Sunset in PV

Sunset in PV

Monday, May 14, 2012

May 8 – 13, 2012 “Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks”

We departed Boron, CA, in route 167 miles NW to Visalia, CA. As we climbed out of the Mojave Desert, the flora began to change, to a strange color we had not seen since March 24. CC and I were both puzzled, but as we slowly dropped into the San Joaquin Valley, it all came back to us; verde…… that really you? Miles and miles of citrus orchards and grape vineyards lined the highway and as far as the eye could see. Other crops are cultivated here as well; strawberries, vegetables, walnuts, pistachios, grains, and olives, to name a few. If it can be profitably grown, it is grown here.

On arrival at Country Manor RV Park, the manager, Shirley, was really giving CC the what for on just about everything. At first, I thought she was really pissed, but after awhile, as she spoke to herself in third person, we both realized she had an extremely dry(?) and somewhat demented sense of humor. I must say she had us on the ropes for a few minutes. 

The following morning it was off to Sequoia National Park, about 45 miles from our park. We had wanted to stay closer to Sequoia, but as we drove by RV parks that were closer, we realized the size of our rig would not be accommodated by these smaller, older RV parks, many of which had few if any 50 amp sites. As we approached the entrance to the park, there was a sign stating, “NO vehicles over 22 feet beyond Hospital Rock”. Then, as we proceeded it became ever apparent why the sign; narrow, winding, very narrow and very winding roads. Some places I wondered if a 22 footer would have made the turn.

We stopped at Hospital Rock for lunch and to kill and hour and a half. There is road construction, and they weren’t going to let any traffic through until noon. So, no harm, no foul, CC had prepared lunch, so we sat at a table in the shade and dined on our sandwiches, followed by a short hike to burn off a few calories. Around 11:15 we headed “uphill” until traffic came to a stop.

We had an excellent view of Moro Rock, which is a dome-shaped granite monolith. Common in the Sierra Nevada, these domes form by exfoliation-the spalling or casting off in scales, plates, or sheets of rock layers on otherwise unjointed granite. Outward expansion of the granite causes the exfoliation. Expansion results from load relief; when the overburden that once capped the granite has eroded away, the source of compression is removed and the granite slowly expands. CC commented that it just looked like a BFR to her. To which I replied, “It is”. (As usual, click on any image to enlarge)

At the trail entrance to the Sherman tree, there are numerous signs stating how strenuous the half mile walk can be. I must admit, the trip down was actually harder on my knees than the ascent. The trail is a little steep in spots, but is adequately paved with stairs located on the steepest parts. It took us about 10 minutes going down, and double that going out, not due to lack of leg conditioning, but due to the fact we lost our Colorado lungs, and at this altitude of almost 7,000 feet, oxygen is sparse.

We were both in total awe! I said, “That’s the biggest freakin’ tree, I’ve ever seen”, and CC replied, “That is ONE BFT”. Standing beside a living organism that is thought to be around 2,500 years old is undeniably one of the moments in life that gave us both goosebumps. This was down in the middle of our bucket list, but after being there next to this behemoth, I have to rate it near the top of my “Must See” list. It takes time, effort and energy to get here, but that is a drop in the bucket compared to seeing this tree, and the other Sequoias in person.

The General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park is the largest (by volume) tree in the world. Computing the volume of a standing tree is the practical equivalent of calculating the volume of an irregular cone. For purposes of volume comparison, only the trunk of a giant sequoia is measured, including the restored volume of basal fire scars. Using these accepted standards and actual field measurements taken in 1975, the volume of the Sherman Tree was calculated to be slightly over 52,500 cubic feet, and weighs almost 4.2 million pounds! The circumference at the base is 103 feet, and the height of the first large branch above the ground is 130 feet.

The cross section of this Giant Sequoia is 18 feet in diameter. Now that in itself is quite impressive, but The Sherman tree is that same diameter 60 feet AG (above ground), and 14 feet in diameter at 180 feet AG; that is one BFT!

The bark on these mammoth trees can be up to 32 inches thick, which acts as an insulator from fire and insects. A large majority have burn scars, while others have lost their entire top to lightning, but the amazing thing is, they survive wearing their battle scars; to proud to die.

