Friday, August 3, 2012

2012 Vacation Sequoia National Park

2012 Vacation – July 27th

We started our vacation today and had a lot to do the morning we left.   Got our youngest packed and pointed him east so that he could drive to Wichita, KS. to visit with his grandparents while we were gone.   This is his first road trip by himself of this distance.   He is driving Candy’s car and we spoke with him this afternoon and he made it. Once he was on the road it was time for us to leave.  We headed up to DIA to catch our flight to Fresno.   The flight was uneventful and we landed and picked up our rental car.  While in Fresno we stopped at Whole Foods, Wal-Mart and the Meat Market to get our supplies.  We were on the road to Three Rivers, CA around 3:30pm.  The drive took us about an hour and half to get to town and once there we stopped at the realtor’s office to get the keys to the house we had rented for the week.

The house is awesome!  It is just two miles from the entrance to Sequoia National Park and is located on the Kaweah River just outside of Three Rivers, CA.  Has a large deck so that we can kick back and listen to the rushing water and view the wildlife.   We unloaded all of our supplies and get settled in.  Afterwards we drove back into town to see if we could find something to eat.   There is not much in Three Rivers, CA, two gas stations, three restaurants at most, a video store, coffee shop and general market.

We didn’t have internet and that was nice.  This gave me a real chance to unplug from work.  I even forwarded my office and cell phone so that I wouldn’t get any calls.   I needed a break, most vacations I end up working part time, but this time I just made the decision not to.  The first day was a little rough and our cell phones were pretty much useless at the house and it the mountains.  But I got over not being in touch quickly.

We opted for Mexican food.  We sat outside and enjoyed the nice weather while we ate.  The place stayed pretty busy and the food was ok.  I had a pork burrito with green chili.  I can do a better job.  

Back at the house we kicked-it out back and planned our strategy for taking on the park tomorrow.

2012 Vacation – July 28th

Up early and out the door.  We were on our way to the park at 7:50am and through the gate just a few minutes later.   We stopped in at the visitor’s center to get a map and figure out what we wanted to do first.

We opted to drive up to the Giant Forest Museum parking lot and park.  From here we could catch a bus to take us to other areas of the park.    After a quick perusal through the museum we did our first trail “Big Tree’s Trail” this is a 1.2  mile loop on a paved path that circles a meadow with giant sequoias  We snapped up pictures left and right of the massive trees and meadow as we made our way around the loop.  Wild flowers, grasses and plants of various varieties filled the meadow.    They perform controlled burns in the park, this is actually required so that the fire will heat the fallen pine cones and they will break open and release the seeds for new sequoia trees.  They had recently performed a burn and in certain area’s the fire was still smoldering and even flaming up.

As we made our way around the bend, we looked up and there just off the trail was a Bear with one of her cubs.    Candy and I both about crapped out pants.   The bear was no more than 20ft away and moving our direction.  We stood there for a second and then started walking backwards.   The bear came up on the path and crossed over into the meadow.  There was a cub with her but she kept in front of it and blocked from view so I couldn’t get a picture.   Once in the meadow she laid down in the tall grass and if you were passing by you wouldn’t even know she was there.

Once the shock of coming so close to the bears was over, we finished out the loop and made our way over to the Moro Rock trail head that was just across the road.   We hiked the 2.5 miles through the forest and did not come across any other hikers until we had just about reached the end.  If you really want to see Sequoia National Park, hike the trails and catch the shuttle to return.   We came across lots of sequoia and sugar pine trees that you wouldn’t get to see from the car.   When we reached Moro Rock we did the 0.5 mile hike up to the top.   Moro Rock is steep 300ft staircase climb.  From the top you have views into the Great Western Divide.  This was busy area; the shuttle stopped here and with the short distance up to the top lots of visitors made the trek.

