Monday, August 8, 2011

Day Forty-Five: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

We didn't have anyone sleeping on our table today! Well, we didn't have any neighbors, so it's a good thing. That would have been even more awkward. We packed up, and were ready for the guy at the camp's witty comments. (I didn't get the "jumping ship" comment yesterday when he said it...) After yesterday's trip to Yosemite, we decided that we were going to head for Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. We figured that, according to the maps, they were kind of close to where we were staying. It turns out that the farther from the coast you get, the farther everything is spread out. It took about 2 hours to get there from the campsite. We entered through the "Big Stump Entrance", which is exactly that- an entrance with a HUGE Sequoia tree stump. But there wasn't anything pointing to it, so it was just kind of passed by- one of those things that you don't realize until it's too late. There are three national areas all combined- the Sequoia National Forest, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Park. We stopped at the first stop we could, which was the National Forest Visitor's Center. From there, we decided that we would go out to Kings Canyon first, then make our way back to the other parks. It takes about 2 hours to get to the end of the road (the road does end) and that was where we started. Our first stop was Tumwalt Meadow, which was supposed to be a short hike to a meadow with wildflowers and a river. Well, it had a river, but the meadow was overgrown. We were going to take the looping trail, but a friendly hiker mentioned that he saw a 4-foot-long rattlesnake on the other side of the loop. We turned around immediately. When we got back, I told the Ranger who was leading a tour, and all she said was, "We'll keep an eye out for it". One brave girl... Our next stop was to a set of waterfalls, which felt nice on the hot day, and the last stop was supposed to be the Canyon look-out, but a lot of it had also overgrown.
From there, we stopped at Sequoia National Park (two more hours...) Here, we stopped at Grant Grove. This is where the "General Grant Tree" is, which is actually the third largest living tree. It is also considered the "Nation's Christmas Tree". It doesn't look very 'Christmas-tree-ish', but it is definitely HUGE!! You can walk around it to see its fire scar. Also big. Apparently it takes a lot to take down a Sequoia. Most of the ones that were knocked down were done by loggers. The trees' bark is specially 'designed' to help protect it from fires. There are a lot that have fire scars but are still upright. There is also the "Fallen Monarch", which is a Giant Sequoia that is now a tunnel. It was amazing because you could walk right through it. And since we are both short enough, we didn't have to bend down and there was still room to move! They also have another tunneled tree in the park that was created in the 1930's. It was called the "California" (clever name), and the tunnel was wide enough for a car to fit through. They don't allow it anymore, but they show pictures of it being used, and they point out where the tree was trying to repair itself. There is supposed to be another tree you can actually drive through, but we didn't get out there. We were going to take a short hike to see it, but ran out of time.
Since it was getting late (we were an hour later than our supposed cut-off), we decided to head out through the Sequoia National Park road. We got to the park's entrance and there was a sign saying that the road was closed 30 miles ahead (which would make our escape impossible). We probably should have kept driving, just to see more of the park, but we were worried that we wouldn't make it to the campground in time. We had a lot of stops we wanted to make (like the General Sherman tree, which is the largest living tree in the world, and some other trails), but didn't. It'll give us something to come back for, now!
These two parks had a lot of the same characteristics as Yosemite yesterday, but since they were a lot less crowded, we were able to enjoy them more. You don't need to fight with the crowds as much, which made it more enjoyable.
After stopping for some coffee, and watching the cop sit behind the bushes to nab someone (which he did...), it was off to our next camp. It was about three hours away. We were making really good time (like 10 minutes according to the GPS) until we got off the highway. They weren't kidding when they said "Winding Roads. Use Caution." It was one giant loopy road, and the sun- didn't help. We did see 2 jackrabbits and 11 turkeys on the road, though We finally made it, around 8:30. It's a good thing we can almost set our tent up with our eyes closed since it was dark out. It's a beautiful night out (with a 0% chance of precipitation, according to, so we decided to not attach the rainfly. I guess it was a good call. It looks like it hasn't rained here in a long time. We also have our own little section, off in the corner by ourselves, which is really nice.

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