I remember distinctly the first time I saw a picture of a giant Sequoia tree. I was in fourth grade science class. It’s enormity fascinated me to the point I smelled the page. We’d hoped to visit the park in 2010, but a winter storm thwarted our plans and we’d head to the Grand Canyon and Colorado River instead. I’d made a pact with my kids that I would not explore Sequoia until they were with me, so this was pretty special.
Sequoia brought our first real “National Lampoon” moment. As we were driving up the winding road, I assumed with these giants towering over us, that we were entering an area with super fresh air, telling the kids to, “breathe deep” and take it in. We parked at the visitor center, got out, and happened to catch a Ranger talk. The very first thing she says? “The common misconception here is that the air is clean, when in reality, it can be some of the most toxic in the US.” My eyes widened, I looked at my family and mouthed, “Nobody breathe!!” giggling.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks experience some of the worst air pollution of any national parks in the U.S. The parks are downwind of many air pollution sources, including agriculture, industry, major highways, and urban pollutants from as far away as the San Francisco Bay Area. Air pollutants carried into the park can harm natural and scenic resources such as forests, soils, streams, fish, frogs, and visibility.
Sequoia’s are so fascinating. They can live up to 3,000 years and have branches up to 8’ in diameter. Their bark can be up to 3’ thick! General Sherman is not only the largest living tree, but the largest living organism, by volume, on the planet. At 2,100 years old, it weighs 2.7 million pounds, is 275 feet tall and has a 102-foot circumference at the ground. It has branches that are almost 7 feet in diameter. The giant sequoia develops no permanent taproot or other roots that extend deep into the ground, but sometimes a single root may grow out near the surface for as much as 200 or 300 feet toward water. It is truly amazing that the shallow and relatively small root systems can support such vast bulks against the storms of the centuries.
Hug a big, beautiful Giant Sequoia tree - check.