When back at the bottom we hopped on the shuttle that was standing room only and took it back to the Giant Trees Museum.   With all the people we decided to head on back down the mountain to the house.   There was construction on the General’s Highway and the road was closed to two way traffic.   Every 20 minutes they would let you down/up the mountain.  So it was fun to try to catch the light.   We learned quickly, that if you found shade the wait was much nicer than sitting in the glaring sun.  

When we were in Fresno at the Wal-Mart I got a 10 day fishing license and $21 rod and reel with a box of tackle.  I put on my swimming suit and went down to the river to fish and cool off.    The rocks were very slippery and you had to watch your step and look for sure footing.   I was wearing aqua socks and even with them it was slick.

I put on a small plastic worm for bait and after about 5 casts I caught a 14 inch rainbow trout.   Got all excited and about slipped! J   Reeled it in, pulled the hook and let it go.  I didn’t have the camera with me, but I will next time. J

We threw some steaks on the grill and baked the twice baked potato’s we had gotten at the store.  It was great dinner!  With all the travel and getting up early we were in bed by 9:30pm.

2012 Vacation July 29th

Another early morning for us as we wanted to get a few more trails in today.  We drove up into the park and once again parked the car at the Giant Forest Museum parking lot.   We did the Big Forest Loop trail again in hopes of catching another glimpse of the bear we had seen yesterday.  No luck this day so we decided to move on.

We caught the shuttle and headed over to Crescent Meadow.  Candy and I were the only two on the shuttle except for the driver.  He was in good spirits and had plenty of stories to tell.  Once at our stop we jumped off the shuttle and started off on the trail.  It wasn’t five minutes and once again we encountered another bear and her cub.  This one was crossing the trail with her cub.  Candy snagged this picture of the cub in the tree.

Once the excitement was over we continued on our hike with our eyes wide open in the event we came across any others.  We were surrounded by towering sequoias and sugar pines.  We did the loop trail and ended up at Tharp Log.  Built in 1861 by Hale D. Tharp, he would spend the summers living here and used the near by meadows as range for his livestock. Tharp is recognized as one of the discover’s of the giant forest.  He died in 1912 at the age of 84.

We made our way back to the trail head and caught the shuttle over to the Giant Forest Museum.  From there we caught the orange line and took the shuttle up to Lodepole Visitor Center and Village.  We walked through the visitor center and looked around.  On one wall they have a mural of the different type of animals that can found in the forest.  We went into the restaurant and gift shop and ordered up something to eat.   We checked out the various shirts and gifts for sale while we finished our drinks.

We made our way up through the Lodgepole camping area and picked up the Tokopah falls trail.   This is a 3.4 mile round trip loop that runs along the river up to the falls.   The fall was running but not much.   They received 70% less snow this last year and there is not much water.  It is really noticeable when you drive by the Kaweah reservoir.  So with minimal water we were able to get up on the falls.  Once again you need to watch your step.  The granite is slick and with wet shoes its even slicker.  We hammed it up for some pictures and climbed around.  Candy climbed up higher than I did and it was a bit of a challenge coming back down.

We made our way down from the falls back to Lodgepole.  Along the way we found an area in the river that we could walk out to and lay on the massive granite rock in the shade.   We hung out for a bit and snacked on our trail mix and half a sandwich.   Always with a keen eye looking for any bears that might want to get at our food.    We continued down to the shuttle stop.  We waited a few minutes and there was our shuttle.   We road down to the General Sherman parking area and made the 0.5 mile hike down to the tree.  This is the largest tree in the world by mass.   We walked around the tree with all of the other visitors, it is very impressive and something that you should see for yourself.  It is so big it is really hard to capture a picture that can justify what seeing it in person looks like.   Caught the shuttle and we were back to the museum parking lot.  We made our way back down the mountain and through the construction zone.   I parked about 500 ft. back from the car in front of us in the shade.   The wait was about 15 minutes so not to bad.

Back at the house we loaded up the pictures we had taken today.  We cooked up some chicken on the grill with some veggies and a salad.  Sat out back on the deck and just listened to the water flow.

