Today was our day in the park! We started bright and early (which isn’t all that hard to do considering the time change) with a hearty breakfast… “Where” you ask? At the Wuksachi Lodge of course! After a delicious breakfast we headed down the hill into Giant Forest to meet Sherman.
General Sherman is the biggest tree in all the land, or the world, or maybe just most of the world. The funny part about Sherman is that he is not the tallest or widest tree in the land/country/world, but as he is still growing (after more than 3000 years) he still produces some crazy amount of wood every year. The challenge for many a forest ranger, is that there is some controversy regarding our friend Sherman. Apparently the postal service issued stamps last year that featured some plants or something, but they claimed that another tree is the largest in the world. That tree’s special skill is that it grows new trees not from seeds, but from it’s roots and they can spout up all over the place while still growing large. Our friendly ranger addresses this “controversy” (his words, not ours and yes he said it with all seriousness) by defining the largest tree as one tree, and one seed. Under that controversy-free definition, Sherman is both large and in charge as the big man on…. well, everywhere. During our friendly ranger’s informative briefing where he discussed the facts and the controversy, a bear wandered up behind him and kept on walking. In case you’re wondering, this is the point in the presentation, where the tourists stop pretending to pay attention, whip out their cameras, and run after the bear. “Isn’t it dangerous to chase a bear” you might ask? Why yes it is. That bear, luckily for us, was nervous about the human stampede and walked/crawled/meandered away.
After learning all about Sherman, we walked the Congress trail where we were out-hiked by a couple that couldn’t have been any younger than 73 years old. As I stopped many times to catch my breath (I kept blaming the altitude) poor Frank wanted to catch them and show them our fitness and youth. Because I have lead in my khakis we did not catch them. 1-point for the old folks, 0-points for the wipper-snappers. Embarrassing. Once we took the slow trek through Congress we walked the trail of the tall trees. They are both really beautiful trails to walk but we had worked up quite a hunger so we took a short trip back to the Lodge for lunch and to charge our camera. Our afternoon plan was to make it to Moro Rock for sunset (as it was recommended to us) so we saw Beetle Rock and then started the journey up the mountain toward our vantage point for sunset.
The trip was going to be a bit longer than usual because a key road (that cuts out about a mile and a half of the trip) was closed for construction. We left ourselves plenty of time and along the way we saw many more big trees and an older gentleman with a walking stick who was on his way back from Moro Rock who told us it would be worth the trip. He also mentioned that it was a long way and we had just started so we continued the walk up the mountain. We were feeling like we might be almost there when Frank froze. I saw him extend his camera arm and whisper that there was a bear. I quickly swore at him telling him to put his camera down and back away slowly. We were the only people on that side of the mountain and the bear was looking right at us, clearly staring us down. He could probably smell the power bar in Frank’s pocket, and our delicious salty flavored clothing. The bear huffed and hissed at us while we backed away slowly and I passed gas. Bears give me gas. I think I’m allergic. He did not eat us. I’ll bet you were worried, but have no fear, there’s more blog to come!
We made it to the top of hanging rock and then finished our trip to the base of Moro Rock. We were told that there were 420 stairs to the top of Moro Rock and thought it’d be fun if we checked it by counting. Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with the “in my opinion” about the stairs because the only opinion that I have is that there are a hell of a lot of stairs and we lost count so that we could catch our breath. Breathing seemed infinitely more important (and harder to do than count) at that moment. We made it to the top safe and sound to discover natures wonder and have a bird’s eye view of the surrounding mountains, majesty, and their sunset.
Once the sun had set it occurred to us that there would be very little light left for the journey home and as we had traveled on a lightly marked trail through the woods for at least an hour to get there, we might experience a bit of a hiccup on our walk back. We climbed back down the rock (down all of those stairs) and it had already begun to get dark. We opted to walk the road path, even though it was closed, because the idea of navigating the bear-filled forest in the dark didn’t seem like a very good plan. We walked, and we walked, and we walked and we walked. We encountered many scary noises and obvious sounds of “something” tracking/following us while we walked. This time Frank and I both had gas. Apparently we’re both allergic to bears. Anyway, after cursing the ranger-girl who recommended the lights-out forest tour, we made it back to the car safely. I said it at the time but will say it again, thank you God. We appreciate you not letting anything eat us.
Back on the ranch, we stopped at the front desk to “thank” them for this invigorating experience (a real life stair-master if-you-will) when the fellow who checked us in asked us in all seriousness “Why didn’t you bring flashlights? They didn’t mention anything about flashlights?!??!” Needless to say, he apologized and mentioned that we probably would have been fine and that area really doesn’t have any mountain lions anyway. Mountain Lions?!?!?!? OMG. Because of all the “Be Bear Aware” signs, we didn’t even think about mountain lions. We shared with our front desk friend that we are delicious and practically covered in marmalade – something that all bears enjoy – and that perhaps flashlights or warnings should be shared in the future. Holy crap. We headed back to the room, finished last night’s bottle of wine (time for something to calm our nerves) and closed out the night with dinner at the Wuksachi Lodge.
I love that place!