From a gawky pine cone shaped like a chicken egg, hundreds of seeds that look like oatmeal flakes spread on the ground. The luckiest seeds land in sunny spots, free of pine needles, with refreshment provided by melted snow. These seeds have the chance, with the addition of several thousand years, to become the largest trees on earth by volume, the towering crowns of the mighty Giant Sequoias.
The General Sherman tree, down a winding and shaded path in Sequoia National Park, is the largest single tree in the world by volume. Coastal redwoods can be taller. But General Sherman adds a ring of thick bark each year, and multiplied by a two to three-thousand-year lifespan, the tree has become a record-setter. The tree is 102.6 feet (31.1 meters) around at the base. Its thickest branch is almost seven feet in diameter. And it has reached the height of roughly a 26-story building.
Giant sequoias live on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada. We were able to experience them at Kings Canyon and Sequoia National parks (the two parks border each other). These parks are home to many protected groves, and the giant sequoia is the archetypal tree found on the National Park Service symbol.
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