If you think you have a grasp on life and have established a place on this Earth, then stand below a giant sequoia tree and such hubris will become instantaneously diminished.  On arrival in King’s Canyon we walked the General Grant Tree Trail, strolling along the majestic sequoias. 



To look up at a tree the height of a 27 story building is to find yourself almost disappearing.  Just think, it was growing toward the heavens when Cleopatra reigned.  I no longer feel old.


                 The General Grant Tree is the world’s third largest living thing and has the greatest base diameter of any sequoia at 40.3 feet.  Because it tapers to 29 feet at breast height, it statistically is smaller than the largest tree, the General Sherman, which is also in this park.  The gnarly bark and red color (caused by tannin) is nature’s work of art.




Dogwood leaves reflect the sun’s rays and colorful wildflowers bloom even in July.  Alan and his camera were hard at work.




                This walk is a revelation and in only a third of a mile you can discover a connection with the park that will never leave you.  A trail brochure describes the trees and other plants along the path.  In the shadow of the canopy of branches it is cool and dark but for the rays of sun penetrating the forest.  I listen carefully in hopes of hearing a pileated woodpecker but only hear the romping of small children running through a hollow fallen log.  Already feeling humbled, I start to tear up recalling the days we brought our children here and shared the experience with them. 







                These trees are from 1600 to 2000 years old.  What they have seen!  To the credit of the human race, they are protected and I picture my children bringing their children here to contemplate and understand their place in life. 









Azalea Campground: 


Here it is mid summer with families on vacation, yet we are surrounded by empty campsites.  This particular campground is first-come, first-served so get a site during the week and squat for the weekend.  Reservable campgrounds are full all week long and reservations must be made 7 months in advance. 




























 At night we attended the ranger programs on such subjects as “Coyotes,” “The Night Sky,” and most entertaining “John Muir.”  At the latter a seasoned ranger sporting a long white beard and dressed as Muir, recited by memory a large portion of Muir’s writings.  His emotion and Scottish accent brought forth the naturalist’s thoughts.  It was a show that would put you back a hundred bucks at an L.A. live theater.  It was heartwarming to see all the families bundled up for the cool mountain weather, learning about Muir, his life, his thoughts and his efforts to save these threatened areas.








                To hike around Crescent Meadow in Sequoia is to visit paradise.  Giant sequoias line the trail, their trunks planted in the soft earth like elephant feet.  



Ferns sway with the breeze and the meadow of tall green grass is sprinkled with wildflowers, not just of Laker colors like those in the desert, but a variety of hues from blues to pinks to white to gold.

A fellow hiker stops us with the news:  bear ahead.  We arrive at a spot on the trail where several visitors are pointing and focusing their cameras.  Around me I hear several languages:  Japanese, Spanish, German and French.  The bear, light brown-nearly blonde in color, continues rooting through the dense plants unaware of his starring role.  He is difficult to see without binoculars.  I feel honored for the experience.




HUME LAKE       

                Outside Kings Canyon but still in the Sequoia National Forest, is a Christian Camp at Hume Lake.  The area is crowded with animated teens, their piles of gear, and huge buses. Here there is a market, gift shops, cafes, a huge swimming pool, and a lake which has attracted swimmers and kayakers.  Beyond this area about a mile is Sandy Cove where we arrived early and snagged a parking spot near the restrooms and short trail to the beach. We set up to the right of the buoys with our fishing gear and in a short time each caught our limit of trout.

We then moved over to the beach area and enjoyed the cool mountain water, floating around on our noodles. 


                Arriving back at camp, we met two young men who were setting up in a campsite next to us.  Wesley, a thin chap with a ready smile and respectful manner, was from South Carolina.  He traveled to Fresno by Greyhound and caught a shuttle up the mountain.  His belongings all fit into a pack which he carried.  He slept in a hammock.  He and his friend, Joe, had met up and were camping together.  They were thrilled when I gave them two trout which I had stuffed with onion and garlic, seasoned and wrapped in buttered tin foil.  They cooked it over their campfire and raved about it endlessly.  Following suit, another RV camper provided them with breakfast.   




                Sadly we descended the mountain leaving the giant trees and heading north to the Mother Lode Country.  Knowing Yosemite is one of the most-visited parks in the Nation, we didn’t attempt to stay there but opted to set up camp at the KOA campground in Coarsegold on Highway 41 and drive into the park for the day without the trailer. The excitement begins as you drive through the long tunnel:





The dynamic views are so in-your-face that you can only stand and stare in awe. 






However, the experience comes with a caveat.  The crowds are overwhelming (see below):




  Parking is a chore.  The trams are full of visitors from all over the world.  The paths are crowded with camera toting tourists.  I watch them with mixed feelings as some trample off the designated paths, stomping on meadows and feeding the wildlife despite signs prohibiting it.  We are loving this national park to death.  I wonder what John Muir would say.



53886-muir.woody.jpgA photo

in the

Ansel Adams



                THE FALLS are all spectacular this year, gushing with spraying waters.  Lupin lines the roads, and the weather is warm and clear.  Again, Alan is at work with his camera as we discover a little church in a most peaceful setting.



