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.
THE WALK THROUGH TREE
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.
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.
A FAVORITE PART OF CAMPING IS THE BBQ. READY PREPARED MEATBALLS FROM COSTCO HELP MAKE SHISH-KA-BOBS SIMPLE
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.
THE GEM OF THE SIERRAS
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.
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.
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.