The road is harrowing, a single-lane asphalt ribbon laid across the landscape with very little grading, turning back on itself like a snake trying to swallow its tail as it climbs the eastern slope. Yet the beauty is reassuring and tranquil. I arrived at the 8,730 foot summit feeling as though my blood pressure was lower than it is at sea level.
I can show you the pictures, but you can't smell the trees. It was the Jeffrey Pines that first made a tree-hugger out of me. If you bury your nose in the bark, it smells like vanilla; some argue it smells like pineapple, but I disagree. Even the dirt, naturally decomposed granite, has a special clean smell.
It's serene, but far from quiet. Jays, Golden ground squirrels, Belden squirrels,and Stellar jays all add their voices to the chorus accompanied by the constant soughing of the trees and the river's murmur.
I sat at the table for nearly two hours until I realized time spent there would be time taken away from my walk through Calaveras Big Trees further down the mountain toward civilization.
No words describe the trees, no way exists to burn them into memory, a photo doesn't do it. You have to be there, to see them yourself, to feel how tiny and young you are. I've seen redwood and sequoia groves many times all over the state of California. Yet, every single time I'm overwhelmed. I walked the mile and a half loop in a little under 2-1/2 hours, a personal best for that distance with my walker.
I stopped in Angel's Camp for dinner at Crusco's. The town was quiet. This nineteenth century haunt of Mark Twain and Bret Harte is much livelier on the third weekend in May when the annual frog jumping contest occurs. But I'm not crazy about crowds, or frogs either.
Driving Time: About 4 hours
Total elapsed time; just under 8 hours
Gas price El Dorado Hills: $3.249