Visit a new place and you’ll naturally want to experience something unique, something you can’t find at home. Anyone who visits the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains in California can experience something you won’t find anywhere else in the world: the tree known as the giant sequoia.
Take a trip to see some trees? Yes! When you first approach the Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park, it’s hard to realize where those giant sequoias are. In the middle of towering evergreen trees, you see some twisted, furrowed, tilted, brown—houses? Wait—no—those are tree trunks. Tree trunks that make the nearby evergreens look like greened toothpicks. And about half a second later you’ll know you have the privilege of looking at a wonder of the world.
When that moment comes, you’ll be following in the footsteps of everyone who has encountered the Sequoiadendron giganteum, including people who helped create the national parks and monuments that preserve these trees.
One man was John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club (named after the Sierra Nevada), who came to California in the 1860s. Through decades of writing about the giant sequoia and its relative, the giant redwood, he helped the rest of America understand how special these trees are.
Another man was Walter Fry, who started out logging the giant sequoias. He’d arrived in California in 1888, looking for work. As the National Park Service describes it, “After spending five days with a team of five men sawing a single sequoia, [Fry] counted the growth rings on the fallen giant. The answer shocked him into changing careers. In just a few days they had ended 3,266 years of growth.”
Two years later, on September 25, 1890, the U.S. Congress created Sequoia National Park (the country’s second national park) with these words: “…whereas, the rapid destruction of timber and ornamental trees in various parts of the United States, some of which trees are the wonders of the world on account of their size and the limited number growing, makes it a matter of importance that at least some of said forests should be preserved.”
Together, Sequoia National Park, the adjacent Kings Canyon National Park, Yosemite National Park, and Giant Sequoia National Monument protect all 68 groves of giant sequoias. They protect trees whose bark can be up to 3 feet thick; whose height can be 27 stories; whose girth at the ground can be 155 feet (try putting your arms around THAT tree); and whose age can be 3,500 years. These trees, measured by their volume, are the world’s largest living things.
You don’t need to know the numbers, though, to appreciate the giant sequoias. All you need to do is take the trip to see the trees. As John Muir wrote in 1870, “Do behold the King in his glory, King Sequoia! Behold! Behold! seems all I can say.”
Come to California and behold.
(Chrome Thunder Five-Star Motorcycle Journeys travels to the Sierra Nevada giant sequoia country on our Summits & Seas guided motorcycle tour. We spend one night at the Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia National Park. See Choose Your Tour for more information.)