Giant Sequoia National Park Day 1, Kings Canyon

Deb and I had been planning a long trip to Yosemite for several months now. However, we couldn't justify the longer trip when the Giant Sequoia national park had so much to offer. Springboarding from LA early Friday afternoon, we drove up the map and mountain, ultimately setting up camp by flashlight under the brightest starscape I could ever conceive. The fire burned down, and we froze in the tent until the wee hours in the morning. After we thawed in the truck, we gathered up some of camp for the day's hike. Early morning light through the trees.

The sun apparently gets up much earlier than I typically do.

The truck was colder than it could remember a long time ago.

Although we left the camp before 9am, there was over an hour drive to get to the northern site of the park where King's Canyon lay. We drove the ridge line between a beautiful blend of brown, green, and blue.

Trees for miles and miles.

Winding is a mild adjective for the main road through the park. Most parts required massive structures to bring passable routes out of thin walking trails. This pile of rocks held up the main road.

I was excited. It was a very, very tall tree. Maybe even my first sequoia siting!

Descending into King's Canyon, the mountain tops grew higher.

The canyon was formed by glacier movement, and this river was most of what remained: still shaping the land.

The mighty grizzly falls weren't exactly roaring.

No modifications. The sky was this blue. Dead was amazing.

There were few people at the park after the holiday, but there was also little water. Most of the rivers were very low.

Conifers galore. Not much in terms of deciduous to give some autumnal color.

Some fancy branch work.

Bright and breathless.

The road to King's Canyon ended in the middle of the valley. As we debated either a trek to Misting Falls or the moderate strenuous climb to the canyon vista, the first two miles of the shared trail passed between the high sierras.

A centerpiece log.

Although we froze last night high in the mountains, the temperature in the valley became pretty warm in the late morning. As part of my many layers to survive the night, I had a pair of shorts under the corduroys. Deb held my camera...coincidentally near the shutter button.

She's not allowed to take embarrassing pictures. That's MY job!

In an area full of life -- a welcomed contrast from southern Californian deserts -- it was novel to note what was dead. Several large tree stumps jutted several yards from the ground: some charred to cold embers, others severed by lightening or storms.

Four fallen logs in opposite directions in a short clearing.

A deer crossed the trail to meet her friend waiting on the southern side...

...while more friends waited for us to pass before emerging from the wood.

Bright green moss growing on a tree.

Much more to go. If we only knew how good a flat path really was.

A field full of green brush.

As we neared the river, the forest became more dense with more plant life.

Consequently, the path become narrower as we cut between the trees: both fallen and defiant.

Very deep tones as shadows collected under the massed trees.

Tall trees... could these be the tall trees we came to see?

Like a bridge over troubled water, the view upstream seemed

Life down the line.

Opting for the moderately strenuous climb to the vista, we followed creek beds as they forked into smaller trickles late in the summer season.

The view from the bridge up the mountain.

Some of the handsome wildlife found on the trail that day.

Hrm....more water I suppose.

Crossing several small creeks, the next bridge.

The beautiful higher up.

The path crossed back and forth across the mountain's face as we drudged several hundred feet into the air. However, it was hard to tell if we were breathless from the thinner air or the view.

There's always more mountain waiting.

King's Canyon.

Finally making down to the wooded area again, we were happy to see flat land -- or at least flatter land.

We were pooped.

Calmer waters where the trails converged.

Bright colors for the walk back.

Falling between two trees trying to hold myself up.

Driving out of the valley, the cool cliffs lead the way back to the main camp.

Over an hour and a half passed before we reached the main lodge where campers lined up for their cabins and issued sites.

We had time after a wonderful pasta dinner at the lodge to visit General Grant and his grove of civil war heroes. These were the big trees...a couple hundred feet tall with massive trunks trailing from the ground up.

Taking a step back from craning our necks under the giants.

The base of some youthful giant sequoias, less than a 1000 years old.

Sunlight trickled down between the giants to the eager ferns in open arms beneath.

The top of General Grant: the widest giant sequoia at 40 feet and the 3rd largest tree in the world in terms of sheer volume. Consequently, he is also the nation's Christmas tree.

More trees with the setting sun.

Up, up, up, up, up...

Strolling at the feet of bigger and bigger.

A midsection view of the sequoias translated to short branches and rigid cores outstretched perfectly straight.

Two sisters next to the road.

A drive over the mountain to the eastern sierras.

Distant forests on distant hills and the crests further off.

The small lake was perfectly still from this vantage. In the shadow of a mountain, the silhouettes of the trees looked just like etchings from Rob Ross.

Mmmm....warmth. That night was also cold, but much more manageable as we worked as a team. We did hold onto the fire well into starlight before diving into the tent.