THE GIANT FOREST DISTRICT
The Giant Forest is the name given the largest grove of sequoias, which is more than a grove. It is a Brobdingnagian forest. Here is found the General Sherman Tree, perhaps the oldest and largest living thing, 36.5 feet at its greatest diameter and 272.4 feet high. There are scores of trees almost as large as the General Sherman, hundreds over 10 feet in diameter, and many thousand from the seedling stage upward.
In his book, Our National Parks, John Muir says, "* * * I entered the sublime wilderness of the Kaweah Basin. This part of the Sequoia belt seemed to me the finest, and I then named it 'The Giant Forest.' It extends, a magnificent growth of giants grouped in pure temple groves, ranged in colonnades along the sides of meadows or scattered among the other trees, from the granite headlands overlooking the hot foothills and plains of the San Joaquin back to within a few miles of the old glacier fountains at an elevation of 5,000 to 8,400 feet above the sea."
Giant Forest is also the name of the village beneath the sequoias where the Giant Forest Lodge and the housekeeping and auto camps are situated. Its summer population is about 3,000.
The beauty of the Giant Forest region is much enhanced by the many upland meadows, flower-strewn from the first blossoming of the amethystine cyclamen, or shooting stars in May, to the golden autumn glow of the goldenrod in September. The best-known meadows are Round, Circle, Crescent, and Log, all within 2 miles of Giant Forest Camp.
The California Big Trees must ever remain the supreme attraction of the park, although for many the mountain scenery and the fishing are added allurements. The Big Tree (Sequoia gigantea) is sometimes confused with the redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), the smaller species of Sequoia found only in the Coast Range of California. While gigantea approaches 40 feet in base diameter, sempervirens rarely exceeds 20 feet. The wood is similar in color and texture, but the foliage is distinct, and the bark of the Big Tree is much thicker and of a rich red color, instead of a dull brown. The most distinctive characteristic is that the Big Tree is reproduced only from the seed while the redwood when cut down sprouts from the stump.
There are many world-famous Big Trees in the Sequoia National Park, of which the General Sherman is the largest and best known. But there are scores or hundreds unnamed and almost equal to the General Sherman in size and majesty.
In addition to those noted for their size, the National Park Service has named and signed many of singular form, burned by fire, struck by lightning, or fallen in strange fashion. The trees which should be seen by all visitors are:
The General Sherman Tree.The largest, and perhaps the oldest living thing. Discovered by James Wolverton, a hunter and trapper, on August 7, 1879, at which time he named the tree in honor of General Sherman, under whom he had served during the Civil War as a first lieutenant in the Ninth Indiana Cavalry.
The age of the tree is unknown. It is estimated by those who have made a study of the subject as between 3,000 and 4,000 years. During this time it has withstood the ravages of countless fires, and, though greatly damaged, it has continued to flourish, and today produces thousands of cones bearing fertile seed from which many seedlings have been grown.
The results of the fire damage are seen in the great wounds at the base of the tree. Through repeated fires the sap-pumping system has been damaged and portions of the top have died; only 40 percent of live wood is in contact with the ground. The Sequoia, however, has such recuperative power that in time these fire scars will be completely healed.
The dimensions of this tree are as follows:
For years there have been rival claims by various localities for the honor of possessing the largest tree in the world. In order to settle these claims the California State Chamber of Commerce and Fresno County Chamber of Commerce conducted, in 1931, a tree-measuring expedition in Sequoia and Grant National Parks and vicinity.
The result of the work of several engineers gave the following comparative volumes of the trunks of the four largest trees measured, exclusive of limbs:
The General Sherman Tree was shown to contain 57,336 board feet more in volume than its nearest competitor and the King of the Sequoias retained his crown. This victory was probably a matter of intense satisfaction to thousands of persons who remember a visit to the venerable forest giant as one of the most inspiring experiences of their lives.
The Chimney Trees.There are two well-known Chimney Trees, one being on the east side of Sherman Creek close to the trail from Sherman Tree to Alta Peak, which is now the best preserved. The other Chimney Tree is at the northeast end of Crescent Meadow and was badly burned several years ago through the carelessness of somebody who left a camp fire burning. The Chimney Tree near Sherman Camp is a remarkable example of vitality, as it is thrusting out new branches despite the fact that its vitals are eaten away by fire.
