Posted in Travel

Sequoia National Park in a day

We spent a productive week in Berkeley.

A surprising grove of gum trees at UC Berkeley.
A surprising grove of gum trees at UC Berkeley.

I went into San Francisco and had a mooch about: I got off the Bart at Embarcadero and just started walking up the biggest hill I could find (i.e. California), before heading back down toward Powell station to home.

From the top of a big hill
From the top of a big hill – that’s the Bay Bridge in the background.
Another big hill - I walked down this one.
Another big hill – I walked down this one.

I also went to the UC Berkeley botanic gardens, partially to have a look at the flowering Queen of the Andes (otherwise known as puya raimondii) and also because I knew I’d get a view of the Golden Gate Bridge from there.  And what is a trip to San Fran without seeing The Bridge?

Golden Gate Bridge - just!
Golden Gate Bridge – just!
The big 'thing'
The big ‘thing’ – i.e. the Queen of the Andes plant

Happily our membership to Huntington Gardens in Pasadena got me into these gardens for free.


When the conference finished at lunchtime on Friday we wasted no time – we got straight on the freeway to Fresno, which would be our overnight stop before tackling Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Park.

More freeways
More freeways.
Not far then...
Not far then…
Good job we had snacks.
Good job we had snacks.  Mmmm artificial.

After an uneventful drive we arrived in Fresno only to discover we’d have to drive right through town to get to our hotel.  We had the amazing luck to get across the train tracks before the world’s longest train arrived (see video).

We were greeted at the hotel by a bunch of ducks (or geese?).

They seemed largely indifferent to us.
They seemed largely indifferent to us.

The hotel (Courtyard Marriott) was alright, especially once we’d partaken of a couple of happy hour cocktails each; and the next morning we were up bright and early to be out the door at precisely 8.17am.

Fresno is about 50 miles from the park, or about an hour’s drive.  There was essentially nothing useful on the internet about either park so we just had to piece together what we could to make a plan.  Plan A was to go look at the General Grant tree, then drive into Kings Canyon and back out.  Plan B was to drive Route 198 (otherwise known as the Generals Highway) through to Sequoia National Park and out the southern entrance back towards home.  The reason Plan B was in fact, Plan B, was because the Internet told us that the 198 was ‘very twisty’ and ‘difficult’ and you would ‘definitely get car-sick’.

So we arrived at the park at about 9.30am and entered at Big Stump.

Big trees.
Big trees.

We found the Visitor Center and discovered that, even though it’s only a few hundred yards, one couldn’t walk from there to the General Grant tree.  So we got back in the car and drove.  Happily there were loads of parking spaces.

We did a circuit of the trees in the grove and were suitably impressed by how truly staggeringly big they were, and how truly staggeringly annoying a particular bus load of tourists were.  When it was time to leave the carpark was full and cars were circling.

Yep, it's that big.
Yep, it’s that big.

At this point we decided we would tackle Route 198 to Sequoia – we’d already got to 7000 ft so we figured we were most of the way there.  The first part of the route was easy and had spectacular views.  We stopped at many turnouts before getting to the General Sherman tree parking lot at about 11am.  Again, there was plenty of parking.

The views were amazing.
The views were amazing.

General Sherman is supposed to be the largest tree in the world, by volume, if you count the branches.  The sign told us its diameter is 11 meters (36 ft), and it is 275 ft (84 m) tall. It was pretty damn impressive.

General Sherman.
General Sherman.

When we left, the parking lot was full again. We guessed we were about half an hour in front of everyone somehow.

General Sherman marked the beginning of the Sequoia forest area, and the ‘difficult’ bit of road, and we soon started seeing massive trees everywhere – so much so that they became ordinary.  The photos below really don’t do them justice – be assured they are the biggest things we’d ever seen.

Trees! Also, sunroof!
Trees! Also, sunroof!
Just some more MASSIVE trees.
Just some more MASSIVE trees.
Now we're driving between trees!
Now we’re driving between trees!

We think it was definitely worth taking that road, and it really wasn’t that hard to drive.

The downhill bit of the road was also beautiful.
This part of the road was also beautiful…
...with more spectacular views.
…with more spectacular views.

Then it was the long slog back to Pasadena, with a pit-stop at a miscellaneous gas station Subway, back over the mountain of Doom with the trucks, back into LA traffic. We were home (with a stop at the supermarket) by about 5.30pm.

Urg, freeway mountain.
Urg, freeway mountain.


Travel, photography, blogging, being an expat. And that's just in my spare time.

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