Kings Canyon

Mariposa Grove, an impressive stand of Giant Sequoia trees, is just south of Yosemite Valley. Naturally, I stopped there to see them for myself. Instead of driving my own car through this forest to see the grove, I parked and boarded a shuttle bus that was just then boarding as I approached it. Again, I was very happy to just take the shuttle and enjoy the ride up and back. 

My blistered toe was still causing me some discomfort, but at Mariposa Grove, I did the shorter hike on a paved trail to the Giant Sequoias. The hike was tolerable, and the route I hiked was "enough" under the circumstances. Along the way to Mariposa Grove, I had stopped at a couple of spots along the road for my first glimpses at the massive trees and learned more about them.

 Giant Sequoias are not the tallest trees in the world, nor even in the places I visited in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The coastal California Redwoods (a different conifer) are taller and slimmer than these Giant Sequoias.But Giant Sequoias are the largest living trees in total volume. And they really are impressive. 

At one time in this nation's history, there was a common belief that much that the Earth provides was inexhaustible, that there would always be more, whether that be minerals, clean water, precious metals, animals or trees. Thankfully, other, more practical and sensible people knew that almost anything can be depleted and wiped off the face of the earth, especially when, in this case, no new growth was allowed to take the place of what had been stripped from the Earth. Still, for the sake of making a dollar and exploiting these natural resources, some people managed wholesale destruction of huge tracts of these forests. And, as I learned, once most of the Giant Sequoias were felled, their structure and sheer volume actually caused them to splinter, making the wood nearly unusable for lumber. Most of the logging of the Sequoias, even into the 1920's, resulted in the wood being relegated to use as shingles, fence posts and even matchsticks.There is a natural ability of most of the Giant Sequoias to resist pestilence, fire and other forces of nature. Fires are a natural occurrence, often by lightning strikes, which then, in the natural course of things burns off the underbrush, allowing sunlight to penetrate to the forest floor.The fires actually release the seeds, that then can grow in the ash enriched soil left after the fires. Then with moisture, seedlings sprout and begin to grow. The Giant Sequoias  had no protection from mankind however, until public outcry, finally, resulted in these magnificent trees being protected and preserved.

The largest of the Giant Sequoias is over 300 feet, tall and the largest in diameter was recorded at 56 feet in diameter. 

That's a BIG tree! 


These trees originated in the time of the dinosaurs, but now only exist on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. Some of these remaining giants have endured for 3500 years. Imagine what they could say, if they could talk. 

But, as a matter of fact, they do speak to us, as in a connection to all of nature in one way, spiritually to those of us who connect to Earth in such a meaningful way, and by the tree rings that are a journal of their lives. On display at one location, many of that tree's rings were marked, outer rings marking the year of it's having been felled, and then like being drawn into a time machine spiraling back in time, 100 years, 200 years, 300, 500, 1000, 2000 - one is transported to the past, two millennium  and beyond. In those rings of time are recorded years of rapid growth, years of drought, and years of fires. Through it all, the giants still stand guard, silently, steadfastly, anchored to the past and yet prospering and recording our own days upon the Earth. 

As the day was slipping away when I returned to my car, and though Mariposa Grove was a mere 34 miles south of Yosemite Valley, my leisurely drive and sightseeing had consumed most of the day. Not really wanting to find a campground and pitch my tent, I had the urge to press on and find a comfortable motel bed, a good meal and internet service. Following along Rt. 41 winding down out of the Sierra Nevada foothills, I ended the day in Oakhurst, CA. Next day I planned to head to Kings Canyon National Park upon a longer, scenic route along the western edge of the mountains. 