The Living Corpse.This is probably the most notable example of vitality on the part of a Sequoia in the forest. About one-thirtieth of the bark remains, and the whole interior has been eaten away by fire; nevertheless, the tree still lives and thrusts out new branches each year. It is located along the Crescent Meadow Road.
OTHER FAMOUS TREES
Washington.Very impressive as to size.
Abe Lincoln.Thirty-one feet in diameter, 270 feet high, a rugged, ancient-looking tree.
Auto Log.A huge fallen giant upon which an auto may be driven with ease and safety.
William McKinley.Twenty-eight feet in diameter, 291 feet high.
The President.Twenty-nine feet in diameter, 268 feet high, wider at 120 than at 60 feet.
Keyhole.Burned out "keyholes."
Room Tree.Cavernous room within a standing tree.
Stricken Tree.Rent by lightning, but still alive.
Window Tree.Filigree appearance and many windows.
Chief Sequoyah.Old with huge burls.
Black Arch.Trail leads through charred, living giant.
Roosevelt Tree.One of the most perfect in the forest.
Pershing Tree.Named for Gen. John J. Pershing, has very richly colored bark.
Cloister.Four trees in a square.
Pillars of Hercules.Trail leads between two standing giants.
Bear's Bathtub.A cavity between two trees, containing water, frequented by bears.
ORIGIN OF THE NAME "SEQUOIA"
The change brought about in the Cherokee Tribe by the introduction of this means of expressing thought on paper was equally remarkable. A printing press was established, type made of the various symbols, and the news of the day printed in two newspapers. Their laws were printed in Sequoyah's alphabet, and also the Gospels and many other books both useful and interesting to the Cherokee people, who thus made rapid advance in general knowledge and in civilization.
The naming of the Big Trees of California "Sequoia" is a fitting tribute to that native American, a Cherokee Indian, who spelled his name Se-quo-yah. An uneducated, non-English-speaking Indian, he perfected a phonetic alphabet of 86 symbols with a character representing every sound in the tongue of his tribe, It was said that with this alphabet, sometimes characterized as one of the greatest ever invented, a Cherokee child might learn to read and write the Cherokee language in a few days, and that within a remarkably short time after the official acceptance of the alphabet by the tribe every one of its members was able to read and write.
The Sequoias are sometimes found in groups or groves. Such is the number of those near Giant Forest that it is scarcely an exaggeration to say that many other known groves of the Big Trees in California might be hidden in the Sequoia National Park and pass unnoticed. The principal groves easily reached in Giant Forest are the Parker Group, Congress Grove, Amphitheater Group, Founders' Group, and Huckleberry Meadow Grove. There are 22 distinct groves or areas of Big Trees in the park.
Descriptions of the Big Trees and of the other forest trees are found in two pamphlets, The Secret of the Big Trees and The Forests of Yosemite, Sequoia, and General Grant National Parks. These are for sale at the naturalist's office for 5 and 10 cents, respectively.
Persons desiring to fish in the waters of the Sequoia National Park must secure a fishing license, as required by the laws of California. These laws provide that every person over the age of 18 who obtains fish without procuring a license is guilty of a misdemeanor. The license fee for residents is $2; for nonresidents, $3; and for aliens, $5. These licenses may be obtained from any county clerk, from the State board of fish and game commissioners, or from the representative of the commission at Ash Mountain and Giant Forest in the park.
Fishing bulletins for the current year pertaining to park fishing regulations may be obtained at entrance checking stations, park headquarters, or from rangers.
Park regulations as to daily catch, etc., are identical with those of the State for the district by which the parks are surrounded, excepting in some areas where excessive demand necessitates reduction of the daily limit. Fishermen should obtain special bulletins at the park entrance stations.
Fishing is permitted in all the streams and lakes of the Sequoia National Park except in a few waters which are closed in order to increase the supply of fish. Information as to these closed waters will be found posted at ranger stations and near the waters.
In the early part of the season excellent fishing may be had in an hour's hike from Giant Forest. Later in the season it is necessary to go farther afield, but the skillful angler is generally able to take the limit.
Rainbow, Loch Leven, eastern brook, German brown, and golden are the varieties of trout found in the park. The golden trout of Golden Trout Creek has been introduced into several creeks and has done well.
In the Giant Forest district bathing may be enjoyed at Bridge Camp, Lodgepole Camp, and at Heather Lake. Bathing pools are especially marked, and on account of the danger of pollution of streams used for domestic purposes, bathers must confine themselves to designated areas.
The largest pool is located in the upper Lodgepole district.
