Saturday, July 9, 2011


Now I like spending time here in Tehachapi, but sometimes, when it's just too hot here, I'll make a break for cooler climes. And just recently I spent a day up in the Sequoia National Monument. This is a section of the Sequoia National Forest that has been set aside to protect several small groves of Sequoias. 

The area is hidden away up north of Kernville and Johnsondale. But is less than a three hour drive from Tehachapi. You should stop in Kernville on the way to top off your gas tank and get any other supplies you might need. The Monument and Forest have no services.

Now this isn't part of the National Park and isn't really very well known. The rules are different. These trees aren't fenced off like in the National Park, so it is possible to actually hug a Sequoia. 

First you should consider going to the “Trail of 100 Giants”. The parking can be difficult on a busy weekend ($5 parking fee per car). Though that's due to having only a small amount of parking available, not due to huge crowds of visitors like at the National Park. Crowds here will number in the dozens. There is a nice trail with not much in the way of a grade, that takes you through a large grove of Sequoias. Make sure and pick up one of the maps with all the information on the marked stops on the trail.

The maps will also help you learn to make the distinction between the incense cedar and the Sequoia. Which look similar when they are small. (OK. When the Sequoias are small.) And all around the trail are places where people can get off the trail and explore these giant trees up close. One, the “Goose Pen” is actually three Sequoias that have grown almost together at the base. Making an enclosure, which is possible to squeeze into and look up at the sky through the Sequoia branches far above. 

In other places you can find near jungle gyms of roots from uprooted Sequoias. (If you want pictures without people in them plan to get there early, since people love to climb in the roots.) Another part of the trail takes you down along a Sequoia that fell many years ago. Which gives you a better understanding of the sheer size of these trees.

Now, while the crowds here are small (in comparison to the National Park) you might still want to get even further away from people and enjoy these trees in more solitude. If so, I'd recommend the “Freeman Grove”. It is a bit of a drive but the roads are good. And you can see and touch the George H. W. Bush tree (and if you can find someone who knows get them to tell you the story of his visit to the tree). There is a nice trail leading to it and along a pretty little stream. And being out of the Monument and in the forest you are allowed to pick up cones. Sequoia cones don't look like you'd expect, and the seeds are tiny.

So sometime this summer, if you want to get away, the Sequoia National Monument could be a good choice. Giant trees and different wildflowers. And if you take enough friends you might be able to do a group hug of a tree.

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