Trek to find the Ishi Giant Tree
September 25, 2005
|Just another Sierra Sunrise...
As seen from Visalia early this morning...
Sawtooth out of Mineral King is just left of center.
|The Ishi Giant has this thin delicate "flying buttress"
resulting from a fire scar. I've seen other flying
buttresses before on giant sequoias but never one this
thin and long!
The Ishi Giant Tree is either the 8th or the 13th biggest tree in the world... depending
on who you ask. It is of course a giant sequoia tree and it wasn't discovered until 1992
and there are very few people who know how to find it. It is located in Sequoia National
Forest/Giant Sequoia National Monument in the Kennedy Grove. No trail goes to it and
I've never seen precise directions to it written down. So I decided to join John
Lockhart who works for the Sequoia Natural History Association as he led a group of 5 to
find the Ishi Giant Tree today.
To get to the Ishi Giant Tree you first have to navigate a long series of backcountry
Forest Service Roads, which are at times quite rough and overgrown, and then know
where to park. Then you have to know where to go! The trek to the tree took us about 2
hours and it involved some pretty rough cross country travel. Overall I thinked we hiked
about a mile and a half to get there.
The Ishi Giant was not an easy tree to find... There are many sequoia trees back in
there that look almost as large! And the forest is very dense and tough to hike around
in. It took John many times and many days over several months to find it. He had talked
to Wendell Flint before he passed away, Wendell's the person who has perhaps measured
more of the big trees than anybody else, and even with Wendell's directions he still
couldn't find it! Finally one day several years ago after tromping around for hours he and
a friend found it... He has since taken about 100 people out to see it and he thinks that
perhaps 100 more have seen it. And that's it! This isn't the General Sherman or General
Grant Trees that see thousands if not millions of visitors every year...
The Ishi Giant is 255 feet tall, its ground perimeter is 105.1 feet, it has a diameter at
breast height of 28.2 feet, and its estimated volume is 39,210 cubic feet. The lowest
measurable diameter is greater than that of the General Grant Tree (#2), the
Washington Tree (former #2), and the Boole Tree (#6). Its lower trunk is very
massive and wide!
The Ishi Giant is in the Kennedy Grove which is a good sized grove in wilderness condition
that's seldom visited... By people that is! We saw lots of bear scat back there and in the
fire scarred area of a sequoia near the Ishi Giant we found where the bear had made a
bed. We also saw deer scat, a few flowers (still in bloom and it's nearly October!), lots
of interesting mushrooms, a wasp nest, and lots of birds. Also nearby is a fabulous view
of Kings Canyon.
Dwight Willard, author of the book "The Sequoia Groves of CA" found this tree while
working on the book. The fact that one of the largest trees in the world remained
undiscovered until the 1990's I find is amazing! He named after the last member of the
Yahi Tribe who died in 1916. Wendell Flint suggested calling it the Calavera Tree as he
once found a human skull near the tree! But Willard's name stood. Willard also thinks
the tree is closer to 38,156 cubic inches which would make it #13, not #8.
I guess the skull belonged to a teenager who got lost back there in the 1970's. And not
too long ago another person got lost back in there trying to find the Ishi Giant Tree and
an extensive Search & Rescue was launched and he was found after having spent one
night out there in the woods... So I don't recommend anyone going off and trying to find
it unless they are well-equipped, prepared, experienced, and at least know where to
start! I, of course, got the GPS coordinates and will consider leading a friend or two out
there sometime if they're interested! ;)