We knew today would be long and tough but we just HAD to finish in style. Up at 7, breakfast and packed by 8, on the road by 8.30 heading North surprisingly. Although Sequoia National Park has an entrance right across from Visalia, it’s a long way up 5000 feet on a very narrow, windy road and we’d end up 40 miles further away from tonight’s hotel which was already 220 miles away. So start at the top and work down was the order of the day. Because of the rather strange road design around that area it took a good hour to reach the north entrance to what is actually King’s Canyon National Park and not Sequoia., by which time we’d already climbed 5000 feet but on a gentle incline with the odd hairpin to keep me awake!

Just past the entrance (no fee, “America the Beautiful” duly flashed, but we did get I.D.ed) we turned right and entered General Grant grove where, among a selection of giant sequoias, stands the 2nd largest tree in the world. Our first taste of what a giant sequoia looks like was a real surprise, as they are not in the clouds (like the Beanstalk!) so you can easily see the tops, but it’s the girth at the bottom which captures your attention and provides the “Wow!” moment. We had a bit of a walk round a loop trail which took in the General Grant tree and a fallen trunk you could walk into as if it were a wooden building. These two goliaths helped us make some sense of the dimensions we would be dealing with today.

Mary in front of the General Grant Tree

Back in the car, we now drove from the King’s Canyon National Park through south into the actual Sequoia National Park, maintaining our height (I’m still 5’9″!) and entering the land of the giants. We made our way to the car park near to the General Sherman tree (the largest tree on the planet) and walked down to see it for ourselves. We ticked a box here seeing the famous tree but actually it was a combination of all the other ones that made our eyes widen with delight. You know, after all that red rock and desert, it was wonderful to have living trees all around us, trees that were here when Jesus walked the Earth and some even older!

Having ticked off the big tree, we jumped on the Sequoia Shuttle bus and were taken down to the Giant Forest Museum which we visited for half-an-hour then took another shuttle bus further into the forest to a place called Moro Rock. Now this is a huge rock that overhangs the valley beyond and offers fantastic views of the high Sierras to the North and East, including Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the USA outside of Alaska. Now, believe it or not, those crafty American engineers have gone and cut a stone stairway all the way to the top of this rock, including handrails on both sides. Well, we could hardly turn down such an invitation, could we? So off up the stairs we plodded. And by the time we got to the top, we knew we were experiencing something quite extraordinary up there. Moro Rock itself is round and smooth and yet tourists are able to quite safely climb onto its whaleback and take photos from on top. And what a view we got from up there!

Moro Rock

On the way up

Selfie on Moro Rock

Once back down on the ground, we took a notion to go for a wee hike, so I checked out a trail of about a mile that would take us over to something else we wanted to see. Once on the trail and in among the pines but entirely on our own, the presence of bears began to play with our minds and we started to talk really loudly to each other, which is one of the tactics you are advised to use to keep curious bears from venturing closer to you. It obviously works because we saw not the slightest sign of Yogi or Boo-Boo in the depths of the forest and came upon the main road again, safe and sound.

As my orienteering skills are finely honed(!), we came out right beside our target, The Tunnel Log. This tree fell over in 1937 and somebody later had the bright idea of cutting a hole in it big enough for a car to drive through. This was after the more famous tree which straddled a road in the park and was also cut to allow passage to vehicles fell down in 1957. Well, we took some photos on foot then resolved to go back to the car and drive it down there for a better photo, at which point the shuttle bus drove by. I rushed over to intercept, charmed the driver into letting us get on (he wasn’t allowed to let people on except at official stops!), swopped shuttle buses at the Museum, reached the Sherman Car park where we’d left the car and drove back to the Tunnel tree. The results are obvious!

This wasn’t in my test!

It was now time to head down the twisty road to the bottom of the mountain and we knew there were road works half-way down. This delay caused by a much-needed contraflow left us sitting in the car for twenty minutes, by which time we were both fast asleep! I was woken up by Lady Burton shouting “George, they’re moving!” as the queue in front of me set off down the single track road. The journey down was quite amazing and we had continuous excellent views over into the valley.

Great view!

The road out seen from above!

Once outside the Park itself, there was the small point of a 200-mile drive over to our hotel in Barstow, where we had stayed three weeks before. OK, it was hard going but the ever-changing landscapes kept us enthralled for most of the time with crops, hills, desert and one-horse towns to consider. We stopped in a slightly more-civilised place and grabbed some fast-food for tea but ate it en route as it was getting on and the computer told us we wouldn’t reach our hotel until ten o’clock! Well I put my foot down and we got there at 21.58! We’d driven through towns called Boron, Cameron and Keene and we’d passed the famous Edwards Air Force Base where all the experimental flying takes place and where the first shuttle took off from and landed.

A beautiful dusk

So that’s it, our last day visiting on our tour of the West. Tomorrow we drive back to Las Vegas, drop off the car, stay the night in the Luxor, get up early, taxi to the airport and fly to JFK in New York. From there it’s straight to Edinburgh and the train back to Dundee. How will we ever cope!

Sequoias

Lady Burton in repose!

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