From Pismo Beach, we travelled northeast away from the coast and back to the San Joaquin Valley. We found a nice little passport park with a pool, and settled in for the weekend.
Our location was perfect for visiting Sequoia National Park and King’s Canyon National Park, both in the Sierra Nevada Mountains east of the valley. We set out early Saturday morning with the parks as our destination, starting with Sequoia.
We stopped in at the Visitor Center to pick up a map and get some recommendations on good trails for hiking and things to see – with some help from a Ranger, we mapped out our plan for the day.
We followed the Kaweah River up into the mountains, past tunnel rock,
and the further we climbed, the more beautiful the scenery became.
Following the General’s Highway, we eventually reached the Giants Forest, and started to see some of the giant trees.
These trees are so huge, we found ourselves constantly looking up!!
We stopped at the Giant Forest Museum, where there are several trails that meander through the forest. Everywhere you look, you are surrounded by these spectacular trees!
We followed the loop around the Museum,
and Nicolas was on the hunt for bears!
He didn’t find any up there, and we continued from the museum trail to the “Big Trees” trail.
This trail is a loop through a sequoia grove that surrounds a small meadow. The soft, moist soil in the meadow is unable to support the giant trees, so they only grow around the perimeter.
We followed the trail around the meadow, admiring the giant trees and reading the informative signs along the way . . .
and then some people coming from the other direction pointed out a mama bear and her two cubs in the meadow. We could see them from where we were, but following the trail would take us closer, so we continued to where a group of people were gathered on the trail.
The mama bear and one cub were to the left of the trail, in the meadow,
but the other cub had wandered across the trail to the other side. He was just hanging out next to a tree.
That put the group of us in a sticky situation – the trail passed right between the mama bear and her cub. She didn’t seem too concerned with us where we were standing – she just looked up occasionally and then went back to eating – but we weren’t sure what she would do if we continued along the trail.
One group decided to try going through, but as soon as they did the cub quickly started climbing the tree.
Some others in the group thought this might upset the mother, so they stopped and turned back, and took the trail back the way we had come from.
The rest of us were standing there watching for a few more minutes, and the cub came down out of the tree and crossed back over the trail to the meadow side.
With the bear family all together on one side of the trail, we figured it was safe to pass by, and we quickly made our way along the trail. That was really close . . . these bears weren’t more than 50 feet off the trail! (I only had my standard lens on my camera, not my telephoto!)
and made our way back to the car.
Our next destination in the park was Moro Rock. It was a steep climb, but promised an amazing view on a clear day.
Too bad it wasn’t a clear day!!
Bryce was determined to climb to the top of the rock, so we started up, despite the clouds. It was definitely steep, and clouds kept rolling over the rock . . . and the higher we got, the windier it became!
The railings were also disturbingly low, and seemed to get lower as we got higher. Bryce said the railing at the top was barely above his knees! I wouldn’t know because I stopped a little over halfway up the 430 steps . . . it was getting a little too windy for my comfort level!
We were literally in the clouds, and sometimes you couldn’t see anything, and then they would blow past and you would get a glimpse of the mountain peaks in the distance . . . but then more clouds would roll in.
The boys reached the peak, and Tom caught up to them on their way down, so Bryce went back up again with him.
named for a group of explorers. In many areas, the Sequoias are kept behind fences to protect the fragile root systems, but here we were able to walk among the trees and get close to them – even climb around them!
This tree fell in 1959 (none of the 4 of us were even alive yet!!), and it was already estimated to be 2300 years old! Amazing!
The fallen logs are just as incredible as the standing trees . . . logs are big enough to walk through, and sometimes even to drive under!
This tree fell in 1937!
We made our way then to Crescent Meadow, and had our lunch at the picnic area before setting out on another hike through the forest.
Nicolas, the adventurer, wanted to follow the High Sierra Trail – even all the way to Mt. Whitney – but we stayed on the meadow trail, once again making our way through a grove of giant trees that surrounded the meadow.
Some of the area we hiked through had recently burned. Fire is essential to the life cycle of the sequoias, it’s needed to release the seeds from the pine cones, but some areas looked devastated by fire.
At the far end of the meadow, we reached Tharp Log. Tharp is credited with discovering the Giant Forest in 1858, and he spent the summers living in this cabin, built into a fallen log, until the land became a National Park.
From Tharp Log, we made our way back through the forest,
and made our way to Chimney Tree.
We arrived back at the car, and leaving the Giants Forest, we made our way through Sequoia National Park and into King’s Canyon National Park.
King’s Canyon is a large, deep canyon in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We stopped at the Canyon Overlook as we entered the park,
but the ranger had told us that we would see much more dramatic examples of canyons and waterfalls at Yosemite the following week, so we just drove right to Grant’s Grove – afterall, this day was all about the giant trees!
Are you tired of looking at them yet? I wasn’t!
The loop trail through Grant’s Grove is a short, paved path circling around the central feature – the General Grant Tree.
It’s very tall (over 200 feet), and has a very large footprint )over 20 feet), but it’s not very old . . . less than 300 years old, and that makes it a very amazing tree . . . and destined to be a true giant!!
There’s also a fallen log that you can walk through, which was really pretty cool.
From the outside, though, it just looks like any other fallen log,
but it has the most amazing front entrance!
We finished the walk around Grant’s Grove, and the boys were starting to get a little silly . . . we could tell it was getting late in the day, and we were all tired!
We had seen enough, and were ready to get back to the RV . . . we made just one last stop on our way out of the park – at the Big Stump.
The King’s Canyon area had been subject to logging before it was made a National Park, so many of the giant trees were taken down, leaving just giant stumps behind!
They got up there easily enough, but weren’t too sure of how they were going to get down!
They did get down, though, and we made it back to the RV, after a stop for pizza in a tiny town just outside the park.
It was a very long day, and who would have thought we’d be so excited about trees, but these were truly amazing trees – the giants of the forest!!