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
John on Sequoia log bridge