Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Calaveras Big Trees State Park and Highway 4

After a day of seeing beautiful sites in eastern California and the Sierra, and two days caving, we woke up bright and early and were on the road by 7 am from Murphy, California, with our first stop not far away: Calaveras Big Trees State Park. We went for a hike through the North Grove and had it all to ourselves due to the early hour. This is the place that the giant sequoias were discovered in California, the largest trees in the world.

We were immediately impressed. Desert Girl tried to hug a tree and couldn't get very far around it.

We enjoyed the interpretive booklet pointing out sights along the trail.

And we kept craning our necks to take in the very tall trees overhead. Coastal redwoods are the tallest trees in the world, but their cousins, the sequoias (sometimes called Sierra redwoods), get pretty tall too.

Some of the branches so high up are bigger than most tree trunks. This wouldn't be a good place to go in an extreme wind storm.

Most of the trees grow with a spiral. This one was especially obvious.

The trees were often spaced out, so we could see way up high. I was glad I had my wide-angle lens!

The kids had so much fun walking through this old tree.

And they were happy to check out the inclined bench, made to make tree viewing easier.

This fallen sequoia gives some good scale of how big the trunks are.

We managed a photo of the three of us.

This part with the meandering boardwalk was magical!

So what do the leaves on a sequoia look like? We found some younger trees where we could actually see the needles. They are kind of feathery and reminiscent of some junipers.

Desert Girl could actually hug a young sequoia and get her arms all the way around!

It would be fun to return in 100 or 200 years to see what these young trees look like.

Several plants were in the understory, including dogwood.

What does a sequoia cone look like? It's not super photogenic or impressive. The tiny seeds sure can produce big trees, though!

Some trees (not just sequoias) also had amazing lichens on them.

The kids were eager to spend their money, but the visitor center was closed. So we had to make do with a photo next to this neat sign. There are two campgrounds in the park, and maybe one day we'll get to hang out more with these amazing trees.

On this day, though, we needed to get home, so we continued on Highway 4 over the Sierra Nevada. I was quite surprised when the middle line disappeared and a one-and-a-half lane road appeared, weaving around hairpin turns, with steep dropoffs and no guardrails, next to scenic lakes studded with granite boulders. And there was more traffic than I thought there should be for this type of road on a Monday morning!

We made a quick stop at Ebbetts Pass, elevation 8,730 ft.

Although some thought this pass would become a major one, in reality it's a minor one, closed in the winter.

Nearby is the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). We hiked on it for about a minute. Some day I'd like to come back and spend lots more time on it.
The kids were great travelers and we made it home by dinner time, with a couple stops in Carson City and a stop at the amazing park in Austin (check out the obstacle course on the far side of the softball field!). It was a terrific trip and so nice to connect with friends and see some beautiful sights. I love traveling and learning about new places, it feeds my soul.

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