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Daniel Tours America
Orange grove, CA
28th May 2008
Sequoia National Park

Last night I went out to 'the other hostel' - another owned by the same people as mine - where they again fed and entertained us.  The entertainment was stand-up comedy, which was great except the comedians kept telling culturally-relevant jokes that the Brits and Aussies (the place was exclusively populated with these races) would not get, and then doing that hurt comic standard of blaming their unfunny joke's poor reception on the audience being stupid.

After that we went to Santa Monica Boulevard to a club where there was a little karaoke happening.  I sang two songs, quite well, but the concept didn't really take off among the backpackers.  We (I and a bunch of Brits) had a Mexican meal in the middle of the night (the US equivalent of the kebab I suppose) and then took a very shady taxi back:  the driver was either drunk or retarded, even in our state we could tell something wasn't right.
A night out on the beers - special offer beers at that - was just what I needed.

The following morning, Wednesday, I drove from LA to Sequoia National Park through some very pretty countryside.  There were many fruit plantations, lemon and orange mainly, and I stopped at a market from some local produce for dinner.

Upon arrival at the park I pitched camp.  Being in a bear area meant I had to lock my food in large metal bins with complex locking mechanisms.  By "food" the NPS actually mean anything with a scent.  Anything!  As you can see in the photo I locked-up everything that was on the list: food, drink, mozzie repellent, first aid kit, WD40, beer, chewing gum, detergent, etc.  Luckily no bears broke into the car overnight to steal crumbs.

In the evening I tried to make the most of my time by seeing some of the sights. On the map it looked just a few miles up into the trees, but of course this was full of switchbacks all the way up the mountain.  As I ascended I entered and, amazingly, then left the cloud layer, and as I approached the giant tree I felt like I was in Jurassic Park, what with the prehistoric-looking huge vegetation and the swirling mists.

I saw the General Sherman tree, the World's Largest Tree.  Now, that claim is rather like the Oscars:  correct, but quite obscure. It's not the tallest nor the widest, but it's the tree with the largest volume in the world.  Yes. It is 2200 years old and has a volume of 1500 m3.   Sequoiadendhron giganteus ("giant sequoia tree", I believe) keeps growing for thousands of years, and so a mature tree's foliage is dozens of metres up in the air, making the tree look less like a conifer and more like a bog brush.  In the car park I saw a very bold coyote strutting around like he owned the place.

I also climbed up onto a rocky outcrop, ignoring the "ye shalt die of lightning if ye continue" signs, to see absolutely nothing because of the mist.  Finally I went to the tunnel log, where one can drive a car through a sequoia log.  I was doubly disappointed - firstly because for some reason I had imagined driving through the log lengthways, and in the end it was sideways.  Bah.  Secondly, because a poor German tourist had stopped in the tree for a photo and locked his keys in his running car.  I pitied him because exactly the same thing happened to us when we were in Grand Canyon in 1995. Another couple had also taken pity on him and offered him the use of their warm car to sit in while he waited for the mechanic.  However after 3 hours without a mechanic the other couple's patience was wearing thin.  Mine was too, as I wanted the killer snap of my car in his car's position; and so the two of us managed to convince the German to break into his car.  It was amusing to watch him smash the window and then be unable to reach the lock.  I used a long stick to wind the window down and finally the day was saved.

Next: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
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Diary Photos

Orange grove, CA

Bear-proof box, Sequoia NP, CA

Coyote, Sequoia NP, CA

Tunnel Log, Sequoia NP, CA

Sunset over Sequoia NP, CA

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