Towering trees to the towering Strip

Trip Start Jul 02, 2010
Trip End Jul 16, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Nevada
Monday, July 12, 2010

This morning we took the long precarious road up into the Sequoia National Forest as it winded to above 7000 feet where the giant trees grew. There was no shortage of stunning vistas and sheer drops into rapid and waterfall filled gullies and some of the tallest icy summits in the contiguous 48 states provided a sharp background to the bright morning sun. When we caught our first glimpse of the deep orange-brown bark of the Sequoia Tree's thick trunks we were awestruck with their size and beauty. We continued through the majestic Giant Forest and each tree we saw filled us with a profound appreciation for the grandness of nature.

The largest tree on earth, General Sherman, was in the middle of the Giant Forest down a trail and we parked and made the short half-mile hike. Shortly before arriving at the tree we were treated to a female deer and her fawn treading lightly through a Sequoia Glade before disappearing into the woods. The General Sherman is like something from another world. It is not the tallest or widest tree but its broad trunk and towering height are impressive. Estimated at around 2000 years old you can feel the wisdom of its presence as you walk around it and the tree itself demands reverence. Those who were in the tree's vicinity seemed to talk in whispers or hushed voices as if in some ancient cathedral. Hannah and I found ourselves instinctually doing the same and it just felt appropriate given the surroundings.

From the Giant Forest we made a large loop through the rest of Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks before plunging back down about 50 miles on the narrowest and windiest road in America (edging out the Yosemite descent) back into the low valleys and golden-grass hills of central California. We turned due south to go around the impassable Sierra Nevada Mountains via the Mojave desert for our next stop in Las Vegas. We passed through Bakersfield and Barstow flying across vast expanses of rock-sand ridges, low-growing grasses and brush, and fields of gnarly Joshua Trees clinging for life in the empty desert. It was after dark when we spotted the glittering lights of Vegas filling the otherwise naked desert in the distance.

The juxtaposition of Giant Sequoias of the Eastern Sierra that we experienced in the morning compared to the Giant Resort Hotels of Vegas was enough to bend our minds as we entered the city. The lights, neon, half-naked girls (live and on 50 foot high televised billboards), incredibly over-the-top theme hotels, throngs of tourists with large fruity cocktails sucking on straws as they walked down the streets, and all manner and taste of temptation gave us both sensory overload that took a while to adjust to. We cruised the strip a couple of times past all the big name hotels and resorts – Bellagio, Venetian, Excalibur, etc. and even some of the old-timers like Circus Circus and the Sahara - and even saw a lady of the night being rounded up by the police before heading to our hotel room at the Treasure Island Resort. Once there we changed and freshened up before grabbing a late bite to eat, some drinks, and walking around to immerse ourselves in the hedonism of Sin City. Las Vegas is everything I expected and a little more and we had a fun for the short time we spent there even if we were a little too tired to enjoy all that it has to offer. As we settled in for bed I looked down on the blinking lights of the northern section of the Vegas Strip from our 29th floor hotel room and recalled that just several hours ago I was in one of the most sanctified, serene, and natural places on earth. Now I was in one the most exciting, bacchanalian, and unnatural places on earth . . . What a trip in more ways than one. . .
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Kevin Etheridge on

"Dont take any guff from those swine." Hunter S Thompson aka Raoul Duke, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

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