California Diary | Sequoia National Park and General Sherman
I’ll be honest: I wasn’t looking forward to our trip to Sequoia National Park. In fact, when Terry first mooted the idea that we sit in a car for 3.5 hours, just to get out, look at a tree, then drive all the way back again, I was like:
(Thanks for the worst photo of me ever taken, mum! Love you too!)
Anyway, both Terry and my dad have wanted to see General Sherman (Who I persisted in referring to as ‘Ben Sherman’, all day. And that right there tells you all you need to know really, doesn’t it?) since they were little boys, and they’ve now visited pretty much every branch of Sephora in California (plus all of the ones in Florida) just for me, so I couldn’t really complain. I mean, I DID complain, obviously, but inside my own head, mostly, where I was all, “But it’s just a tree? How good can it possibly be?”
The fact is, though – and I realise you already know this, by the way – General Sherman (Or “Ben”, as I like to call him…) is very far from being “just a tree”. It’s a TREE. An OMGLOOKITTHATTREE. It’s … there are really no words for it. The tree – sorry, the TREE – sits in Sequoia National Park, which is amazing in itself. First of all we stopped off at Tunnel Rock, near the entrance to the park:
That’s me and Terry on top of it. I’ve no idea what Terry’s doing, I just know I thought this would be the MOST embarrassing photo of the day, until my mum took the one above it: GOD. It was a bit scary on top of the rock, and I’ll just quickly remind you here that Terry is scared of heights, and had found the drive up pretty hairy – FORESHADOWING. (I’m ALSO scared of heights, but only if I’m in a cable car, or on a wobbly building or something, so me and mountains, we’re cool…)
Next, we headed on up the mountain, parked up, quickly scanned the many signs warning us that bears were likely to try to break into our car and eat everything in it, then started out on the short walk to General Sherman (I know neither the actual General or the tree are/were called ‘Ben’, by the way – just thought I should point that out, in case anyone’s thinking I’m ACTUALLY that stupid. Because I’m FAIRLY stupid, true, but not THAT stupid..).
(So, yeah, obviously not my best look ever, but I got up at 7am to sit in a car for 3.5 hours, then hike through a forest up a mountain: it’s hard even for me to care much about clothes in those circumstances…)
It’s a fairly short walk, which takes you past many giant sequoias – all of which were so huge it was hard to imagine how Sherman could really beat them:
I think it managed though, huh?
Once at the tree, you have to stand in line to have your photo taken in front of it. In the summer, the line can apparently be over an hour long (which is incredible, given that it’s a tree, up a mountain, miles from anywhere), but in September it’s much quieter, and although there were plenty of people around, we only waited for a minute or so to get our photos.
Walking towards the tree, it was impossible not to feel totally awed by the thing. I was very aware that, of all the people in the world, I was at that moment, the person standing next to this incredible, 2,500 (plus) year old living being – which I naturally couldn’t help but assign a personality to. Well, OBVIOUSLY.
“You all said ‘hello’ to the tree as you walked up to it, didn’t you?” I asked the family afterwards. “Er, no?” they all replied. Just me, then: but as I said, it’s a living being, it’s been there for longer than I can even imagine -I think it demands a bit of respect, don’t you? (And actually, most people around were looking at it in silent awe: it felt a little bit like being in a church or something…)
I never thought I’d say it, but General, you were worth the drive…
My favourite part of the trip, however, was yet to come, because next up we headed to Moro Rock, which is a rock (well, D’UH) hanging precariously off the side of the mountain. I don’t have any photos of it, because it had started to rain pretty heavily by this point, but Terry strapped the GoPro to his head, and we set off anyway. The rock is steep and high, and, as I said, dangling off the side of a freaking mountain, but there are stairs which take you all the way up it, and a set of handrails which allow you to walk right out onto the top.
Remember how I said Terry is scared of heights?
Well, he was brave: he made it almost to the very top, at which point I took the GoPro, purely so I could film HIM as well as the (amazing) view. There’s a great moment on the resulting video, which he may or may not be persuaded to upload, where I take the camera, and swing it round to reveal Terry hunkered down as low as he could go, clinging to the mountain and swearing like a trooper. Then there’s another few minutes of footage of him crawling back down again, to a soundtrack of my helpless laughter. Sorry, Terry!
Anyway, we didn’t get RIGHT to the top (we probably would have, had it not been for the rain, which made it feel even more treacherous), but the view was absolutely amazing – both you and Terry will just have to take my word for that, but I really enjoyed it, and can’t really begrudge California some much-needed rain. Actually, we were really lucky to be able to see the park at all: other parts were closed due to forest fire, which have absolutely devastated this part of the world, so I really hope that rainfall helped, and that there’s more to come. I also hope that one day I get to come back, climb that rock, and say another hello to my old friend “Ben”…