2012 Vacation July 30th

We took a break from the park today and slept in a little.  I say a little but we were still up by 7am.   We got dressed and made the drive into Three Rivers and got us a coffee.  From there we drove up to Vasalia, CA, it’s about 40 miles from where we are staying.

Stopped into Mooney Park, this is just the local park and did a drive through.  We stopped and hung out for a bit while I searched for any local antique shops that we could on Google.  As luck would have it there were about seven of them all on Main Street.

We spent most of the morning walking up and down Main Street and checked out the antique shops.   We saw a lot of nice antiques but with no way to get anything home we saved some money.   I found a couple of fire hydrants, I would like to have one for the yard but with the weight there was just no way to get it home.  Candy did get a small deer vase and rooster lamp for the kitchen.   Being in Vasilia we had the opportunity to get a Starbucks. 

We finished up about noon and had lunch at Mimi’s.  The food was ok, I am not a big fan, Candy likes it!  I guess I just don’t know what to order.

We then headed over to the Mall and walked around and checked it out.   Pretty much the same as you will find in any mall in America.  Being that our anniversary was coming up and with all the travel I have been doing I didn’t have a chance to get Candy anything.   I made the excuse that I needed to hit the restroom and checked out a couple of the jewelry shops.   I got her a little amethyst bracelet to go with the ear rings and necklace that I hade gotten her last year. 

As we were leaving the mall we did find a medical clothing shop and Candy found a new set of scrubs for work.

Made the drive back to Three Rivers and we stopped and ordered a pizza from the pizza place in town.  We had a sausage, pepperoni, black olive and jalapeño pizza and it was very tasty!  We sat out back and enjoyed the sounds of the river.

2012 Vacation July 31st

We did a lot of driving today.   We headed out at 8am and made our way back into the park.   We took the General’s Highway through Sequoia up into Kings Canyon National Park.   We made our first stop at the construction zone where we waited about 20 minutes to get through.  It took us about 2/hours to get to our next stop.

Our second stop was the General Grant visitor’s center.   We checked out the gift shop and looked at the map.   We got the boys each a shirt, needed to bring them something back.   We then drove over to the General Grant parking lot and hiked around the tree and snapped up some more pictures.  This is another massive Sequoia tree.  They have a very nice paved trail for you to walk on and check out the scenery.    Lot’s of tourist were visiting this area; it was hard to get a decent picture with all the people.  In this location there is a down sequoia that you can actually walk through.   I wish we could get sequoia trees to grow in Colorado.  Maybe we do somewhere.

We continued on the road and made our way to the Cedar Grove visitors center.   We got a drink and I needed an ice cream bar.   The steller’s jays were hanging out in the area and I threw them a small piece of chocolate and they were all over it.   They looked pretty rough, like me when I get up in the morning.

We made our way to Roads End; it is actually called Roads End.   It was now about 1:30 in the afternoon.  We made the circle loop and headed back.   Kings Canyon is one of the deepest canyons that I have ever been in.   It puts to shame the little canyons that we hike around Colorado Springs.  The views are just awesome.

Our intention was to Hike the 9 mile loop from Roads End up to Mist Falls.   We opted not to make the journey, it was late in the afternoon and the temperature was well into the high 90’s.

We did stop and make the 0.5 mile walk to the Roaring River Falls.   Now this was beautiful and not to overly crowded.   This is a nice running water fall with a deep pool that you could swim in.   We were both wishing we had brought our swimming suits so we could jump in a cool off.   We snapped up some pictures and made our way back to the car.

As we were driving along the Roaring River it was looking so tempting to jump in.  I pulled into a pull out and we walked down to the river.  I stripped down to my underwear and put on my water shoes and made my way out into the river across the slick rocks.   Candy hiked up her shorts and was right behind me.   It felt great to get into the cool water and take a break.   We stacked a few rocks to leave our mark that we were there.

