After Los Angeles our next objective was the big trees of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, adjacent parks on the western slopes of the Sierras almost due east of Monterey Bay. We drove north on a two-lane road - Interstate 5 had not even been thought of then - thru Bakersfield, Porterville and turned east when we came to a sign pointing to the parks. The Sequoia Gigantic was named for Sikwai, a Cherokee Indian who invented an alphabet for writing the Cherokee language. The name refers to two related big trees, the redwoods growing along the coast from the neighborhood of San Francisco north to the Oregon border, and the massive, but not quite as tall, trees of the eastern slopes of the Sierra. The coast redwoods are the tallest trees in the world while those in the Sierras, now called Sequoiadendron, are the largest in diameter. The coast redwoods are a valuable lumber tree - we use redwood extensively in building all of our houses except the first and second - the giants in the mountains, on the contrary, can not be exploited for timber. The wood is brittle and splits easily. Both species live almost well over 2,000 years, surviving drought, floods, innumerable first fires and the ravages of insects and vermin. The bark, which can reach a thickness of almost two feet, is practically fireproof and both bark and wood contain chemicals which make it impervious to the attacks of insects and animals. Contrary to expectations, the cones of redwood trees are very small but growing alongside of them are sugar pines whose cones can reach a length of two feet. Like most visitors to the park, we mistook the sugar pine cones for redwood cones until the park rangers set us straight. Altho all of our storage space was full, we managed to pack in a few cones of both species.
Another of the stereopticon pictures we had in Paulding when I was young was one of a stage coach driving thru an arch cut into one of the big redwoods. The tunnel thru the tree had been cut in 1881. We drove thru the tunnel ourselves as the tree straddles the main road thru the park. The largest tree in the park, and the largest living thing on the surface of the globe is the General Sherman tree, named after the Civil War general. It is as high as a 25-storey building and 37 feet in diameter at the base.