Thursday, August 23, 2007

Roadtrip 1995 - Part 1: Sequoia And Kings Canyon

First leg of my 1995 Roadtrip was Sequoia and Kings Canyon. I left early in the morning and drove up highway 33 which takes you through Ojai and through the Los Padres National Forest. The drive is very beautiful with tree lined mountains and valley views. At Maricopa I headed over to Highway 99 and made my way to Visalia. Since it was Labor Day weekend I had made hotel reservations in Visalia. I ate some lunch at Arby’s before making the hour long drive to south side of Sequoia NP.

The south entrance of the park is a twisty turny road up the mountains with spectacular views of sequoia and pine trees and mountain vistas. The road reaches the Giant Forest Museum which, when I was there, was more of a visitor’s center with a gift shop and a restaurant. After a brief stop here I headed to Moro Rock. Along the way there is a fallen tree that you can drive your car on to have a picture taken and another tree that you can drive your car through.


Moro rock is cool. The rock is surrounded on three sides by shear drops into the valley below. The trail climbs up the side of the rock. Paths and rock stairs take you to the rounded top of the rock. The views from up there are awesome. Air pollution from Los Angeles has been getting worse up there and the visibility is slowly diminishing. One thing that stuck me is there is very little preventing you from falling over the side. The wall along the trail, if it exists, reaches to mid-shin. At the top there is a single chain supported by waist high metal rods. One slip and zip down you would go several hundred feet. Then again, I have never heard of anyone falling. Still, not a good place for people afraid of heights.



After Moro rock I drove to Crescent Meadow. Here I did a short two mile loop around the meadow. The trail passes Tharp Log, a cabin made from a hollowed out sequoia. Tharp is credited for discovering the Giant Forest. Thinking back, this would have been my first official hike. I was pretty wiped after this short hike so I drove back to Visalia, had some dinner, and went to bed early. The next morning I went back and headed for General Sherman.

General Sherman is considered the largest living tree by volume. Very impressive. There is a short trail called the Presidential Loop trail which goes by several sequoias named after presidents (Duh). I started walking this trail when I saw a spur that went up the ridge. I decided to follow this trail up. The trail climbed higher and higher until you reached the top of the ridge. The trail intersects the High Sierra Trail. The trail then drops down to the Crescent Meadow area that I had visited the day before. From there a caught a less defined trail back up and over the ridge back to the President Loop trail. On this part of the trail I saw a deer. The deer wasn’t afraid of me at all. It just stood there while I took its picture. It also sprinkled a little before I made it back to the car.

On to Lodgepole Visitor Center. I bought some lunch and rested from my hike. I began feeling better so I started hiking up to Tocopah Falls. I made it to the falls and stopped, snacked, and rested. Someone pointed across to the other side of the river. Up the hill from the river, coming out of the brush, was a bear. This was my first bear sighting ever. It was quite a distance away but it was still cool.

I started heading back and another first happened – I heard my first California thunder. Thunder is rare in the Oxnard plain where I live. The thunder in the valley was loud and was soon followed by rain – hard rain – a downpour. By the time I reached the car I was completely soaked.


I drove back to Visalia. I was getting tired of the drive. I decided that, instead of coming back to Visalia the next night, I would find someplace in the park. After a few phone calls I found that everything in the park was booked solid till the next summer. I went to plan B - I would leave the park by the west exit and stay in Fresno. I went to bed at 8:00 – I was zonked.

Next morning … ow … every muscle in my legs was screaming. I figure I hiked a total of 10.1 miles the day before. Mind you, this was the first time I had ever hiked. I could hardly bend my knees. I checked out of my hotel early and drove up to Giant Forest Museum and had some breakfast. The breakfast there was delicious. It tasted soooo good. The best I had had in a long time.
I left Giant Forest and drove to Kings Canyon. The road goes through seemingly unending forest past Hume Lake to the top of the canyon. The vistas there as you drove into the canyon are amazing. The river was roaring and occasionally you would see white water rafters going by. Really cool. I would have liked to hike there but I was way too sore.

I drove toward the west exit stopping at Grant Grover Visitor Center.
At Grant Grove I tried to do a one mile loop that nearly killed me. I then drove out of the park and ended up in a hotel in Fresno where I went to see Mortal Combat (A very bad movie) and watched the street walkers strut their stuff in front of the hotel (classy joint).
Here are some pictures. I will be adding new pictures as I go along. Next stop, Yosemite and Lake Tahoe.

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