We started the long drive back and pulled off at various locations to get some additional pictures of the peaks and wildlife.

We reached Waksachi Village turn off about 4:30pm and figured we should stop and check it out we probably wouldn’t be back this way.  We were both glad we did.   They have a nice lodge and restaurant here.  This looks newer than the other places we had visited.   The restaurant opened at 5pm and we were lucky enough to get a reservation.   We had window table that had a great view of the surrounding area.   As we were walking back to our car the chipmunks were running around and I was able to get this picture.

Back in the car it took us another couple of hours to get back to the house.   We arrived back about 8pm.

2012 Vacation August 1st, Happy Anniversary

Today we celebrated or 25th wedding anniversary and I couldn’t think of any place else I would rather be to do so.   We exchanged the cards we had gotten each other.   We talked about how blessed we have been together and what we have accomplished over the years.  Love you babe!

We loaded the back pack and were on our way to get some more hiking in.   Today we decided to get some distance in.   We drove up to the Giant Forest Museum parking lot and hopped on the shuttle to take us over to Moro Rock.  Our plan for today was to hike from Moro Rock up to the General Sherman tree.   This is about a six mile hike off the beaten path and away from all the people.

At Moro Rock we caught the trail head to take us up to Crescent Meadow.   We hiked through the sequoias and sugar pines and through a couple of meadows along the way.   All week I had been trying to get some decent bird pictures.   With the trees being so tall it was hard to spot any birds although you could hear them chirping.   I finally captured this picture of a really pretty finch.   For the entire hike we only crossed one other couple on the trail.   This is maybe part of the reason why I was finally able to see some birds.

Our first stop was a nice little water fall.  We hung out and took a short break.  We then headed up to Bobcat Point.   Here you can look back and get a great view of Moro Rock and views into the Western Divide.  We continued on the trail and made our way over to Crescent Meadow.   We had hopes of spotting the bear we had seen a couple of days before.  No luck this time.

We continued on the trail and made the quick loop to check out Squatters Cabin.  Built in the 1980’s by some guy who was trying to claim rights to the land.   I guess he was quickly removed.  Back on the trail we passed through the Black Arch and then onto Pillars of Hercules.   Again no people on the trails, we had them all to our selves.    We came across a couple of deer and snapped a few pictures.

We kept moving and made our way Circle Meadow and them up to other tree groupings.  The first was a pretty cluster of sequoias that had been named as the Founders Group.  Then we reached the Room Tree, Cattle Cabin and then the McKinley tree.   We took pictures along the way, both talking about how awesome it would have been to be one of the discover’s of these trees.   Also a big thanks out to our forefathers for having the vision to save these trees and turn this area into a National Park for everyone to enjoy.

After reaching the General Sherman tree we jumped on the shuttle and road back up to Lodgepole where we had a quick bit to eat.   We grabbed the shuttle to take us back down to the Giant Tree Museum.  We had a little time to kill so we hike around an area called Beetle Rock.   It was about 4:30pm and we wanted to get back down through the construction area.   We made it there at about 4:50pm and ended up waiting a good 50 minutes before we could get through.  Luckily we were parked in the shade.  I parked about 400ft back from the car in front of us so we could get some shade.   Three cars behind me pulled around so they could get in front.   Once they parked we could see that they realized that they had screwed up as now they were sitting in the hot sun.

Once back in town we drove to the market and grabbed a salad and some beef for the grill.  Got home and put on swimming suits and went down and played in the river for a while.   We did some rock hounding to see if we could find any geodes but no luck.   We busted up some rocks to see if we could find any crystals.

Cooked up dinner and starting packing for the return home tomorrow.   Neither one of us was ready to leave.   We had hiked over 25 miles in the park and still had plenty of other trails that we would have liked to gotten on.   We will have to make another trip up this way.  Thinking about Yosemite next time and coming up earlier in the year to get a glimpse of more wild flowers.

Happy Hiking

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