“The groves were God’s first temples.” William Cullen Bryant
“How dear the woods are! You beautiful trees! I love every one of you as a friend.” Lucy Maud Montgomery
Sequoia National Park—the country’s second national park—was created by President Harrison in 1890. Within a week, its size grew to incorporate the newly formed General Grant National Park. The park’s goal—then and now—was to protect and showcase the Sequoias, those wondrous big trees the park was named for. Sequoias, of course, are some of the largest and oldest trees in the world. Redwoods are also evident in the park.
In 1903 the first paved road was completed, increasing access to the park’s wonderfully big trees, but the access was still rather limited. Generals Highway opened in 1926, expanding visitation to the Giant Forest. This drive through the Giant Forest is one of my favorites—the grandeur and majesty of the trees is overwhelming.
In 1940, Kings Canyon National Park was created by President Roosevelt. This new park is situated right next to Sequoia National Park. Since World War II, the two parks have been jointly administered. The two parks really do work together as one big protected area, encompassing 1,353 square miles. The majority of this land (97%) is designated as wilderness. Each year, almost two million people visit the trees and surrounding area.
I feel lucky that these two national parks—Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park—are basically in my backyard. They are situated only about 120 miles away via a fun twisty-turny-steep road, so it takes about four hours to get to one of the various entry points. My most recent visit was a few weeks ago, specifically to look for some early fall colors. That trip was a success, but—regardless of the fall colors—the drive through the parks is always stupendous.
A Quick Glimpse into Kings Canyon National Park
A Short Terrific Drive through Sequoia National Park
Fallen Tunnel Tree
Some Short Drives through the Trees
If you have not visited these parks—or any of the other Redwood Parks in California—do so. As John Muir says, “The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” Trust me, you will be impressed.
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“But there is one tree that for the footer of the mountain trails is voiceless; it speaks, no doubt, but it speaks only to the austere mountain heads, to the mindful wind and the watching stars. It speaks as men speak to one another and are not heard by the little ants crawling over their boots. This is the Big Tree, the Sequoia.” Mary Austin
“When you enter a grove peopled with ancient trees, higher than the ordinary, and shutting out the sky with their thickly inter-twined branches, do not the stately shadows of the wood, the stillness of the place, and the awful gloom of this doomed cavern then strike you with the presence of a deity?” Seneca
“The tree is more than first a seed, then a stem, then a living trunk, and then dead timber. The tree is a slow enduring force straining to win the sky.” Antoine de Saint Exupery
“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from the old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.” Robert Louis Stevenson
“For in the nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver.” Martin Luther
“There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it.” Minnie Aumonier
“I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they live than other things do.” Willa Cather
“If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But it he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.” Henry David Thoreau
“You can live for years next door to a big pine tree, honored to have so venerable a neighbor, even when it sheds needles all over your flowers or wakes you, dropping big cones onto your deck in the still of the night.” Denise Levertov
“I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech-tree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines.” Henry David Thoreau
“Old growth forests are not a renewable resource.” Anonymous
“Today I have grown taller from walking with the trees.” Karle Wilson Butler
“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” John Muir
“A nation that destroys its souls destroys itself. Forests are the wings of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt
“Fancy cutting down all these beautiful trees. . . to make pulp for these bloody newspapers, and calling it civilization.” Winston Churchill
“It’s impossible to walk in the woods and be in a bad mood at the same time.” Anonymous