We drove to the entry to Sequoia National Park, some 6 miles from our stay, and then something on the order of 25 miles to our destination in the park. Those 25 miles were uphill and serpentine, so it took a while to get there. Once we reached the higher levels of elevation – over 5000 feet – we began to spot these giants of the forest. They’re easy to pick out with their cinnamon colored bark, their club shape and extraordinary size. The morning light enhanced our viewing of them.
We parked at the head of the Congress Trail loop and headed off to see the tree named “General Sherman” which is estimated to be between 2300 and 2700 years old. These trees grow to about 300 feet in height, to 3200 years in age, and have bark that can be up to 13 inches thick. We learned that they have no tap root, but rather a capillary like root system that goes no deeper than 7 feet; and that they need between 800 and 1000 gallons of water a day during their growing season. That season ends with the final melting of the snows – so unlike most plants we know, they grow during the winter. We hiked for about a half an hour along Congress Trail and saw the McKinley tree, then what was called “The House Group”. This was a close clustering of eleven huge trees. It’s hard to imagine it would be possible for all to survive so closely together, but we learned later in the day that they benefit as a group in water intake, and in the interweaving of their root systems. Typically nothing kills off these trees; rather they fall over losing their balance due to the unusually small root system. Judy offered a wonderful suggestion for our walk back to the car – that we walk in silence to truly take in the experience of being in a woods forested with these giants. We took a number of pictures and it will be fun to see how we did, but I think the reality is that the awesome size of these trees will not translate – it has to be witnessed.
I recognized then - and am reminded now - that the sequoias can teach us a thing or two... Our roots need not be deep if we are willing to reach out, either above or below "ground" to support one another, and if we are willing to share our resources.