We spent a productive week in Berkeley.
I went into San Francisco and had a mooch about: I got off the Bart at Embarcadero and just started walking up the biggest hill I could find (i.e. California), before heading back down toward Powell station to home.
I also went to the UC Berkeley botanic gardens, partially to have a look at the flowering Queen of the Andes (otherwise known as puya raimondii) and also because I knew I’d get a view of the Golden Gate Bridge from there. And what is a trip to San Fran without seeing The Bridge?
Happily our membership to Huntington Gardens in Pasadena got me into these gardens for free.
When the conference finished at lunchtime on Friday we wasted no time – we got straight on the freeway to Fresno, which would be our overnight stop before tackling Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Park.
After an uneventful drive we arrived in Fresno only to discover we’d have to drive right through town to get to our hotel. We had the amazing luck to get across the train tracks before the world’s longest train arrived (see video).
We were greeted at the hotel by a bunch of ducks (or geese?).
The hotel (Courtyard Marriott) was alright, especially once we’d partaken of a couple of happy hour cocktails each; and the next morning we were up bright and early to be out the door at precisely 8.17am.
Fresno is about 50 miles from the park, or about an hour’s drive. There was essentially nothing useful on the internet about either park so we just had to piece together what we could to make a plan. Plan A was to go look at the General Grant tree, then drive into Kings Canyon and back out. Plan B was to drive Route 198 (otherwise known as the Generals Highway) through to Sequoia National Park and out the southern entrance back towards home. The reason Plan B was in fact, Plan B, was because the Internet told us that the 198 was ‘very twisty’ and ‘difficult’ and you would ‘definitely get car-sick’.
So we arrived at the park at about 9.30am and entered at Big Stump.
We found the Visitor Center and discovered that, even though it’s only a few hundred yards, one couldn’t walk from there to the General Grant tree. So we got back in the car and drove. Happily there were loads of parking spaces.
We did a circuit of the trees in the grove and were suitably impressed by how truly staggeringly big they were, and how truly staggeringly annoying a particular bus load of tourists were. When it was time to leave the carpark was full and cars were circling.
At this point we decided we would tackle Route 198 to Sequoia – we’d already got to 7000 ft so we figured we were most of the way there. The first part of the route was easy and had spectacular views. We stopped at many turnouts before getting to the General Sherman tree parking lot at about 11am. Again, there was plenty of parking.
General Sherman is supposed to be the largest tree in the world, by volume, if you count the branches. The sign told us its diameter is 11 meters (36 ft), and it is 275 ft (84 m) tall. It was pretty damn impressive.
When we left, the parking lot was full again. We guessed we were about half an hour in front of everyone somehow.
General Sherman marked the beginning of the Sequoia forest area, and the ‘difficult’ bit of road, and we soon started seeing massive trees everywhere – so much so that they became ordinary. The photos below really don’t do them justice – be assured they are the biggest things we’d ever seen.
We think it was definitely worth taking that road, and it really wasn’t that hard to drive.
Then it was the long slog back to Pasadena, with a pit-stop at a miscellaneous gas station Subway, back over the mountain of Doom with the trucks, back into LA traffic. We were home (with a stop at the supermarket) by about 5.30pm.