17 January 2018

Sequoia

Continuing the story of our 2005 family holiday in America...
Joshua tree by the road to Boron
With many miles to go, we headed out of Las Vegas straight after breakfast.

Instead of driving all the way back to L.A. , we took Highway 58 near Barstow. It cuts across the desert landscape to Bakersfield. On the way over, we stopped at Boron, a dusty godforsaken small town in the middle of nowhere. It is named after the mineral boron or borax which is still extensively mined in that area. I blogged effusively about Boron before. Go here. 

After a hearty lunch in The Corral Diner, we carried on to Bakersfield where I filled up with petrol (American: gas) and then we motored northwards along The Central Valley. I thought of the Joad family in "The Grapes of Wrath" and their onerous journey from Oklahoma. The Central Valley was to be their salvation - their Canaan - but all they found was more hardship.

When I was twelve, our geography teacher set us a homework task - to draw a detailed map of California but that weekend I did something else. Instead of drawing a map in my book I made a huge  papier-mâché  model of The Golden State  and painted the mountains and deserts, before labelling the major cities. In the middle was the green swathe of  The Central Valley which I imagined to be a land of plenty with rich soils spawning all manner of vegetables and apple orchards and orange groves.

My relief map was almost as tall as me and I struggled to transport it on the school bus. In my mind's eye I can still see the face of my geography teacher when I presented that crazy labour of love and geographical enthusiasm. His jaw dropped visibly and he didn't know what to say.

And now I was riding along through the same valley all the way to Visalia where we took a right and headed east towards the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains. I had booked a hotel at Three Rivers, planning to drive into The Sequoia National Park the following morning.

The road up to the sequoia forest had only opened up the previous week after the annual winter snowdrifts. We saw a deer edging nervously from the trees and noticed that the snowy sides of the mountain road were banked up. A week before the park had been closed.

Finally, we arrived in the land of the giant trees and the greatest of them all was The General Sherman Tree - the biggest living organism on the planet. The ground circumference of the trunk is 102 feet and it is calculated that the entire mass of the tree  would weigh over 2000 tons . Furthermore, it is believed that the tree is about 2500 years old. It really is an awesome sight and I use that word deliberately. Awesome!
My family in the sequoia woods and below
Frances in front of  The General Sherman Tree

A couple of hours later we descended from the Sierra Nevada Mountains and headed for Fresno on our way to San Francisco where of course people wear flowers in their hair.

30 comments:

  1. Glad to see Frances had her bell bottom trousers ready for San Francisco.

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    1. I was wearing a kaftan and beads.

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  2. They are magnificent trees...and it must be an awesome feeling standing among them.

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    1. Surprisingly, the bark of The General Sherman was soft and spongy. High up other parasitical plants were growing.

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  3. I missed the big trees when I visited California.

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    1. We missed The Giant Redwoods but in volume The General Sherman Tree is bigger than any giant redwood.

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  4. That tree (all the big trees, actually) really IS impressive!!
    Loved the story about your geography project. I hope your teacher gave you best marks for it.

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    1. I can't remember. It was so long ago but I should have been given a knighthood!

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  5. Oddly yesterday I was editing a photo of a friend whom I'd taken hugging General Sherman in 2004. What wonderful countryside that was/is.

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    1. It was so good to see it with snow on the ground. At that time of year the road through Yosemite is closed so that's why I factored in The Sequoia National Park instead.

      P.S. I hope that Mrs Sherman was not offended!

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    2. There was snow when we were there too: in March. I can't recall offhand which of the National Parks we could access but the height of the snow at the road sides seemed higher than houses.

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    3. P.S. I don't think Mrs Sherman knew.

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  6. I like that you took your huge model to school on the bus. By the time I was in school, most kids who had to take a model would get a lift to school on the pretence that the model might get broken in the terribly rough bus ride

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    1. It was thirteen miles to my school. There was no chance of a lift.

