in the park. My camera battery needed charging by this time and I was frustrated by not getting a photo. As we wandered on, we came upon a small cemetery where this settler and some of his family were buried. Then, we discovered the museum. It was past closing time! Next trip we'll have a bucket list.

With three more days to travel we began tracing the route we had traveled before. The mountain scenery gradually leveled out into green fields dotted with herds of cattle and then groves of fruit; oranges, pistachio nuts, and lemons. After spending the night at Fowler off Hwy 99, we began our return trip early. We were to drop my Granddaughter off in Las Vegas before 3:30 PM. She would resume her job assignment tracking threatened tortoise for research in conjunction with Great Basin Institute.

It was hot in Las Vegas and we were on the #95 south by 4:15 p.m. Hoover Dam was open for visitors and we expected to cross over it into Arizona. We did cross and saw the spectacular view from the top and then discovered that we had to turn around and go over the new bridge built across Lake Mead. Smoke in the distance ahead indicated that some traveler had not been as lucky as we and we passed the carnage of the wreck on the road ahead.

In the two days we had left, we enjoyed the scenery we had traveled before, watched the cloud formations, the countless rows of fields arranged like cursive scrolls neatly fitted to the contours of the terrain. We passed the Lazy Heifer Saloon, Coyote Café, Armadillo Grill, Sweetie Pie Ribeyes and Catfish O'Harleys. Didn't stop because it would soon be time to pick up the pets.