Tag Archives: travel photos

The Big Trees – Sequoia National Park

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Rob loves trees – Big time. So seeing the biggest trees in the world was an ambition of his. A bucket list item. The Sequoia’s in the Sierra Nevada aren’t the tallest trees in the world, nor do the have the biggest circumference, but they do have the greatest mass and are the oldest living things on the planet. They really are giants.

Happy family Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park

The “Happy Family” copse of Sequoias

Visually, although their size is impressive, it is more their beauty that strikes. Their majestic presence is humbling and it is impossible not to be utterly wowed by them. The red bark is soft to the touch on the older trees and has a dull hollow sound when knocked upon… giving you an overwhelming desire to find a secret door somewhere around their vast girth. And often a dark door like opening is found in the form of a fire scar, allowing you to actually step inside drawing you further into their magic.

Sequoia National Park

Inside a massive Sequoia’s burn scar

For me, more than their size and beauty, (as if they aren’t enough), the invincibility of the sequoia’s is perhaps their most awesome quality. They don’t die of old age! Imagine that! They literally live forever if they are not toppled in a storm or cut down by man. Far from fire being a foe it is their friend… they depend on it to reproduce. The tiny seeds wait patiently in their dangling cones for up to twenty years until a forest fire, in the past started naturally by lightening but now either deliberately by their protectors or ignorantly by visitors too lazy to put bottles and cigarettes in bins, burns the floor around them and dries up the cones for them to drop their seeds. Once dropped the seeds land softly in the perfectly fertilised, ashy forest floor with all local competition, bar it’s parent tree, wiped out by the life giving fire.

Sequoia tree bark

The Bark of the Sequoia’s is resistant to fire, fungus and insects, making the tree almost invincible. It’s soft to the touch and sounds deep and hollow.

Even once fallen these never-ending trees go on, taking centuries or even millennia to degrade. In the process providing habitats to innumerable species of fauna and flora, even humans.

fallen sequoia

The trunk of this fallen sequoia has provided a home for humans over a number of decades in the last two centuries. For a sense of perspective spot Orla inside.

fallen Sequoia

Once fallen these mighty giants can take millennia to decompose. This has already been here for centuries.

Sequoia National Park offers more than big trees too. Near our camp at Potwisha is hospital rock where evidence of the five century long settlement of the Potwisha people intrigues the mind of us wanna be hunter gatherers. Over 500 people lived in the village, sustained by acorns ground in these grinding holes in the rocks like permanent and massive pestle and mortars, and other abundant resources in these luscious mountains. Their pictographs adorn the split rock over one hundred years on from their demise… their first encounter with white people. Although not malicious, they were befriended by the areas new settlers and within a decade so many had been killed by newly introduced diseases that the survivors dispersed and the village site abandoned.

Pictographs at hospital rock Potwisha, Sequoia National Park

Pictographs by the Potwisha people at Hospital Rock

grinding holes at hospital rock, potwisha, Sequoia National Park

Grinding holes made by centuries of acorn grinding by the Potwisha people at Hospital Rock.

The wildlife in sequoia is impossible to miss. Woodpeckers are as common as sparrows and almost every bit of dead wood has neat lines of stored acorns. Deer meander through the campsite and squirrels and chipmunks dart around the undergrowth of the pretty oaks. At night bats, far bigger than our British ones come out with audible calls and there is as much wild sound after dark as in the day.  

woodpecker at Potwisha camp ground Sequoia National Park

A woodpecker welcomes us to Potwisha Camp Ground

acorns stored by a woodpecker

Acorns stored by a woodpecker. Every bit of standing dead wood was covered in long lines of holes filled with acorns.

Lizard

A lizard popped out to say hi too

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From East to West – The Road Trip Days, Part 2

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Oklahoma to Mesa via Santa fe

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The following morning seemed to drag also, due to various mishaps such as muffin mushed into carpet and painful splinters in feet requiring two man extraction. Plus the traffic around Oklahoma slowed down our pace. But our plan for the day was to drive… and drive we did. We detoured from the interstate at Elk City to drive across the Black Kettle National Grassland. Now these were country roads… Big skies, long empty roads and stunning views stretching for miles and miles.

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Open views for miles and miles

By the afternoon the sky had interesting clouds though and we were mystified by the strange mists rolling around us blocking the views… Suddenly the “clouds” closed in and smelled of smoke… we were headed straight for a wild fire. The winds were picking up and an email arrived from a friend warning us of the tornadoes building in the area. Now quite honestly I’m all for a bit of excitement and extreme weather and were I not with my three small children and beloved husband I would be well up for sticking around in the thick of the action… but with our parental instincts kicking in with full force we were driving on adrenaline to get the hell out of there!

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The smoke was closing in and getting thick

A sheriff come in the opposite direction and turned us around away from the fire. Following her directions to safety we relaxed until the moment the wind made a dramatic change in direction, the smoke thickened and we realised this way was even worse… so did everyone else and trucks, cars and bikes started turning around as three fire engines with gas masked men on the front wizzed past, lights flashing and sirens blaring.

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The fire engines had wizzed past and we decided to head the other way

Detouring again down dirt tracks we managed to put some distance between us and the smoke and finally came across a small town with a Subway for some sandwiches, as our picnic plans were somewhat scuppered by the extreme weather. From the car to the door was treacherous with strong winds which nearly picked feather light Patrick off the floor. We ate and we drove… and we put as much distance as we could between our children and the dangers we simply aren’t accustomed to.

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We put some distance between us and the fire as quick as we could!

A beautiful sunset and clear interstate got us to New Mexico and we stopped for the night at Santa Rosa, transferring sleeping babies straight to their beds. Far more efficiently we rose, had a quick breakfast and hit the road, making it to Santa fe by mid-morning for a fantastic brunch. Santa fe is an interesting place. It’s hard to remember you’re still in America feeling far more Spanish/Mexican. Stunning art and crafts line the streets and the wealth of the area seems to seep through the side walks adding glamour to your steps.

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Santa fe is a beautiful city. Even the drive to get there is stunning with the snow capped mountains of New Mexico towering over the desert

A city for hippies and artists we didn’t spend long with the children but is definitely on my list of places to return to in the future with adult only company. It’s beautiful, romantic and exciting. After the delicious food we wandered back to the car peering into the pricey shop windows wowing at the cowboy boots and massive diamonds and set off again to reach Mesa by nightfall. It was a long drive but it was fun and we made another detour once we reached Arizona.

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The Painted Desert within the Petrified Forest National Park. The colours are from various geological periods with gaps from erosion between vast time frames.

The Petrified Forest National Park, an incredible desert landscape with fascinating geology spanning almost unfathomable periods of time and littered with trees so old they have turned to stone. It’s hard to get your head around the process of wood being changed into stone and yet retaining it’s fine detail, character and appearance. More than just retaining such detail it is enhanced with vibrant crystal colours and a texture which is difficult to process when your eyes see trees but your fingers feel rocks. It’s hard to picture the forest that once was in this barren, Mars like landscape but the evidence is there, fossilised and palatable and so real to the naked eye and fingers.

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The Petrified Forest National Park… fossils like you’ve never seen before.

The kids have been great, looking out and discussing the landscape. Although there have been plenty of rows over toy guns and catapults, goodness knows how many toilet stops and far more hours watching films then I would ever have thought I would allow. Rob and I have been listening to the audio-book of The Earth Abides, at the start of which he completes the same road trip in reverse – it’s passed many hours and complemented the landscape with apocalyptic loneliness we both love to imagine.

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