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GoF West 2009

June 22-26, 2009, Squaw Valley, California

Page Six of Six

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Day Ten

We got an early start because of the long day that lay before us. Our caravan wound its way along the foothills of the Western Sierra toward Sequoia National Park. Yet another long steep grade (though not nearly as challenging as yesterday) took us back into the mountains to visit the world’s largest living things – the Giant Sequoia. There was a brief fuel scare with one of our group, but it worked out ok in the end. Eventually we arrived in the heart of the park and stopped for a nice lunch before exploring the area.

We parked at the trailhead for the path to the General Sherman Tree, the largest living thing on Earth. To put things in perspective, the lowest branch of this tree is by itself larger than any tree east of the Mississippi! Being downhill the entire way, the hike to the tree was quick and easy. Just as we were taking photos, the wind started to pick up ferociously. Violent afternoon storms are common in the Sierra Nevada and this appeared to be one of them. Too bad it’s uphill the whole way back, and the tops are down on the cars! Thunder roared over the peaks, shaking the ground and the wind was coming through like a freight train. Suddenly there were crashing sounds all around as pine cones fell from the trees like rain.
When you think of pine cones, you think of those little brown ones you find on pine trees. These ain’t them! The pine cones falling here can weigh several pounds and are often nearly 20″ long! Now imagine these bohemouths falling from hundreds of feet in the air, crashing and exploding on the ground all around you. Some people were laughing, some were screaming, some were running while others huddled around the base of the trees, hoping for protection. Knowing quite well what these cones have done to people in the past (similar cones in the San Bernardino Mountains of Los Angeles have killed many people), I was a bit concerned. Fortunately we all came out unscathed and with a good story to tell.
Thankfully there wasn’t much rain so we weren’t worried about the cars, but upon our arrival at the top of the hill we were greeted with a frightening site. Giant pine cones were on the ground all around the cars! Somehow not a single cone had hit any car despite being parked right under the trees. The gods of Abingdon were smiling upon us this day.

After the hike we headed over to the “Drive-On Log”. This used to be a place where you could drive your car out onto a fallen tree that had the top cut flat. In recent decades the wood has become rotten and unstable so it is no longer safe to do so. These days it’s more of a “Walk-On Log”. Next stop was the “Tunnel Log” for the typical tourist-type photo. Always a crowd pleaser. Our last activity for the day was a hike to the top of Morro Rock. From here you get a spectacular view of the High Sierra, including the Great Western Divide and dozens of peaks over treeline, many reaching over 14,000-feet in elevation. Satisfied with the day, we headed down the mountain in 60-degree weather and at the bottom 90 minutes later it was 114-degrees.

Day Eleven

We got the earliest start possible to avoid the heat through the lower valleys and fortunately it worked. High clouds also helped to keep the temperatures reasonable. At the halfway point we stopped for lunch before heading due south toward home. Before tackling the infamous “Grapevine” section of Interstate 5, we stopped for a restroom break at what we now refer to as the worst restroom in North America. Endless debates ensued about whether the men’s or women’s was the most horrible.

Depressingly close to the end of our adventure, we stopped one last time for goodbyes and chocolate shakes. Another grand road trip had come to an end, and it was one that we will never forget.

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