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  • Alex Fear

The time I went to see the biggest tree in the world with severe food poisoning

Updated: Dec 21, 2020

At the start of 2016 I flew to Las Vegas for £95 in the hope of staying at the “Lil’ Ale Inn” the last point of habitation before Area 51. I also wanted to visit Mariposa grove, home to the tallest trees in the world. I headed down the Las Vegas strip to my motel, gazing at monolithic plastic boxes covered in flashing lights emblasoned with exotic names like: Mirage, and Tropicana, and Trump Tower. Then there came a point when there were no more casinos and the only other people on the pavement were people with massive yellowing beards, ropes for belts, and trolleys full of plastic bags. I realised that the only people that used the pavement in America were me and deranged stereotypes of crack addicts covered in perma-dirt. Las Vegas wasn’t really created for people, it was more created as a holiday resort for cars to have fun driving their owners between endless clones of the same casino with mildly different exteriors. I don’t drive and driving was about the only way to get to the middle of the Nevada desert and visit Area 51. So, no aliens, no spy planes, and no getting shot at for trespassing on private US government property.


There was still Mariposa grove though. So I took one of many greyhound bus journeys up through the desert wastes of California. If you enjoy meeting people that are totally fucking insane you should definitely travel on the greyhound bus. This one woman came on screaming insults into a smart phone. I said a little mantra in my head: “don’t sit by me don’t sit by me don’t sit by me”. She sat next to me and ranted at me about the violent abusive man she’d just got off the phone with and had just left her daughters with. I think she could see her tirade had lost my interest so instead she decided to convince me she had written “Turn Back Time” by Cher. She told how her relationship at the time had been going so badly that she wished she could “Turn Back Time”. She gave me her pen and I thought ‘wow’ I have the pen of the woman who wrote “Turn Back Time”. Then when I got off, I found “Turn Back Time” was written by the multi-award winning lyricist Dianne Warren not a mad woman on the greyhound bus.



When I got to Yosemite national park I found that Mariposa grove was shut for three years. The closest bus stopped about 7 miles away from there. But I figured they couldn’t really close down a massive area of woodland. So after a day of hiking around the paradisaical rainbow filled waterfalls of Yosemite national park, I planned on hiking out to Mariposa grove and sneaking in. That night I ate a 50 cent burrito and woke up feeling like I’d had my soul sucked out of me by one of the dementors from Harry Potter. While waiting for the bus I went to the Yosemite restaurant toilet and vomited up the entire contents of my stomach and then some neon green bile. Most people would’ve given up on the giant trees and the 14 kilometre round hike to see them. But I was leaving the next day and this was my last chance. And I am not most people. Once I walked across the entire of London just so I didn’t have to pay for a tube ticket.



I crawled out of the bus at a highway shack shop, nauseous with a banging head-ache. I mumbled to the shop owner that I’d contracted Ebola from a 50 cent burrito. She prescribed me a little packet of Pepto-Bismol and some ginger beer. Then I set off walking miles along the edge of the road with a bag full of possessions on my back feeling like I was about to pass out. There were times when I felt so faint I had to just lay down in the pine-needle-filled ditch at the edge of the road. A couple of kilometres from Mariposa Grove the road was cordoned off. There were diggers behind the cordons with people inside. I staggered uphill through the forest trying to avoid the people. I could see and hear them below sawing down trees and marauding about the forest like FBI agents. After an hour of staggering and ducking I was back crawling along a winding road flanked by giant redwoods. I thought when I saw one of these sky scraper size giant sequoias it would make me feel small, but it didn’t, it made me feel comforted. There was no one else there, just the biggest trees in the world, me and lots of cordons and irrigation ditches. I found the biggest tree of them all and just curled up in its roots in a foetal position.



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