Saturday, May 7, 2011

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

While ‘sitting’ in the Bakersfield, CA area a couple of weeks ago, I was pondering a suggestion my youngest daughter made regarding my travel route from southern to northern California. Her thought was to spend some time in the central part of the state as that is an area that I haven’t spent any serious time in (other than a weekend visit last spring in the Carmel and Monterey area). I wasn’t finding much of interest along Route 99 and my one day drive over along the coast between Santa Maria to just north of Santa Barbara didn't excite me.  So-o-o-o  I decided that a visit to the three National Parks, so conveniently located adjacent to one another, would be a good choice.  I’m happy with that decision (though I only ventured into two of them)and I enjoyed my visit but, once again. . . . I’m left ‘wanting’!! (One day I may expand on that comment more but not today).

During my visit, the weather down in the little town of Lemon Grove (where I was staying) was sunny with spring-like temps in the high 60’s to low 70’s.  Driving up into the parks to the 7600’ elevation level, the temps dropped 20+ degrees and often the view was ‘socked in’. The giant trees were quite visible and there were no crowds in any one location so that was a big plus! A couple of the roads that I had wanted to wander down were still closed to visitors – that was a disappointment but, perhaps I’ll have the chance to re-visit.

I arrived at the Lemon Grove RV Park on a Sunday afternoon. During the checking in process, the manager asked if I planned on visiting Sequoia NP and when I replied absolutely, she handed me a sheet of paper with the news that there was extensive road work underway on the road up into Sequoia. The info sheet included a schedule for the upcoming week (school vacation for many) and the following Easter holiday weekend. Weekday access to pass through the construction area was scheduled on the hour only. Prior to the school vacation week change, the access was every two hours! Weekend access through this construction zone was monitored via a stoplight at each end of the construction site and there would be delays of approximately 20 minutes. That piece of information motivated me to focus on getting my rv set up, pack a quick lunch and head straight up into the park to avoid the limited access on the upcoming weekdays – a move I had some regrets about a couple of hours later!!


After showing my Golden Passport card at the Sequoia NP entry gatehouse, I drove up to the Visitor Center and then moved along to the first point of interest that was accessible to visitors at this time -- Hospital Rock (pictographs in red) with a short trail down through some
large boulders to a section of the fast flowng flowing Kaweah River

Then it was time to drive the construction zone. Here’s a quick shot of what the drive through the construction zone looked like. I’m sure glad I don’t have to work on this project!!

It was after I exited the construction zone that I noticed the drop in temperature and that there was still snow in the forest areas.   The snow level increased the further along I drove and by the time I reached the General Grant tree access area, I had the sudden realization that I had not thought thru this sudden visit up into the park.   I was wearing a short sleeved shirt, Capri pants and sandals.  I had no jacket and no other shoes to change into for the walk up to see the first of the largest Sequoia trees – duh!!   I did enjoy seeing the fairly large trees along the route I was driving.
It is difficult to ‘grasp’ the size of these beauties in the photos but they were BIG, impressive and beautiful to look at!   Clicking on the photo should increase the size.

I realized that I would have to plan another drive up here during the week after all so I decided to head back out.  This was the view while waiting for the green light to go back through the construction zone – showing the roadway I had travelled up into the Giant Forest -- several switchbacks along the route.

After making it through the construction zone unscathed, I was able to relax abit again and enjoy the vistas. 


A couple of days later, I drove into Kings Canyon via Fresno and Hwy 180 – avoiding the construction zone altogether. The drive out to the national parks through the central coast agricultural countryside was just so beautiful and peacefully serene!  I found myself pulling over to ‘commune’ with the scenery, cattle and horses several times. 


The weather for my second excursion into these parks was very similar to the first trip.  This time I remembered to bring warm socks and a good pair of sneakers along with clothes that I could layer as the temperatures warranted.  

I drove to both the General Grant and General Sherman trees. This time I took a few photos that includes some people (no one I knew). This helps show the contrast between us humans and these humongous trees! Click to enlarge the photo and you should be able to read the description.  If you're not able read the information, the first set of photos is the General Grant tree - the third largest tree (by volume) and the widest known tree in the world!  The next photos are of the General Sherman tree -the largest tree on earth  by volume!  It was very tempting to do as many other people were doing -- climb over the post and rail fencing to walk up and actually touch this amazing structure but the signage gave good reasons for not venturing beyond the fence so I just couldn't  do it!   

This was an interesting sight I came upon when walking up to the General Grant tree.   It's titled 'Fallen Monarch' and the signage makes interesting reading so I've included it among the photos.   I did walk through -- and it was quite roomy inside; even with other people walking through we weren't cramped at all.  In the photos, it looks like the cavity is quite narrow. I actually waited for the other folks wandering through this marvel to pass through so I could get a clear shot.  I think I should have taken at least one with people in it to give it true perspective.    


I think I mentioned earlier in the post the change in the weather up at the 7600 elevation in the parks each day I went up there. These photos show the heavy mist/fog at the upper elevation as I was leaving Kings Canyon in late afternoon, the low lying clouds and the snow remaining along the tops of some of the ridges in the Sierra Nevadas.   The last photo in this section shows the clear, sunny weather as I drove back down to the 1000 elevation level!

As I took the photo of the low lying clouds/snow (above), I noticed this craggy looking bush in front of me.  I loved the look of bushes and trees that grow in odd, but interesting shapes so I took a photo to remember this one!!   Then, across the way from this stop, I was amazed to see these trees and bushes growing out of the rock formation. 

After my second visit it became clear that I’d have to visit again another time to find better weather and access to more areas within these parks (including Yosemite). A couple of days later I moved along o Lathrop, CA to another Regional Park in the San Jacinto county system. The name of the park is Dos Reis. Though it’s located right off I-5 it is a quiet location about 1.5 miles down Dos Reis Road and at, what I would say is the far end of the ‘Delta’ area along a waterway (sets uphill) that provides boat access and fishing. It’s a fairly small park with full hookup sites that are level, have a covered picnic table, most have a fire pit/grill combo, full grown bushes and trees providing a semi-private area, lush, green grass. The bathrooms didn’t appeal to me but I rarely use the restroom or shower facilities at rv parks so, that was not a strong consideration for me. It was quiet, no bright lights shining at night. For $25/night, it was a little gem!!

These last few photos are of that regional park and the resident rooster who, surprisingly, made more use of his vocal chords during the afternoon/evening than at the crack of dawn!!  

I’ve now moved along to the Napa area .  I always experience one of those 'Ah-h-h-h-h moments (actually it lasts for several moments) as I turn off I-80 onto CA-12 (Jameson Canyon Road) heading toward Napa.  The countryside view along that road - and throughout the greater Napa/Sonoma Valley area for that matter - is one that I never tire of and enjoy immensely throughout my stay in the area.  I can truly understand why Nancy chose to return and make this area her home. 

I’ll be in this area for awhile – visiting but also. . . . .I’ve got some heavy decisions to make and need to ‘sit still’ for a spell to ruminate on my options/choices!!