Sequoia National Park wildflowers

I sometimes get asked why I go back to the same national parks again and again. Some of my friends seem to think that national parks are static and never changing. Their assumption is that once you have seen one place, then there is no real reason to see it again because you’ll simply be seeing the same thing that you saw the last time you visited. I think that most of them don’t realize how much national parks change depending on the time of year that you visit them, or even the time of day.

The truth is that national parks are dynamic and ever changing. I don’t remember a time when I have visited an national park and thought “nothing has changed.” Whether I am viewing iconic landscapes in a different season where plant and flowers are completely different, or simply in a different light due to where the sun happens to be, I constantly find new and interesting things with each visit.

While much of Sequoia national park was covered in snow during my last visit, coming to the park in June allowed me to discover this:

sequoia national park wildflowers

pink wildflowers Sequoia

One of the greatest parts of national parks is their ability to get you to slow down a bit and relax. if you can manage to do this, you will notice that while the general landscapes may appear to stay relatively the same over time, the truth is that you will never see them the same way twice no matter how many times you visit. Please visit them often to try and prove me wrong 🙂

Stephen Tyng Mather Memorial Plaque Sequoia National Park

One of the things I like most about wandering in national parks is that by simply taking a path a bit different than most people, you often stumble upon little things that many people may not know about. Walking along the road from Tunnel Log to Crescent Meadow (the road was closed to traffic except shuttle buses, so it seemed to be a great way to get some solitude on a busy weekend at Sequoia National Park when there were a lot of people at most places), I spied a something off on the left hand side of the road. While I wouldn’t say that the area was overgrown, it was definitely not a place that had been kept pristine.

The rock was off the road a ways and shrouded by trees so that most people driving by in the shuttle bus or in their own car would never even notice it was there. Even if they did happen to see it, there is no turn-out or place for a car to stop. Only those who happen to be walking in that area are likely to have ever seen it.

As I came closer to it, I saw that it was a memorial plaque dedicated to Stephen Tyng Mather:

Stephen Tyng Mather Memorial Sequoia national park

This is what the inscription read:

Stephen Tyng Mather July 4, 1867 – January 22, 1930

He laid the foundation of the national park service, defining and establishing the policies under which its areas shall be developed and conserved unimpaired for future generations. There will never come an end to the good he has done.

Stephen Tyng Mather Memorial Plaque at Sequoia national park

While I know that most people won’t think this is something that is worth going out of their way to see when they visit Sequoia national park due to limited time and so many places to see in the park, it’s a secret bit of knowledge that you can try to spy if you ever happen to be in the area…

Tunnel Log Sequoia National Park

While recently visiting Sequoia National Park, I decided I wanted to see Moro Rock, but the road was closed except to shuttle buses. The shuttle bus stop after Moro Rock is for Tunnel Log. Although the bus I was on was full (all the seats were taken with plenty of people standing), I was surprised when we reached Tunnel Log to see nobody outside and not a soul on the bus move to step outside. I saw this as my chance to escape the weekend crowds for at least a little bit and stepped off the shuttle. The bus took off and, to my delight, I was left there by myself.

The first thing I did (well, besides a little happy dance to be on my own) was to take a look at the impressive statistics of the hollowed out log:

tunnel log sign Sequoia National Park

Any tree that is big enough that a car can drive through it is pretty damn impressive:

Tunnel Log at Sequoia national park

While the tunnel is what I assume most people would focus upon, I also found the weather root system of Tunnel Tree to be both beautiful and on par in impressiveness as the tunnel itself:

root system of Tunnel Log

And just because I know most people wouldn’t even bother to take a photo of what the inside roof of the Tunnel Log looked like, I had to do it (charred with graffiti on top)

top inside of Tunnel Log

I am still a little baffled why nobody wanted to explore this area, but I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to do so without anyone else around…

10 Oldest National Parks

I received an email asking me “what are the 10 oldest national parks?” The first National Park was Yellowstone created in 1872. Number two was Sequoia National Park in 1890 along with Yosemite National Park the same year. While Kings Canyon National Park was established in 1940, it’s included with Sequoia National Park (they are connected) because Kings Canyon National Park incorporated General Grant National Park when it was created. General Grant National Park was established in 1890 to protect the General Grant Grove of giant sequoias, the same year as Sequoia National Park.

Yosemite National Park established in 1890

Here is a list of the 10 oldest National Parks in the National Park system:

1. Yellowstone National Park (1872)
2. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park (Sequoia 1890)
2. Yosemite National Park (1890)
4. Mount Rainier National Park (1899)
5. Crater Lake National Park (1902)
6. Wind Cave National Park (1903)
7. Mesa Verde National Park (1906)
8. Glacier National Park (1910)
9. Rocky Mountain National Park (1915)
10. Haleakala National Park (1916)
10. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (1916)
10. Lassen Volcanic National Park (1916)

Cave Pearl Crystal Cave Sequoia National Park

There are several opportunities to see “cave pearls” when exploring Crystal Cave in Sequoia National Park (CA). Cave pearls form when acidic water drips onto grains of sand or tiny stones. The dripping water causes the grains to move so that they do not attach to the cave floor while the calcite within the water causes the grains of sand to grow into bigger pebbles (and then rocks) as more and more calcite covers them. This is a cave pearl found among the rimstone dams in the Fairy Pools formation in the Dome Room at Crystal Cave.

Cave pearl at Fairy Pool in Crystal Cave Sequoia National Park

Fairy Pools Crystal Cave Sequoia National Park

My favorite of the many magnificent cave formations at Crystal Cave in Sequoia National Park (CA) was the Fairy Pools. Also located in the Dome Room, these delicate flowstone dam pools are perfectly framed by other cave formations which make them look like they do come out of some type of fairy tale:

Fairy Pools in Dome Room in Crystal Cave at Sequoia National Park

The Fairy Pools are right along the cave path which allows you to inspect them closely (not from a distance as with many of the other popular formation within the cave). This allows you to see up close and personal how calcite makes many different types of cave formations in a single spot:

Lily Pads in the Fairy Pools formation in Crystal Cave

Organ Room Crystal Cave Sequoia National Park

One of many spectacular formations within Crystal Cave in Sequoia National Park (CA) is the Organ Room. This is a huge cave formation that, when viewed in its entirety, resembles the giant church organs of years gone by.

Organ Room in Crystal Cave at Sequoia National Park

The Organ Room also gives a good lesson on the effect which people have over time in caves. In the below photo you can see that the cave formation is bright white on the right side and a muddy gray on the right. The dingy look of the rock on the left is from the accumulation of human debris (oil from hands touching, skin flakes, etc) left in the cave over time which hasn’t been cleaned.

Organ Room in Crystal Cave

It’s because of this type of damage that the Touching Rock is available at the Crystal Cave entrance and everyone is asked to not touch the formations within the cave.