119. Sequoias

Thirty years ago I was living in San Francisco, scheduled to give a talk at U.C. San Diego, and on the way to SF airport I found myself thinking there was no need to deal with airports that day, and decided to drive on to San Diego. I gave the talk and had several days to drive back up. I came inland and made my way to Sequoia National Park, not the first time I’d been there but the first time in spring.

I remember that trip especially for dogwoods blooming below the giant sequoias – the most massive trees in the world. I was vaguely hoping I might see that this time, but I was a few weeks early. This post has no biological or philosophical content; it’s just a travelogue, from a few days in the forest before I headed to a workshop in Asilomar. I did do some thinking about forests that will be put to use when I give some new lectures later this year, but for now I am just going to put up some photos.

The first day was instructive. In perfect sun and bright snow, I did some standard short walks in the national park and at one point in the afternoon decided to switch paths. I planned to take a winding route back. But about 40 minutes later, this path disappeared into deep snow – no blazes visible, nothing – and I had to retrace my steps and take another way out, eventually exiting much later than planned. A reminder that things can go wrong even quite close to roads and other people.

On the second day I drove deeper, heading towards Kings Canyon, and then came back and spent a lot of time in the trees near Round Meadow. That wonderful spot is seen in the first photo above.

On the third day I decided to try to drive to “Road’s End.” As I drove, the weather warnings became steadily more dramatic, and I turned back towards Sequoia Park just before the storm came. It arrived in three distinct stages. The first was an abrupt fall of mist through the trees. This was followed by a fusilade of tiny hail, and then heavy snow.

I came back to Round Meadow and found some birds, a robin in an incense cedar and a chickadee in a pine. I was watching the chickadee with some sympathy – a tiny bird in a freezing snowstorm at 6000 feet. Completely at ease, he looked back at me being slowly buried, and tilted his head as if to say, “What are you doing up here in this?”



A lot of snow fell during the night, but some roads were open the next day, and I parked at Wolverton and walked along the closed road to the General Sherman tree through deep snow. (This is not General Sherman, but a smaller tree nearby.)

The Sierra Nevada remains one of the places I think about most often. Especially the giant sequoias.


A few more photos:


* Slides from my Minimal Minds talk at Erice, 2024

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