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  7. Thank you for taking us on this travel - it brings back good memories for me.
    You have such a lovely close-knit family.
    The enthusiasm you had for your school project is amazing, and you definitely enjoyed doing it! I hope you got good marks for it.
    Greetings Maria x

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    1. Shouldn't learning be like that? Joyful and with a willingness to go a few steps further? Thanks for calling by again Maria.
      Neil (YP)

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  8. I read your Boron post and am glad to know you saw “the real America” as well as the glitz and glamour that are Los Angeles and Las Vegas. When I was a child I spent many hours looking at things like The General Sherman Tree and Niagara Falls and Old Gaitful geyser on my Viewmaster Stereopticon or whatever it was called. Fascinating post. I was impressed by your creativity and perseverance with the giant physical relief map of California. I’m sure it made your geography teacher’s day/week if not his whole year/career!

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    1. Thanks for calling by once again Bob and leaving such a pleasant comment. I am glad that my blogpost sparked some memories of your childhood.

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  9. I like what you did for your homework. Much more fun than just an ordinary map.

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    1. I never had similar creative notions with my Maths homework! What drudgery!

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  10. Poultry shows take me up and down the Central Valley several times a year. I prefer Hwy 99, the old one, to I-5 that is sort of just stuck to the bottom of the coastal hills on the western side of the valley. Your observations about the area are interesting because you see it with a different view. Trips through the valley have always been marked by where we stopped for gas or refreshment. In the olden days, it was at little stands that looked like a big orange. Now it's at super stations, usually where trucks refuel, where there are restaurants and huge bathrooms and lots of touristy junk to buy. My favorite is Avenue 18-1/2 in the mid valley, and The Olive Pit just south of Red Bluff. The route from Bakersfield, through Barstow and on to Arizona is my least favorite, Hwy 58. There is a poultry show in Victorville, just south of Barstow, that is my least favorite because of the trip. But if you can go to the show on that route and then come home on 395, up the back side of the Sierras, it's okay. It takes longer, but it's beautiful.

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    1. You know those routes well Jan and it sounds as if my blogpost has conjured up many old memories. Thanks for calling by again my friend.

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  11. Wow! The sequoia trees of California never cease to amaze me! I hope some survive as long as our planet does. Our first visit was in 1973 and our last visit to Sherman was 2015. I have a picture of me in 1973 in front of that tree with a guitar strapped on my back, long blonde pigtails on either side of my head and a baby boy in a stroller beside me. Those were the days, my friend. But they ended and I became a responsible, average person.

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    1. You had your guitar? I wonder what you were singing that day. And as for becoming a responsible average person - you must be kidding me sis!

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  12. What a nice looking family you have, Neil.

    I'm impressed by your story of the paper mache model you made of California all those years ago. Did anyone take a picture? What ever happened to it? I'd love to see it!

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    1. It was on display for a while but I guess it ended up in a school bin. Sadly no photos were taken of it.

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  13. I am not a traveller but there are a couple of places I would visit if I could teleport there - the California Redwoods or the Sequoias (either one would be fine!) and Newfoundland's flat top mountains (Tablelands). General Sherman is truly amazing. What a great portion of your trip.

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    1. Teleporting would be great wouldn't it? I'd go to Antarctica but I think I would need to remember my gloves and my Hull City beanie hat.

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  14. Bakersfield is widely held to be synonymous with s*hole (to use Donald Trump's elegant phraseology). I've never seen the sequoias, but I hope to one of these days. I'm impressed you all were studying California in such detail in a British school -- you can bet very few (if any) kids in America are being asked to make finely detailed maps of the UK. (Which is a shame.)

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    1. When I was a camp counsellor in Ohio in the mid-seventies I ran into an American fellow who took a hell of a lot of convincing that his first language was not actually "American" but English! It was only when some other guys in the bar backed me up that the light finally dawned on the defendant.

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