Day 25- King’s Canyon And Sequoia National Parks
We woke up chilly this morning as we had our AC on full blast in the camper to combat the heat. I’m starting to second guess our decisions to route this way because my whole point for my summer tours are to get away from heat. Oh well. Here we are.
Maggie had a virtual training this morning that she was able to join from the comfort of our camper as I cooked a farm fresh potato hash with Tillamook cheddar and pork sausage. We ate together at the table in our camper, escaping the morning heat, while she was still tuned in to the training. August continued to sleep in his adjacent bunk.
We then prepped for the day as August got a slow start, and we eventually made our way to the local market to grab water and Gatorade for our adventure. The drive to the National Forest was slow one behind a convoy of tour busses that kept us at what seemed like a tortoise pace for 19 miles to the gates of the park. We flashed our annual national parks pass, which I highly recommend for anyone touring the country, and started searching for our first adventure.
Our first stop ending up being the welcome center at King’s Canyon because Maggie had some questions about the parks. We got our obligatory sticker for our cargo carrier and August picked up a pin and a stamped penny to add to his collections.
Next we headed to General Grant’s Tree Loop which seemed to be an easy 1/2 mile hike that led you to the third largest tree in the world and then right back around to your car. Easy peasy, right? Wrong. I’m not sure how we continue to get lost on these simple loop hikes, but there always seems to be an intriguing trail off of the main loop that we just assume is the way to go. 2 miles later, after wondering where we went wrong, we followed a sweet little chipmunk that led us straight to the giant sequoia that was the showcase of this trail.
Now, we just recently were blown away by the coastal redwoods of Northern California, and I’m not sure what I expected of the giant sequoias, but I certainly didn’t expect what we found. These trees are MASSIVE. There was one called the Fallen Monarch that lay across the forest floor. It was hollow from the roots to the top, and people used to live inside of it! We hiked through it in awe. There were many other giant sequoias in Grant’s Grove, but none bigger than Grant’s tree itself. It bore the scars of many fires that it had survived as it stood 267 ft tall and about 30’ wide.
As we read the plaques about the giant trees, we learned that they are damn near immortal. Impermeable to bugs, rot, and in most cases, fire, the only thing that really kills them is toppling. The roots spread wide at a shallow depth without a tap root leaving them vulnerable to overly moist conditions where their roots can’t support their weight. Their are many examples of this in the park. There are even a few that succumbed to fires, but the beauty of these fallen giants is that their death made way for new life.
Toppling often creates space for more sunlight to reach smaller trees while the force of the falls shakes the seed of its fruit to the ground. New seeds take root, and a whole new generation of giants is born. The same happens with fire. In most cases, the bark is so thick and insulates the trees so well that all that fire leaves is a scar that over the years heals itself with new bark growth. In the event that a sequoia falls to fire, it sheds it’s seeds on a freshly cleared forest floor with a new opening for sunlight to feed a new generation. I’m fascinated.
We returned to the car to map out the next stop and decided we’d head deep into King’s Canyon. As we made our way along the narrow winding roads, I saw a sign for Hume Lake, which is a lake that I had read about at some point in the recent past. We decided to veer off the main road and detour to check out the lake.
It was another long and winding road that eventually led us to a break in the forest where we took in the sights of this beautiful mountain lake for the first time. We found a spot to park and walked around only to find every access point blocked by easy up tents, tarps, and ice chests. It reminded me of St. Charles Avenue during Mardi Gras. We eventually found a break where we stepped up to the shore to let August get his feet wet. We spotted a large tadpole hanging around a log in the clear water. The lake was more populated than we would’ve liked, so we quickly made the decision to move on.
We stopped to get gas and some sandwiches at a market nearby. We found out that there is a Hume Lake Christian Camp that parents evidently send their kids to even during a pandemic. I have not seen a place as populated as this since the last time I saw a show at Tipitinas. We quickly grabbed what we needed, fully masked, as kids and adults alike ran around unmasked as if they believed their god would protect them.
In our haste to alleviate ourselves from the situation, we ended up on a road that took us towards Sequoia National Park and not King’s Canyon. There also happened to be construction on that road that led to a one hour traffic stop while highway workers repaved the road we were on. We used the time to eat our sandwiches and chips and read up on the park and what we wanted to see on the new road we were about to head down.
We found a couple of hikes that interested us including the big tree trail which was a beautiful hike around a meadow full of lush greenery and white and purple wildflowers surrounded on it’s perimeter by giant sequoias. This may have been the most beautiful spot we saw today mainly due to our timing in getting there. The sun was just starting it’s western decline, and it was lighting up the massive sequoia trunks in a way that made them illuminate in a bright orange hue from across the meadow. I felt most at peace here.
We then found a novelty fallen sequoia that we were able to drive our car through before heading to what would be our last hike of the day, General Sherman Tree. Again, another half mile hike loop that managed to make longer.
The allure of this hike is that this particular tree holds the record for the largest tree in the world. What I learned on this hike is that this does not mean the Sherman tree is the tallest or the widest, but it with its height and perimeter, it boasts more volume of wood than any other tree in the world.
The hike took us down a few hundred feet for us to get to base of the tree where we reveled in its size. It’s footprint was over 100’ around the base. In my estimation, it would take more than 20 people stretching their arms out and holding hands to reach all the way around the giant. We snapped a few pics but had no desire to stay because once again we are noticing that maybe 1 in every 20 people are masked.
We slowly hiked back up the steep trail taking a few breaks breaks before reaching our car. At 7,000’ you can definitely feel the lack of oxygen in the air. We were a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see King’s Canyon, but our consolation prize was a beautiful sunset over the Sierra Nevada Mountains that took us all the way back to campsite an hour away.
I finished the night off grilling up some duck sausage that my buddy, Rob, had given to me, and Maggie and I laid side by side on the picnic table taking in the show that the stars were putting on while August sucked up the campground WiFi. It was a good day, indeed.
Until next time, be good to yourselves and each other.