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After Terry and I trekked amongst the giants within Sequoia, we ventured a bit further north to Kings Canyon National Park. According to John Muir, King Canyon features terrain that rivals Yosemite Valley and is home to arguably the deepest canyon in America. The park is comprised of two distinct “groves” – Cedar Grove and Grant Grove.
Cedar Grove is located at the bottom of Kings Canyon at the easternmost section of Hwy 180.
This area of the park features towering cliffs, the powerful Kings River and Kings Canyon, which at one section measures 8200 feet deep when measured from Spanish Peak down to the Kings River. This section of the park is quiet compared to Grant Grove. Pack a picnic lunch and spend the afternoon soaking up the splendor of the Kings River.
Located at the western side of the park, Grant Grove has far more traffic than Cedar Grove is the home of the second largest tree in the world – The General Grant Tree. There’s a short paved trail that loops around the green spaces of this section of the park allowing access to the General by those with disabilities.
In 1924, while studying the Grant Tree, a little girl exclaimed, "what a wonderful Christmas tree it would be!" The idea became a reality when in 1926 president Calvin Coolidge designated the General Grant Tree as the nation’s Christmas Tree. The Sanger Chamber of Commerce holds a special Christmas Service at the Grant Tree every second Saturday of December.
Sequoias grow only on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada between 5000 and 7000 feet of elevation. There are estimated to be 75 groves in all. They grow to heights of 300 feet and have a lifespan of over 3000 years. Chemicals in their wood and their thick bark insulate them from insects, disease and fire. These giants grow from the seed the size of an oat flake from a cone the size of an egg.
Once these giants became protected from logging, the main cause leading to the demise of a sequoia is toppling. They have a very shallow root system with no taproot. Excessive soil moisture combined with strong winds can topple these giant trees!
During Dwight Eisenhower’s term as president, he declared the General Grant Tree as a National Shrine in honor of those who have fought and died in war. We salute those who serve our country and to those who have made these amazing parks and their green spaces available to all!
- John Binkele