An excellent bathing pool is available at Hospital Rock Camp, and many visitors stop here for a plunge en route to Giant Forest.
FREE CAMP GROUNDS
The National Park Service maintains camp grounds for visitors traveling in their own automobiles. The largest campgrounds are at Giant Forest and Lodgepole, where water is piped and modern sanitary and garbage-disposal facilities are furnished at about 500 camp sites.
Inquiries about free public camp grounds should be addressed to the Superintendent, Sequoia National Park, Calif.
Reservations or inquiries regarding hotel, housekeeping, and pay auto camp accommodations should be directed to Giant Forest Lodge, Sequoia National Park, Calif., specifying, in detail, number of persons, types of accommodations required, and particular lodge or camp desired. Telephone or telegraph messages should be sent to Manager, Giant Forest Lodge, Sequoia National Park.
Visitors to Sequoia should have mail addressed to Sequoia National Park, Calif. Guests of the Giant Forest Lodge or Camp Kaweah should have their mail addressed care of either resort, but Sequoia National Park must be added as the post-office address.
TELEPHONE AND TELEGRAPH SERVICE
There is long-distance telephone service from all main points in Sequoia National Park.
Telegrams should be addressed Sequoia National Park, Calif., bearing in addition the particular camp or lodge address.
A resident physician is on duty at Giant Forest, Sequoia National Park, during the summer months, and a small hospital is maintained at Giant Forest.
Both Catholic and Protestant services are held regularly on Sundays during the summer season. Times and places of all services are announced on the bulletin boards and at Saturday evening camp fires.
GIANT FOREST LIBRARY
From about June 15 to September 1 a branch of the Tulare County Free Library is maintained at Giant Forest. Books on subjects related to the park, especially its history, fauna, flora, etc., are available or will be secured upon request. In addition, a large library of books on fiction and nonfiction subjects is maintained.
SPECIAL WINTER ATTRACTIONS
Full winter conditions exist at Lodgepole and at Giant Forest during the months of December to March, when the Big Trees are surrounded by a blanket of snow from 2 to 12 feet deep. The snow sports common to northern climates and resorts are indulged in here during these months. Skis, toboggans, and snowshoes may be rented from the operating company, as well as heavy clothing desirable for this climate. The winter sports have become so popular that it is advisable that reservations for accommodations be made in advance.
For those who desire to make the day trip only, the National Park Service maintains public camps or picnic grounds at Beetle Rock. A ranger is on duty at all times and is anxious to show the park and make the stay of visitors as enjoyable and profitable as possible.
The operating company issues a leaflet advising people of accommodations, prices, etc. This can be obtained on application to the superintendent.
It is always advisable when driving in the mountains during the winter to carry tire chains, although even in midwinter it is often possible to drive to the Big Trees without them.
Every effort is made by park authorities to keep the Big Trees accessible during the winter months. Sequoia Park is now well known as one of the few places in California where winter vacationists from other sections of the country may be sure of seeing the giant Sequoias.
"Bear Hill" is the name given to the spot near the incinerator, where many bears gather to feed daily. The best time to see them is from noon to 7 p. m., when an attendant is on hand, but they are frequently there throughout the day. A ranger naturalist gives a 10-minute talk daily at 3:30 p. m. on the habits and characteristics of the bears. The road to Bear Hill branches from the Moro Road near the new village site.
Tharp Cabin, in Log Meadow, one-half mile from end of auto road at Crescent Meadow, may also be reached by Circle and Congress Trails from Alta Trail. This hollow Sequoia log was occupied by Hale Tharp, Three Rivers pioneer and discoverer of Giant Forest in 1858. John Muir stayed several days in this unique "house in a log" in 1875 and has immortalized the "noble den", as he called it, and the surrounding Sequoias and meadows in his book, Our National Parks. The cabin is maintained in its original condition and constitutes an interesting museum.
MUSEUM, LECTURE, AND TRAIL GUIDE SERVICE
The National Park Service encourages all forms of outdoor activities, but special attention is paid to fostering a knowledge of the wildlife and natural beauty which the parks were created to preserve. At Giant Forest a small collection of botanical and animal specimens is on display at the naturalist's office during the summer season for the enjoyment of visitors. Lectures given daily by ranger naturalists at Sherman Tree, Moro Rock, and elsewhere present facts of interest at these stations.
