Monday, June 6, 2016

Sequoia NP - Auto Tour 198 - 06/06/16

Monday – June 6, 2016
Sequoia National Park
Auto Tour – California Route 198

The Great Western Divide parallels the Sierran crest. Most of the mountains and canyons in the Sierra Nevada are formed in granitic rocks. These rocks, such as granite, diorite and monzonite, formed when molten rock cooled far beneath the surface of the earth. The molten rock was a by-product of a geologic process known as subduction. Powerful forces in the earth forced the landmass under the waters of the Pacific Ocean beneath and below an advancing North American Continent. Super-hot water driven from the subjecting ocean floor migrated upward and melted rock as it went. This process took place during the Cretaceous Period, 100 million years ago. Granitic rocks have speckled salt and pepper appearance because they contain various minerals including quartz, feldspars and micas.

While geologists debate the details, it is clear that the Sierra Nevada is a young mountain range, probably not more than 10 million years old. Forces in the earth, probably associated with the development of the Great Basin, forced the mountains to grow and climb toward the sky. During the last 10 million years, at least four periods of glacial advance have coated the mountains in a thick mantle of ice. Glaciers form and develop during long periods of cool and wet weather. Glaciers move through the mountains like slow-motion rivers carving deep valleys and craggy peaks. The extensive history of glaciation within the range and the erosion resistant nature of the granitic rocks that make up most of the Sierra Nevada have together created a landscape of hanging valleys, waterfalls, craggy peaks, alpine lakes and glacial canyons.

Our journey exploring California Route 198 was absolutely amazing!

Sherman Tree Trail
This is a 0.8-mile roundtrip paved trail that descends from the parking lot to the base of the General Sherman tree and meanders through a grove of giant sequoia trees.

Tunnel Log
Is a tunnel cut through a fallen giant sequoia tree in Sequoia National Park. The tree, which measured 275 feet tall and 21 feet in diameter, fell across a park road in 1937 due to natural causes. The following year, a crew cut an 8-foot tall, 17-foot wide tunnel through the trunk, making the road passable again.

Crescent Meadow
Is a small, sequoia-rimmed meadow in the Giant Forest region of Sequoia National Park. This meadow marks the western terminus of the High Sierra Trail, which stretches from the meadow across the Great Western Divide to Mount Whitney. Pioneer Hale Tharp homesteaded in this and nearby Log Meadow. Conservationist John Muir visited this meadow many times and praised it highly calling it the "Gem of the Sierras".

Moro Rock
Is a granite dome located in the center of the park, at the head of Moro Creek, between Giant Forest and Crescent Meadow. A 400-step stairway, built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, is cut into and poured onto the rock, so that visitors can hike to the top. The stairway is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The view from the rock encompasses much of the Park, including the Great Western Divide. It has an elevation of 6,725 feet.

The park is home to over 240 known caves, and potentially hundreds more. The caves in the park include California's longest cave at over 20 miles, Lilburn Cave, as well as recently discovered caves that remain strictly off-limits to all but a handful of specialists who visit on rare occasions to study cave geology and biology. The only commercial cave open to park visitors remains Crystal Cave, the park's second-longest at over 3.4 miles and remarkably well-preserved for the volume of visitation it receives annually. It was discovered on April 28, 1918 by Alex Medley and Cassius Webster.[ The cave is a constant 48 °F, and only accessible by guided tour.

Caves are discovered every year in the park; in fact, 17 have been discovered since 2003 alone. The most recently discovered major cave in the park, in September 2006, has been named Ursa Minor. Park caves are valued by scientists and cavers alike for their pristine beauty, variety, and endemic cave life.

Animals that inhabit this park are coyote, badger, black bear, sheep, deer, fox, cougar, eleven species of woodpecker, various species of turtle, three species of owl, opossum, various species of snake, wolverine, roadrunner, beaver, various species of frog, and muskrat.

Tomorrow another adventure begins.

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