It is now late afternoon, and we have about a two hour drive back to Country Manor. As we continued northward, through the park, we came across a babbling brook, that screamed “I’m a Kodak Moment”. I’m feeling after being in the desert for so long, CC and I will both be enamored by water for some time to come.

Over the next couple of days we took some time to perform long overdue, much needed chores in and around the rig. Wash the desert dust from the screens and windows, and in general, an overall deep cleaning of the rig; that dust can get into the tiniest of spaces. The toad was in need of some attention as well, to remove the tiny spots of road tar and/or tree sap from the tree we parked under while in Lajitas, TX.

There is no Super Wally World in Visalia, so in order to re-provision, it was necessary to spread the wealth at 4 different mercantile. We noticed overall food prices here 15-20% higher than in the Midwest, but then again, it might just be CA, and Sacramento’s inept ability to run their State as you and I run our households; on a balanced budget and out of the red.

 After coffee, breakfast, and our normal WDYWTDT conversation, it was off to Kings Canyon National Park, about 60 miles NE of Visalia. It was an easy drive through mile after mile of various agricultural farms. As we departed the valley floor at 340 feet in elevation, and climbed our way to 6,000 feet, the air cooled by about 20-25 degrees. CC and I had no idea of what to expect at Kings Canyon. Would it be a mini Grand Canyon or something else? A few miles into the park we saw a sign, “General Grant Tree”. Hmmmm…………….OK, let’s see what Grant has to offer.

There are 75 Giant Sequoia Groves on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada’s, at 5,000 – 7,000 feet in elevation, with less than 260 miles from the northernmost grove to the southernmost. The climate here is ideal, and naturally occurring growth of these trees occurs nowhere else in the world. Their greatest predator is wind toppling, as they have shallow roots with no tap root to secure them.

As we pulled into the parking lot, I had the opportunity to get a perspective shot of one of these giants. This was not General Grant, nor was it one of the biggest; it was just “average”, a youngster, probably no more than 1,200 years old.

As we walked along the trail to view Grant, we came across this sign posted beside a fallen Sequoia.

By now, you may be getting tired of perspective shots, but it is just overwhelming at how big the guys and gals get. (The trees, not CC)

Just a little further up the trail this interesting sign; those Yankees think the world ends at the Mississippi River, and nothing is as great as things are in their “neck of the woods”. Guess some things never change. But it does illustrate the point that I’m trying to make; pictures alone or a section of them, do not do justice to these magnificent specimens.

Drumroll please…………..and now, without further adieu, General Grant, “America’s Christmas Tree”.

Not even this big guy, General Grant, would succumb to fire.

OK, enough trees, and onto Kings Canyon. No more trees; I promise. As we clear the ridge there is a scenic overlook before we descend into the valley.

Ooops……..that doesn’t count……’s dead.

From here, we descend 3,000 feet to the valley floor. The road is once again winding, and very steep; so much so CC won’t even look out over the horizon. Vertigo sets in; an affliction I never knew she suffered from in over 37 years since we did the “I do” thing, thus disproving the old myth that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Woof, woof!

Finally, at the bottom we reach a new flora, (I promised no more trees) and the Kings River.

We are in a state of unbelief at this point. Knowing where we left in Visalia, traveling through the agricultural belt, ascending to the giant Sequoia Grove of General Grant, and now descending to this; nowhere else have we traveled in the last two years have we experienced such a diverse range in less than 30 miles as the crow flies. It is, truly remarkable, and we are once again in awe as we reach Grizzly Falls.

We completed the drive past Cedar Grove to the roads end, where the canyon walls were the steepest. Considering the Equinox was not 4 wheel drive, and not capable of climbing out of the canyon with 70 - 80 degree walls, we thought it prudent to do the most practical, and just turn around and retrace our route back to Country Manor. By this time, it was once again, late afternoon, and the pool and happy hour were screaming our names. The drive back was almost a spectacular as the drive in, and along the way we both commented how blessed we were to be living the lifestyle we are.

From here we will be moving about 80 miles north to Chowchilla to The Lakes RV & Golf Resort, and will call that home and base camp for our exploration of Yosemite National Park. We’re glad you stopped by to check on the next chapter in our lives, and until next time, be safe and stay well………………

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