Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Sequoia Kings Canyon-1070 I absolutely love big trees and big views!  I am not much of a spiritual person, yet being the presence of such natural beauty certainly stirs something in me.  Maybe I should seek more time out among the giants in pursuit of finding just what that something is. I had a bit of an opportunity in July of 2014, as my wife’s family had a family reunion based in Three Rivers, California, within site of the entrance to Sequoia National Park.  Even though I seemed to be a grump much of the week, it was a good week of catching up with her four siblings and father, along with a healthy assortment of kids.  Her family has dispersed out into every corner of the country, and it is rare we have such opportunities to enjoy each others’ company. Getting out and hiking amongst the big trees and photographing them and the mountain views eventually helped drive my inner grump away.  I certainly needed that dose of Vitamin N (Nature).

My trips into the park began with the obligatory trip to the Giant Forest, a place I would visit again later in the week as well.  I tried to keep my camera out of my eye on this initial trip so that I could take in the majesty.  So many amazing trees.  Too much pavement and too many people.  The General Sherman and his cohort are truly amazing, I am sad that they live amongst so much pavement.  Certainly, their grandeur is the cause as I like so many other people flock to see them.  Yet, I do wish that simple dirt or stone trails would suffice.  I would find my peace away from the masses on other days.  While I tried to resist using the camera, I will share one moment from the day:

Sequoia Kings Canyon-102My next trip into the park was a solo trip up to the end of Mineral King Road.  This road is a spectacular yet precarious 25 mile thread of “asphalt” that rises into the mountains just east of Three Rivers.  While the main road into the park can flaunt its curves, it has nothing on Mineral King!  It is a beautiful drive that transports you from the heat of the low foothills into the sweet, cool air of the low mountains.

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Along the way, the temptation to stay and pitch a tent at the idyllic Atwell Mills campground was almost too great to pass up.  If only I had brought a tent!  The campground is nestled along the road in a logged sequoia grove, still showing the stark evidence of the destruction of so many great trees, yet showing the restorative power of nature as displayed by the new growth grove.  I yearn to go back and make it my base camp for more adventures.

Sequoia Kings Canyon-319The road then winds through the small settlement of Silver King and a community of vacation cabins before arriving at the Mineral King ranger station, ending at the Eagle and Mosquito Lakes trailhead just beyond the station.  The trailhead parking lot was an education unto itself.  Car after car wrapped in chicken wire, fortressed against the electrical wire munchings of the marmot.  I would have never guess that such a small animal could so such damage.  I parked my rental and took my chances!

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I spent a couple hours wandering the dirt paths near the trailhead, and settled into the nearby meadow to get reacquainted with my camera.  I spent at least an hour there enjoying the solitude and the gurgling of the small stream nearby.

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The next day, I really would not have made Edward Abbey proud, who once wrote:

“In the first place you can’t see anything from a car; you’ve got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail you’ll begin to see something, maybe. Probably not.”

I was certainly an “industrial tourist” that day, as I made the long and winding drive from Three Rivers, through Sequoia National Park and to the end of the valley road in Kings Canyon.  Along the way, I enjoyed window shopping all the gorgeous trees and mountains, stopped many times to enjoy the sounds of the Kaweah and Kings rivers, enjoyed the view from Yucca Point, and finally sat in peace for quite a spell on Muir Rock in Kings Canyon.  I only wish I had brought a John Muir book with me.  Instead, I did one better and drank in the views and let the fresh air calm me.

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On my way back to the cabin, I stopped at Panoramic Point, and enjoyed a couple hours of that immense view, and the sunset that followed.  For much of the time, I had the point to myself, until the sun began to set and I was joined by about 15 others.

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July 14th was the big day.  The whole gang, fifteen strong, would take the Giant Forest by storm.  For most of the trip, I explored the park on my own while the reunion was in full swing back at the cabin.  Call me anti-social, or perhaps just a devout lover of nature, but I could not be inside when there was so much wonder to see outside.  This day, I got to share this incredible place with my wife’s huge and awesome family.  I am lucky to have married into such a great group!  The Giant Forest and the Big Trees loop did not disappoint.  This time out, I was especially camera focused, and am quite happy with some of the shots you will see below.  It is hard to take a bad picture here of course.  We stopped twice in the Giant Forest: once to see the General Sherman and his crew, and once to walk the Big Trees loop. We enjoyed our time and company on the Sherman Trail, stopping many times to marvel and take pictures together.

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While I stand by my comments above about the trails near the General Sherman, the lightly improved trails of the Big Trees loop were very well done.  They handled the tourist throng well, yet allowed the trees and the meadow to have the entirety of the stage.  Stunning.

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Be sure to click on this one as you will get a truly great perspective on the size of these trees when you notice my brother-in-law in the photo!

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Our crew then headed to Moro Rock, stopping at the Tunnel Tree along the way.  Moro Rock was more than my disdain for heights could handle and I am happy that my son took a few pictures for me!

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 The next day, our last, found me once again enjoying my own company, this time finally getting away from the pavement and onto the dirt trails of the Giant Forest.  I hiked about ten miles this day, and saw hardly a soul most of the day.  You really don’t have to go far from a parking lot until 99.9% of the people turn back and you have the splendor of our parks to yourself.  Or maybe just you, a mamma bear, and her nursing cubs.

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Loving the sound of moving water as I do, I also stopped along the Kaweah River as it leads into the park and enjoyed the music, and of course captured a few memories.

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And that was a fabulous vacation with great people and great sights.  Our VRBO cabin wasn’t too shabby either!

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I am ready for the next adventure!

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