The park naturalist is in charge of the guide service. During the summer months camp-fire lectures are given and trail hikes and automobile caravans are conducted. Both half-day and all-day trips are taken, with variety enough to cover all types of interest. Giant Forest Museum is the headquarters of this increasingly popular service.
The Giant Forest Lodge campfire is held every night at the lodge under the Sequoias, where community singing, nature and historical talks, music, and general entertainment are provided. This is free to the public, and all visitors are invited to participate.
The Park Service conducts similar programs at Sunset and Lodgepole Camps every evening except Sunday. Park visitors are cordially invited to assist in making these programs a success by contribution of their talents.
Following the campfires, the dance hall is open every evening, except Sunday, from about the middle of June until September 1.
The social life at Giant Forest is one of the great attractions and holds many people beyond the time allotted for the visit. The average population is about 3,000 people.
One of the most pleasing features of Giant Forest is the number of forest trails leading from it that afford interesting half-day or all-day excursions. Perhaps nowhere else is it possible to hike so easily for hours through such forests of sequoia, pine, and fir. Many of the trails are oiled to eliminate dust. The trail system is well signed, and the map in this pamphlet is used by many as a guide. It would be impossible to enumerate all the points of attraction or combination trips which can be made. New ones are opened every year. The following are the principal trails and attractions:
Alta Trail.Nine miles from Giant Forest to Alta Peak (11,211 feet); passes through the Plateau of the Giant Trees and Panther, Mehrten, and Alta Meadows. The view from Alta Peak has been pronounced by members of the Sierra Club as fine as any in the California mountains. It is the nearest point to Giant Forest from which Mount Whitney may be seen. Horses may be ridden to the summit. Alta Meadows is a delightful place to camp. A full day should be allowed for this trip.
Trail of the Sequoias.Connects the High Sierra Trail from the saddle near Crescent Meadow, 3.7 miles to the Alta Trail, and passes through Big Tree groves rarely seen by the public before the opening of this trail.
Circle, Crescent, and Congress Trails.All lead from the Alta Trail through the thickest Sequoia forests to meadows and mammoth trees within 2 miles of Giant Forest. From 2 hours to 2 days could be spent covering this area.
Soldier and Bear Hill Trails.Lead from Giant Forest, 2 miles to Moro Rock, passing near the Parker Group and past the Roosevelt Tree, Hanging Rock, and other points. A half-day stroll.
Sugar Pine Trail.From Moro Rock, 1-1/2 miles along the plateau edge to Crescent Meadow and Kaweah Vista, with side trip to Bobcat Point.
Twin Lakes Trail.From Lodgepole Camp, 5 miles to Clover Creek, and 2 miles farther to Twin Lakes, famous for unsurpassed scenic setting at 9,750 feet, and for good trout fishing. Several hundred feet above Twin Lakes on Silliman Shoulder is one of the finest panoramas of mountain scenery in the world. A day is well spent on this trail.
The Watchtower and Heather Lake Trails.These two trails lead to major scenic spots. From the Watchtower there is a 2,000-foot drop to Tokopah Valley; and Heather, Emerald, and Aster Lakes are mountain jewels on the west slopes of Alta Peak. All of these trips may be made from Giant Forest in half a day, although it is preferable to allow a full day for them. Ranger naturalists conduct nature hikes to these points during the summer.
The High Sierra Trail.This trail, one of the finest mountain routes in America, extends from the Big Trees of the Giant Forest to the summit of Mount Whitney (14,496 feet), the highest mountain in continental United States. In Sequoia National Park the largest trees in the world are now linked by a splendid trail to the highest mountain peak in the country.
The main features along the High Sierra Trail, with distances shown from Giant Forest, are: Bearpaw Meadow, 12 miles, with view of waterfalls, great cliffs, and River Valley; Hamilton Lake, 16 miles, conceded by those who know the Sierra Nevada to be the "cream of Sierran scenery"; Hamilton Gorge suspension bridge, 18 miles; Kaweah Gap, 20 miles, with expansive views of Kaweah peaks and main crest of the Sierra Nevada, as well as the Big Arroyo immediately below; Moraine Lake, 30 miles; Kern Canyon at Funston Meadows, 34-1/2 miles; Kern Hot Springs, 37 miles; Junction Meadow, 44 miles; Crabtree Meadow, 54-1/2 miles; Mount Whitney summit, 62 miles. From the summit of Mount Whitney there are 16 miles of trail down the east side to end of automobile road, 8 miles from the town of Lone Pine.
Last Updated: 20-Jun-2010