Hike to find the Great Bonsai Tree
...and other sequoia adventures
May 2004 Trip to Mountain Home
October 2005 Trip to Mountain Home
June 2006 Trip to Mountain Home
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We were reluctant to leave the
Great Bonsai Tree but we were
getting hungry.  So we trekked back
to our trucks and drove over to
Balch Park.  Balch Park is a county
owned parcel of land within the
State Forest.  Here there are
several fishing ponds and we ate
near one.  The view across the pond
of a large sequoia and its reflection
was a perfect end to our weekend
adventures.
From the same book I read that the
Great Bonsai Tree was nearby.  So
off we went, bushwacking at times,
to the top of a ridge to find this
"most gnarled" of sequoia trees.  
Wow, although there is no sign at its
base, the Great Bonsai Tree is
unmistakable.  It is huge at the
base, but not very tall, perhaps only
200 feet or so.  It sits at the top
of the ridge and no doubt gets beat
up by winter winds.
The Great Bonsai Tree has huge
branches, 8-10 feet in diameter,
that extend almost to the ground.  
There is a series of 7 branches that
grow stacked, one above the other.  
Some of the branches have broken
off and lay scattered at its base.  
The resulting scars on the tree look
like mouths.  I could imagine the
tree coming alive and speaking to us
in a low and solemn but gentle voice.  
Oh, the stories it could tell!  We
spent about 45 minutes just looking
at and trying to absorb the beauty
of this tree.  And I think I've found
a new favorite giant sequoia :)  We
found two piles of bear scat and
mountain lion scat nearby.  Seems
other animals come to the tree and
stay awhile as well.
The Genesis Tree was not discovered until 1985.  It is written about in a couple of books
but only one book I've found gives a description on how to find it.  I think that this affords
it a great deal of protection so I'm not going to broadcast over the internet on how to find
it.  But if one is curious enough and takes a bit of time it wouldn't be too hard to find.  
Basically you negotiate some rough dusty dirt roads in the southern part of the grove and
just when you think you're lost the road ends at a small turn-around.  Here there are many,
many huge trees, and you feel truly like you've eaten one of Alice's cookies and shrunk.  
There is a small trail through the bracken fern and thimbleberries that heads east from
the turnaround and before you know it you are at the base of a gigantic tree.  You know not
many people find it because the trail is so faint.  There is a small sign saying "Genesis Tree"
at the base of the tree so you know you've found the right one.  It is a beautiful tree,
taller than the 6th largest and the upper trunk is close to the General Grant tree in size.
On Sunday I drove the 30 minutes
or so up to the Mountain Home
Grove.  This is rapidly becoming one
of my favorite spots to explore
because it is so close and so
amazing.  Imagine a huge sequoia
grove, depending on who you talk to
it's either #1, 2, or 3 in size, on the
flanks of rugged Moses Mountain
and spilling over to the banks of  
beautiful Tule River.  It just
doesn't get any better than that!
I met one of my employees, John, at
the Hidden Falls Trailhead.  We
hiked through the giant trees and
along the river a mile or so up to
Redwood Crossing, where the main
trail enters the Golden Trout
Wilderness.  We ate lunch here and
while John attempted to cross a
huge sequoia log bridge I took
pictures of the columbines and
leopard lilies, the latter of which
were taller than me and smelled so
good!
We then turned southeast and
found the Eastside Trail.  This trail
winds in and out of the Golden Trout
Wilderness and it is seldom
traveled.  It also needs a lot of
work and I would not recommend it
for just anyone.  There were many
trees down across the trail, big
ones that you could not climb over
so you had to bushwack around.  In
many spots the trail simply
disappeared.  But...  it was a great
trail to see the Middle Tule Grove
which flanks Maggie Mountain.  We
also saw a strange 4-trunked Sugar
Pine and I found a red flower that I
had never seen before!  I later
found out that it was Scarlet
Monkeyflower.
Soon the trail leaves the shady
grove and starts to climb very
steeply up Maggie Mountain.  This
confused us as the trail description
said it was an easy trail.  Easy my
butt!  lol  Well, we kept on a going
and were treated with great views
of Maggie and Moses Mountains and
eventually we found the McAnlis
cutoff which we took and in an hour
or so we found ourselves back at
Hidden Falls.
John had gotten a campsite at Moses
Gulch the night before so I put my tent
up and joined him for the night.  We
roasted hot dogs and marshmellows and
talked the evening away.

The campgrounds that are at Mountain
Home State Forest are free, amazing in
today's world.  And they're quite nice,
they have piped water and vault toilets
and picnic tables and fire rings as well as
being quite scenic.  The Moses Gulch
Campground is in the Middle Tule grove
and along the river.

On Monday morning we woke up, ate
breakfast, packed up, and headed up to
the plateau where the Mountain Home
Grove is.  Our objective was to find the
8th largest tree in the world, the
Genesis Tree.
Yesterday I hiked down a trail I've
been longing to do, the Freeman
Creek Trail.  It traverses the
Freeman Creek Grove east to
west.  This grove is the
easternmost sequoia grove and is
also the largest one in wilderness
condition on National Forest land.  I
am going to do an interpretive
program here next month so I
wanted to hike the entire trail.  I
had been on just a small portion of
it before, the part out to the
George Bush Tree.  It was named
after Bush Sr. because he signed a
proclamation protecting all the
sequoias on all National Forests in
California.  Clinton later came along
and designated the groves in
Sequoia National Forest as Giant
Sequoia National Monument.

A few mountain lions had been
spotted in the grove so I know I
didn't want to do this trail alone.  I
asked our wilderness ranger Lloyd
to join me.  He made a great hiking
companion as he's worked on the
forest for 25 years now and knew
so much history about the area.  We
also arranged for a pickup by Bill
and Tom, two of our recreation
guys, so we only had to hike one way
and it was downhill!

This grove is a beauty.  The creek is
still running high and there are many
meadows brimming with wildflowers
at the top of the trail.  But by the
time you walk the 3 miles and 1,500
feet down from the North Road to
the Lloyd Meadows Road the grove
gets drier and warmer and thus a
huge range of understory plants
grow.  It is rather odd to see giant
sequoias at the bottom of the grove
growing quite well in such dry
looking soils.  There must be a good
subsurface water supply for them.
President George Bush Tree
Me next to the Genesis Tree
Me next to the Great Bonsai Tree
Moses Mountain
A bit of Maggie Mountain
Leopard Lilies
Columbine
John on Sequoia log bridge