Initially, that drive was on track taking me through some smaller towns, lakes and on country roads with little traffic. But along the way, a missed turn led me to Fresno, CA instead. This had taken me out of the mountains and into the San Joaquin Valley. Not being deterred, I stopped for lunch there, consulted my map and adjusted my route, headed East and climbed up the lower western Sierra Nevada Mountain slopes arriving at Grant Grove Village in Kings Canyon N.P. by mid afternoon. With no reservations and all of their tent cabins rented, I went to the nearest campground and pitched my tent for the night. One of the largest Giant Sequoias, the General Grant, was nearby, so that is where I hiked. Roundtrip from my camp to General Grant and back was a couple of miles, which, thankfully, had become easier as my sore toe continued to heal.

As I sat at my picnic table reading after dark, rain drops forced me into my tent. Still not being tired I lie there reading until sleep slipped up on me, the sound of gentle raindrops tapping softly upon my tent. Curled up and snuggled tightly in my sleeping bag, I pulled the covers up around my head to ward off the night chill and drifted off to sleep. 

Early the next morning, after dismantling my campsite, I planned my day's activities in Kings Canyon. First I checked to see if they had any available tent cabins. Lucky me, I was able to rent for two nights. 

Panoramic Point was 2 miles up the mountain from Grant Grove Village on a winding road, and so, driving slowly, I wound my way to the top. Below lay Kings Canyon. The view helped me plan the rest of my day.

Down below, Scenic Highway CA Rt 180 snaked down into the valley. That was to be my day's exploration. The highway, ends far down in the valley, whereupon, the drive is back up and out of the canyon. The day, as they all had been, was perfect. Blue skies, billowy white clouds and fantastic scenery around every bend in the road. Stopping at on overlook, I saw more of what lie ahead of me - a winding road zig-zagging ever downward. From the higher vantage points, the road continued far further, deeper into the valley, much of the time hugging mountain sides and cliffs, while only a short stone wall clung to the opposite edge dropping off to the King River far below. It was a FUN drive!

Once down to the canyon floor, following the river, I stopped several times to see waterfalls and to walk into the river on boulders jumbled about in the swiftly flowing waters. It surprised me to see many people all the way down in the valley enjoying the cool mountain stream, some fly fishing other jumping off into a deep pool, children frolicking and wading as parents kept a watchful eye.


Now, as far as I could drive and not wanting to attempt any hikes, I stopped at Cedar Grove Lodge in the bottom of Kings Canyon and grabbed some lunch as I headed back up and out of the canyon. Along the way I stopped to tour Boyden Cavern. Before entering the cave, threatening clouds were forming further down in canyon. Rain looked inevitable. The cavern was not particularly large, but they always intrigue me. As I left the cavern, some raindrops started to fall. The drive out was just as thrilling as the drive down, but this time I drove on the deep drop-off side of the canyon, getting glimpses down to the river. 

It was a LONG way down. 



My tent cabin was ready when I returned to Grant Village and I was thankful that I did not have to pitch a tent with even the scattered drizzle that followed me up out of Kings Canyon. The bed was comfortable, extra blankets available if needed (yes, it was needed) but no electricity which was just fine. We were provided with a solar battery lantern, that provided sufficient light, even by which to read after dark. 


The following day I had heard that a fire lookout tower was up beyond Panoramic Point, so I drove back up, found the trial and started off through the forest up to the tower. Other that two or three others that passed me, this was a very pleasant hike which I find uplifting and satisfying. At the lookout tower, I first took in the views from all directions, then climbed up to visit with the person on duty in the tower. This being another first for me, it was thrilling to see everything from an even higher vantage point. I found the man there actually volunteers for this duty, as do others. His shift was for 4 or 5 days and he showed me the equipment he uses to help determine the location of a possible fire, how it's distance is measured from several points and how he keeps in contact with a two-way radio. Other than a few hikers who may come up there to visit, his is a very solitary job. 

My foot feeling much better, the 4 mile roundtrip hike to the tower caused me little discomfort, which was heartening as I planned to walk more extensively in Sequoia National Park on my next stop on this trip.


After breakfast the next morning I set out on the final leg of my journey through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This time I'd be exploring the larger stands in Sequoia National Park.

It would not disappoint me.

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