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While at the Saxon Air Force Museum in Boron, California, we met an awesome couple whose names escape me since it was over a month ago. We began talking, and I mentioned I would love a tour of Edwards Air Force Base. We were told that public tours were no longer offered since 9/11, and the on-base museum was closed and collecting dust. I must have given a disappointed look, because he offered to give us a private tour of the base. My eyes lit up like a Christmas Tree, and Lydia decided she would go with me early the next morning.
We arrived the next morning looking forward to seeing some history making aircraft, and facilities that are very important to our National Defense system. We were filled with information on the ride from Boron to the entrance of the base, we drove for miles along the border of the base and Lydia wondered if we would ever get there. We made it through the security checkpoint without a hitch (not that I was expecting a problem) and drove over to some of the first aircraft we were able to see on display outside the NASA buildings.
We walked around these planes, Lydia was surprised how large they were in person, she would be in for a big surprise when we got closer to some a few minutes later. We drove from the NASA buildings over to the Chuck Yeager Memorial, and Lydia posed for a picture. He might have made a good grouchy Hobbit based on his size and a description of his personality. We drove from the memorial to the Machine Shop, where I had to take a picture of Lydia with a Hyster Forklift since I spent 7 years designing special options for these exact pieces of machinery. I wish I could have taken pictures in the repair hanger where a row of B-52′s were lined up along with several other aircraft. We were able to walk through the tire supply area and see tires up close for all types of aircraft. When we left the machine shop, we drove to the other end of the base where we were able to see the remains of the Extended High Speed Test Tracks.
We drove around the base to see the X-1 Loading Pit, this is where the X-1 plane was loaded onto the belly of the larger plane that dropped it. The X-1, piloted by Chuck Yeager, was the first plane to break the sound barrier. There are plans to fill this pit in so there will be a little more concrete in the parking lot, it is a shame pieces of history like this are not thought of as important anymore. We drove around to another facility where I couldn’t take pictures and walked around several large planes and saw where they did fire training on the base. Then we made it to the outside of the museum on the base where there were several other planes on display outside. My favorite has always been the SR-71 blackbird, it never gets old walking up to one of the amazing machines. Once our guide told me what the ICBM was (I had no idea what one looked like up close), it made chills run down my spine. It is hard to believe that these devices could cause so much destruction.. In the background of the shots that show the dry lake bed runway and a large portion of the base, you can see a large black structure. This was the MDD (Mate De-Mate Device) that allowed the Space Shuttles to be mounted on the back of a jumbo jet so it could be flown back to Florida. This, literally HUGE, piece of history is probably going to be scrapped in the near future since they don’t want to donate it to a museum.
We are very thankful for the opportunity to go on this tour, and will remember it for sure. I just wish I could remember the name of the gentleman that gave us the tour, maybe someone will fill me in. Please let me know if I made any mistakes with the information included in this post so I can make corrections.
After we left Boron, California, we zipped (as if you can call it that in the bus) North on Hwy 99 to a campground in Tulare. We decided to take a day trip into Sequoia National Park, the weather was beautiful and we were excited about getting to see some giant trees. We left our campground a little later than we had hoped, so we knew it would be basically a drive through experience with only a little while to actually explore on foot. We stopped at the ranger station after we entered the park and set out with a game plan to walk around the General Sherman and General Grant trees for sure. We started climbing in elevation through the park and had to stop for about 20 minutes at a road construction site. Chas and the girls worked on their Jr. Ranger workbooks, the view from where we were stopped was amazing so it made for a nice stop.
We drove to the upper parking lot for the General Sherman Tree Trail, which turned out to be a much longer hike than I expected. The trail is excellent, but you will be winded after you make it back to your car. This trail takes you by several of the giants on your way to see the Sherman tree, my favorite was the twin trees where we were able to touch a giant for the first time. Many of the trees are fenced off so you can’t get close enough to touch them, but a portion of the trail goes right between these trees. I was surprised to discover the bark is very soft and spongy, not hard like almost all trees I have encountered. It is so soft, I could see it being very easy to take a nap with a Sequoia as a backrest and pillow. The General Sherman Tree is the largest tree, by wood volume in the trunk, in the world.
After leaving the General Sherman Tree, we drove into Kings Canyon Park and went to the General Grant Tree. On our way up the trail, we found the Tunnel Log that you can walk through and explore. I am 6’5″ tall, and did not have to lower my head all the way through the log. We hiked around the General Grant tree, I was amazed by the size of the fire scar on the upper side of the tree. There is a photograph of soldiers in the 1800′s standing at the fire scar, and it looks the same as it did over a hundred years ago. The General Grant Tree is the 3rd largest tree by wood volume in the world.
Some fun facts about the tree:
- 1.700 years old
- 268 feet tall
- Weighs 1,254 tons
- Largest Branch is 4.5 feet in diameter
- First Branch is 120 feet from the ground
- At 40′ in diameter, it is the widest known sequoia
- If you hollowed out the trunk, it would hold 159,000 basketballs or 37 million pingpong balls
We enjoyed our drive through the giant trees, seeing trees that large is a very awe inspiring experience. I could not imagine how the early explorers felt when they experienced these trees for the first time. The video and pictures we took while in the park do not really express how large these trees are, you just have to see them in person to really appreciate them.