A while ago I was addicted to a popular social media game that allowed me to plant and care for my crops on a simulated farm.
As I was driving through California I was stopped at an all-traffic stop that resembled a toll booth. When I pulled up the woman inside the booth asked, “Do you have any plants or fruits in your vehicle?” Being accustomed to reporting guns or weapons to customs, I began to report my bear spray. Then I realized she was asking about plants and fruits…but why? When I reported the couple of oranges and bananas I’d purchased in Oregon, she waved me on.
That encounter with the “plant and fruit police” became clearer as I continued my drive through California on I- 5 and subsequently Highway 99. I passed farm after farm of the widest variety of plant life in my life. The rows of trees of all sorts: olives, apples, oranges, almonds, avocados, and many others, spanned as far as my eye could see.
The best part of this real life Farmville was the fruit stands. I stopped at the Blossom Trail Fruit Stand to find an assortment of fresh and dried fruits and nuts. The dried kiwis and bananas I purchased at that fruit stand proved to be the perfect road trip snacks for the remainder of my journey.
The abundant and awe inspiring plant life continued as I made my way into Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. While the mileage was minimal (less than 200 miles) the drive from Yosemite National Park to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park took me nearly 7 hours. The switch backs, hills and valleys made for a slow but beautiful drive with many stops along the way to take in the scenery.
I stayed in the heart of the “Land of Giants” at the John Muir Lodge. Now having stayed in a lot of different woods, I’m able to compare their differences, and the sequoia woods had a much different feel to them. The trees are so large that it’s the perfect setting for a storybook scene with giants and oversized animals. Looking into the distance of the forest full of giant tree trunks I could picture a larger than life character like Paul Bunyan and Babe, the blue ox running through them.
Everything about the forest was manly and taking a deep breath of the woods’ musky sweetness made me feel like I was getting a dose of testosterone. The names of the largest trees in the forest kept with the consistency of the manly theme. General Grant, the widest tree on Earth at 40 feet wide, was rooted only a couple of exits down the main road from where I stayed and only 45 minutes from him is the biggest tree on Earth, General Sherman.
The grandeur of the Generals was like nothing I’d ever seen. While they didn’t seem as tall as other trees I’d seen, the size of their trunks and branches was so impressive they almost appeared fake. The Fallen Monarch is a tunnel that’s been created through a fallen sequoia and helps give perspective to these impressive creations of nature. Walking inside a tree made me feel smaller than ever and I found myself touching the bark to make sure it was real.
Using some extra rope from my gear I measured the circumference of one of the trees next to my cabin. Even the nameless tree within feet from my cabin measured in at 28.2 feet in circumference. The simple act of measuring the tree gave me a true sense for its size. It took me nearly 15 minutes to make my way around the large trunk and maneuver my piece of rope around it. I had to measure it by tying my rope to a rock and throwing it around the large trunk one section at a time.
General Sherman holds the world record as the biggest tree on Earth not for his width, height, or age but rather the overall volume of his trunk. As I stared up at him in awe of his size and how much space he took up it amazed me that just miles away are fields of tiny fruit trees that are dwarfed by his size. It seemed to me that the land and soil there must be magical for it to create such amazing plants, both those abundant with fruit and those the size of giants.