It seems spring has finally overtaken us on our trek north. Outside Sequoia National Park the redbuds are in full bloom, the lupines (which look just like tall bluebonnets) are out in force, and the hills are covered with dark golden flowers the locals know as California poppies. But the ever vigilant Park Service is withholding judgment on the changing of the seasons. The winter rules on tire chains for all remain in force, despite daily highs in the mid-50’s. (California has a state law that requires all drivers to be in possession of tire chains when negotiating certain mountain highways or you pay a severe fine.) Yes, the weather can and does change suddenly, but we’re from Louisiana. Give us something we can live with, okay?
I voted that we skip Sequoia and Yosemite due to the snow, ice, and tire chains. But parts of Yosemite remain open year ‘round, so maybe we can see the parts that are not closed. But all of Sequoia is subject to the tire chains law, and its serious fines, so let’s skip it all, said I. The Kat had a better idea: book seats on a private tour bus. The driver will know what roads are passable and which are not, and he will be in possession of chains. She is often smarter than me, and usually wiser. We did it her way.
This nation and state has two species of huge trees, the Sequoia and the Redwood. Both are cousins of the cypress of which the unfortunate few of our readers who grew up in north Louisiana know well from lakes, duck blinds (cypress boughs make fine cover), and cypress knee lamps. Sequoias and redwoods both need a lot of water, and the reason they don’t grow in Louisiana is they also need cool weather and the occasional forest fire. Yes, these trees have bark so thick that only the baddest of fires harm them, and only fire can persuade their cones to drop seeds … and fall months later onto fire-cleared ground lacking grasses or ferny competition, soil ready to nurture tree seeds.
Our tourguide added much to our visit. He told us the history of the park, and how Teddy Roosevelt was convinced by John Muir to make the lumbermen who owned this fine land an offer they could not refuse. We learned how two or three trees each with a diameter equal or greater than the length of a full sized pickup truck could and so often do live within scant feet of each other. (It has to do with fires bad enough to kill ancient trees, the light fallen trees bring to dense forests, the fertilizer left by the ashes, and the indentation in the soil made by the falling of a 500 ton tree, and the interlocking of their root systems for mutual support. Yo, I’m an accountant and now and then a philosopher … ain’t never made no claim to being a botanist.)
The tour bus took the four of us all over Sequoia NP. We saw it all. So don’t let cold weather discourage you – the tour buses run all year, even when it might snow. Then somebody else gets to install tire chains.