Monday, August 3, 2015

Sequoia and Kings Canyon

 In East Central California (as defined by me :)), lies two national parks which are connected and often visited together, Sequoia and Kings Canyon. My visit was mashed together and I often traveled back and forth, so I'll basically treat them as one in this post. I think this has been my favorite park so far. Yosemite is next on the list but even still, I liked this one. Maybe because Yosemite is so huge and so popular. This park is a little easier to manage size wise and besides a busy weekend, was much more serene than the main part of Yosemite. But I'll talk more on Yosemite next time. 

The star of the show is definitely the Sequoia tree. I've been surprised how much I've loved the trees in the different parks. The sequoias are HUGE!! The largest trees by mass that you'll ever see. The sad thing is that when they were discovered, they were harvested for lumber. So you see huge stumps everywhere that would be even bigger than the biggest currently alive. 

The first night I got in later in the day and was happy to still find a campsite open. I had to drive pretty far into the park, so all I could do that night was set up camp, have some food and head to bed. Here's my campsite - among some big trees (as compared to those in IL) and some bigger stumps. 

This shows how long it takes an old sequoia to grow.

This plaque just made me smile/laugh.

One of the stumps not too far from my campsite.

As you drive through the parks, you drive through some National Forest land too. Not sure if I've mentioned it previously, but some of the forests have good camping and trails in their own right. The forests are actually managed by the Department of Agriculture (forestry) whereas the parks, rec areas, monuments, etc. are managed by the Department of the Interior. Since they are managed by two different groups, it is hit or miss about how well coordinated the two are. I saw a sign for the Chicago Stump (see below) and ended up picking up a flyer about other areas in the forest. Otherwise I wouldn't have had any idea. Below are pictures from a stump forest I visited. The remains from one of the logging enterprises. Because the sequoias are so old and big, a couple of issues arose. First, it took a lot of work just to get the lumber in a manageable size. Second, the age of the wood caused it to not be the best quality lumber. The demand was not sufficient and eventually logging operations shut down. Some people also saw the benefit of these huge forests and were at the same time working to protect them, which was just another problem for logging.

If hollow, my car definitely would have fit inside this stump.

Selfies on the cell phone are relatively easy but I usually try to use the timer on my nice camera to get some pictures with me in them (where my head doesn't take up at least a third of the picture). I definitely still need practice ;).

I left the forest and headed to Kings Canyon. There's a nice hike to a waterfall that follows the river. The trail goes on further and you can do a 4-5 day backpacking trip between smaller lakes. I think that sounds awesome and was jealous of the groups I saw heading out.

Every once in a while, when no one is around, I try to get a jumping picture with the timer. This was my most successful shot, lol. Practice....

A little mouse I found on the trail. He barely moved until I was right over him.

Up to this point I was mainly hiking in my hiking boots or shoes. However I decided to wear my sandals this day. They are sturdy sandals (Chaco) but I ended up a lot dirtier than anticipated :). This was after I had rinsed off in the river about halfway on my return hike.

The Chicago Stump. I was curious. How was Chicago relevant out here? Turns out it was the biggest tree (they think it would be the biggest now if still alive) and some people thought it would be awesome to bring it to the World's Fair in Chicago that was coming up (sidenote: read Devil in the White City if you haven't already). So they cut it down, cut it into transportable pieces and reassembled it in Chicago. Apparently people still thought it was fake when they saw it in Chicago. If you want to get a feel for magnitude, look at the placard pictures, the top one shows the men sitting in the piece carved out.

And here's me with the stump today.

I often don't sleep more than one night in the same spot. It's nice when I do (my morning routine is much quicker) but usually I want to check out another area of the park or find somewhere cheaper. This spot only had five campsites and no water, but it was free :).

I found this funky caterpillar on the outside of my tent in the morning.

Then one day I just took a walk. I had tried to make it to a couple different ranger programs with no success. I always underestimated the drive time and/or parking situation. So when I missed one and had no plans, I parked, walked across the road and found a trail. It ended up being a great walk through a sequoia forest. Many of the trees were still relatively young but still pretty big :). The black on the trunk is from a fire. The sequoia actually need forest fires to survive. Their pinecones only open up after a fire has come through and destroyed the ground vegetation. Then the seeds are planted and they will begin to grow. Rangers didn't know this at first and for a while tried to stop all fires. Now we know the importance and they try to let natural (e.g. lightning) fires burn. The sequoia bark is super thick (up to two feet I think), so they can withstand most fires.

One tree had fallen and was hollowed out so that you could walk through it. That was pretty cool. I couldn't even touch the top in some spots.

A look up at one of the giants. (Redwoods do grow taller than sequoias but don't have the same girth and overall mass.)

This one had a sign in front, so I tried to do some perspective shots with my water bottle. Lots of trees were named for historic presidents.

The Lincoln happened to also have a mini tunnel on one side :).

Here's the full tree. You can barely see the water bottle. It looks like a glint of sun or something. But it's there, at the bottom, just left of center. (If you click on the picture, your browser may open it larger in a new window - not sure.)

There were other trees as well and they had some of the largest pinecones I've ever seen.

Here is General Sherman - the biggest tree alive.

Those are the Sierra Nevadas. Mt. Whitney is over in that area and is the highest peak in California at 14,494 feet. I did not feel a need to climb it :). But the John Muir trail connects Mt Whitney to Yosemite. It's one of the shorter long trails in the U.S. and hiking it is on my bucket list.

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