SO MANY SEASONAL TRADITIONS, whether it is a visit to see Santa Claus or a trip to admire the lighting of an outdoor menorah at sundown or a stop by the ice rink or an afternoon at "The Nutcracker" involves a special meal or snack. Your family might always call upon a particular cafe for a cup of cocoa following the ballet, or a steakhouse for hamburgers, or a restaurant known for its latkes, or somewhere where you can sit and discuss the delights of what you've just witnessed and how it all made you feel. But what do you do when you're having a bit of a yuletide-style adventure, out into the woods, in a regal corner of a regal national park, where cafes and steakhouses tend to be rather few-to-none?
WELL, you look for the nearest eatery on site, and, if there is a special holiday meal attached to what you've come to see, you give a little whoop in celebration, for that means no picnics need to be packed. Not that you might want to dine outdoors, at length, in the middle of December in the middle of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. It is rather frigid, spoiler alert, and there tends to be some snow action. Which makes the annual Trek to the Tree, a hallowed tradition that stretches back nine decades, back to the White House no less, when President Calvin Coolidge deemed the General Grant "the Nation's Christmas Tree."
ON SUNDAY, DEC. 13... fans of the colossal sequoia and history and the park and the holidays will make the yearly trek to the gathering, which honors fallen military personnel in addition to serving as a peaceful, reflective moment in the middle of the larger holiday season. And if you've never seen the General Grant, it is hard to convey its enormity, elegance, epic-o-sity.
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AS FOR THE AFOREMENTIONED RELATED MEAL? There's no posh cocoas-only cafe near the General Grant, but there is the lovely Grant Grove Restaurant, which has a meal designed specifically for the Trek to the Tree. Perhaps the crunch-crunch-crunch trek -- that's the snow underfoot -- followed by a bit of crunching, food-wise, in the restaurant, could be a fresh and festive tradition for the family. And one full of meaning and history and silence and sweetness, too.