Getting to the grove of trees was an adventure in and of itself. Due to some recent snowfall it the mountains, the only grove accessible to us was in Sequoia National Park: the General Grant tree. It's the 3rd largest in the world by volume. We drove through a lot of flat farmland to get to the park, but soon we caught a glimpse of the mountains ahead.
A "triple layer" mountain picture
A rock that Kelsey found - granite, I think?
Great picture of orange groves with mountains in the distance
By the time we got to the south entrance of the park, both girls were carsick from driving on the winding roads. However, the Park official at the gate told us that we couldn't drive up to see the General Sherman tree (the largest in the world) as we had originally planned on attending without tire chains, and we couldn't get through till noon due to construction. The other entrance to the park is where the General Grant tree is (the 3rd largest in the world) and that grove was plowed and clear. It was "only" a 90 minute drive to the other entrance if we wanted to go there.
Well, we hadn't come all that way for nothing, so we decided to head to the other entrance. On the way back out, we parked by Lake Kaweah to stretch our legs, take some pictures, and play in the wildflowers.
Gorgeous view of the lake and mountains from the road
Some of the wildflowers growing in the grass across the street
These blossoms were on a tree, so I guess they aren't really "wildflowers", but they were beautiful nonetheless!
The girls and I climbed up on this earthen ledge across the street from where we parked the car. I confess - I wasn't sure I was going to be able to make it up the hill because it was so steep. And coming down? Let's just say it was a little hair-raising for me.
Since the girls love to gather bouquets of wild flowers and we can rarely take them with us, we take a picture to immortalize their creations. This one is Olivia's.
Self portrait of me and Mom, since the girls were too busy playing in the flora to be bothered.
We followed the instructions from the GPS to get to the other gate. However, that isn't the way that the guy at the gate told us to go. It ended up taking us along a bunch of back roads by people's pastures. The roads were very windy to say the least. It didn't help the car-sickness of our younger passengers all that much.
But it really was beautiful.
As you can see from the above picture, we started seeing snow on the ground. In fact, the higher we climbed, the lower the thermometer on my mom's car read. Before we knew it, it was 42 degrees and snow was everywhere! We finally pulled over to let the girls throw a few snow balls.
And walk in the snow, of course.
Little did we know what was in store for us when we got up to the other entrance for Sequoia National Park.
And when there's that much snow, there's only one thing you can do...
Have a snowball fight!
(I shot a video of Grandma Crews and the others once I had my fill of throwing them myself.)
And maybe I shouldn't find this picture funny, but I do. Kelsey is crying because Olivia had just hit her in the face with a snowball (by accident, I think), and Olivia looks freezing her in capri pants. See how pink her legs are?
Eventually we got to the grove. I took so many pictures and not a single one of them really captures the majesty of these trees. They are surrounded by plenty of other tall trees, so it's easy to lose sight of just how big everything is up there. However, here's the "Reader's Digest" version of our walk through the grove.
The girls are standing at one end of the Fallen Monarch. This is a tree that fell possibly a century or two ago, and has been hollowed out by fire. They don't know if it happened before or after it fell. The bark of these trees have tannic acid in them, which keeps bacteria and fungi from being able to grow on it, thus slowing down their decomposition after they die.
Picture of the girls from inside the Fallen Monarch
A baby sequoia tree. Looks nothing like the big guys, right?
General Grant tree (from a distance)
One of the things that really surprised me was the tops of the sequoia trees. We've all seen the pictures of the giant redwoods with their tall, reddish tree trunks, right?
Well, the tops look nothing like that.
It is a knotted, gnarled bunch of grey branches and trunk. It's at the top of the trees that you can see that they are old. And I'd love to know what lives up there. Probably birds, squirrels, etc. But there seems to be room for a whole colony of creatures! Maybe even gnomes??
This tree was split by fire. You can see some fire damage on some of the other trees, but when it comes to sequoias, fire is good. Fire is what helps the seedlings germinate for young sequoia trees to grow.
By the time that we got back down out of the mountains, it was 72 degrees. The girls warmed back up, and we were on our way to my cousin's house near Sacramento. It was definitely an experience I'll never forget!