Vacillating between awe of the scenery and frustration with the human mass, we leave the Valley and drive back toward the Wawona Hotel, leaving the crowds in our rear view mirror: 



On the way we take the side drive of 16 miles to Glacier Point.  The view is amazing.  You can see the entire valley, the magnificent falls, El Capitan and Half Dome and several waterfalls.  Here we join the crowds of people who are enjoying the same experience. 





A short time later we sat on the patio of the beautiful colonial style Wawona Hotel and enjoyed cocktails and appetizers. 






  Our day in Yosemite was frustrating in a way, but rewarding in its beauty and worth the trek.  Before exiting the park we took a walk through the Mariposa Grove: 






 We camped back at the KOA campground in Coarsegold before heading home.   



Why go to Tehachapi?


                This little town has a lot to offer and we found a campground that is now tops on our list!  A few things to see:  an ostrich farm, an alpaca farm, wind farm tours, apple farms, wineries, and a glider port.  Nine miles from town is one of the trailheads to the Pacific Crest Trail.  Hiking and biking trails abound.  A few of our favorite spots: 


                THE TEHACHAPI LOOP:



                Listed as a National Historical Civil Engineering Landmark, people come from all over the world to see the “loop.”  The line climbs 77 feet in elevation over a .73 mile spiral that crosses over itself.  It connects Bakersfield and the San Joaquin Valley to Mojave and the Antelope Valley as part of the original Southern Pacific Railroad San Francisco to Los Angeles line. 




                The loop is located 8 miles west of Tehachapi off Hwy 58.  There are turnouts with excellent views of the Loop, and an Historic Landmark Plaque.  A photographer’s heaven!





                Located right in the town is the Tehachapi Depot Railroad Museum.  The depot was re-built by Southern Pacific Railroad in 1904.  It eventually was abandoned and fell into disrepair after years of serving the public.  The building withstood the 1952 Tehachapi earthquake.  In 2005 the Railroad gave the depot to the City, and Friends of the Depot began refurbishing the building. 




When the remodeling was about finished, the building was nearly destroyed by fire.  However, with the original floor plans in hand, dedicated volunteers built a new depot exactly like the original.  Here you can learn about railroad history and view the many excellent exhibits.  Within walking distance are a number of cafes, boutiques, and tourist shops.  And everywhere we went, we were greeted in a warm and friendly manner.  This is certainly a special little town.





                This is a gem of a campground just a few miles from the town center at the foot of Tehachapi Mountain.  First entering you will see a line of RVs camped in the trees.  Don’t settle for that!  Ask for a campsite on the upper portion of the ranch near Twin Lakes. 


53675-ranch1.jpg Our spot was completely private and only yards from the lakes where you can catch bass, blue gil and catfish.  The scenery is pristine with giant oaks and fields of grass and picturesque hiking trails.  Yes, they have hookups for water and electricity. 



We laughed at this sign, but later while fishing there came a low growl from the reeds.  We heard this strange sound intermittently on our stay but could never discover its origin.  Could it be? 



We paid $20 for the night.  Call ahead for a reservation so you can get one of the primo spots and the combination to the gate allowing you to pass through to the upper fields.  The phone number is 661 822-6613.  If you get an answering machine, keep calling til you reach someone.  If you show up without a reservation you can only camp down in the lower part with everyone else. 





                Having read about this center recently, it was one of the focal points of our trip.  It is the National Cesar Chavez Center at Nuestra Senora Reina de La Paz, America’s official living memorial to Cesar Chavez.  It is set on 187 acres and features a mission-style courtyard including Chavez’ gravesite and his carefully preserved office and library.  This was his personal refuge and spiritual harbor.



                Entrance is a $3 donation.  Exhibits change and on our visit a new display had just opened with photographs of the 1966 boycott of grapes.  Cesar Chavez was a remarkable man who sacrificed his life to work for better conditions for the farm workers.



Cesar Chavez’

desk and library






















                Taking the backroads rather than the highway, we traveled a windy road through oak dotted grasslands and saw very few cars.  Hot and tired, we opted to stay at the Lake Isabella KOA campground to take advantage of the pool.  There is a gate at the back of the campground where you can hike into the Kern Valley Preserve, a good spot for birding and hiking.  We took a drive to the town of Kernville, walked through the shops and enjoyed cocktails and appetizers at Ewings.  Our table on the patio was a right over the big rapids (Ewing Rapid) where rafters paddling down the Kern River meet their match!  And, the river this year is higher and faster than normal so screaming drowned out the sound of the river! 



                Before leaving Lake Isabella we visited the Audubon Ranch for some birding, but the mosquitoes were so thick and hungry that we didn’t stay long.




                Why Visalia?  It puts us only about 2 hours from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.  Our aim is to get to the campground early to get a spot and then squat there for the weekend.  There are two campgrounds that are first-come, first-served:  Sunset and Azalea.  So, once again we opted to enjoy a pool at the Visalia KOA campground.  Once we get to Sequoia we will have no pool or hookups.  But, that is the kind of camping we like most.