Wednesday, September 5, 2007

King's Canyon & Sequoia National Parks

After Yosemite, we headed a few hours south to King’s Canyon/Sequoia National Parks (the two parks border each other). It just happened to be Labor Day Monday, and as we were driving into the park, the amount of cars & RVs exiting in the opposite direction was crazy! We figured the park would be pretty empty since it was after the end of the holiday weekend, but we had absolutely no idea just how empty. More on that later.

We entered King’s Canyon at the Grant Grove entrance, which is where a large number of Giant Sequoia trees still stand, including the General Grant. We stopped, walked the loop through the trees, which were really big. Unlike the redwood groves where you could walk up to the trees, the trees in this grove were all behind fences, probably largely due to the damage people have already done to them over the years. So unfortunately you couldn’t get too close to them, but they were still pretty impressive. One or two of them had fallen, and were hollowed out, and you could walk right through them, with a few feet to spare above your head. All in all, pretty cool.

After the trees, we made the hour-long drive through the park down to the Cedar Grove village, at the bottom of the canyon. The plan was to camp there for the night, then head out for a night in the backcountry the next morning. There were four campgrounds in the village, and we picked the one that was for tents only. Now, this campground had about 60 sites… we were one of three people camping there that night. And I don’t think anyone was in any of the other three either. It was odd. We picked a nice site, quiet, away from the other two people (which wasn’t hard) and got our packs, tent and everything else ready for our overnight in the backcountry the next day.

The next morning, we picked up a backcountry permit, and our requisite bear canister. Now the bear canister is a big cylinder, about 12 inches tall, and 8 inches wide, with three locking bolts on the top. You basically have to put all your food, and anything else that smells inside the canister, including any lotion, bug spray, toothpaste, etc. Then you have to fit this huge canister in your bag somewhere, and guard it with your life the entire time you’re out. When you sleep, store it 100 ft or more away from your tent so that if a bear does come to check it out, it’s far enough away from where you’re sleeping. No problem.

We packed up our bags, got everything situated, and set out 6.5 miles to our backcountry site for the night. The hike was beautiful, following a crystal clear river the entire time. Although the last few miles were ridiculous uphill, we made it to our campsite for the night, which was in a beautiful setting next to the river. We set up the tent, and had a great afternoon and night. We hung out by the river, made a fire, ate some “just-add-water” backpacker meals (not too bad, actually) and enjoyed the evening.

We woke up this morning, excited to see if our bear canister had been disturbed, but fortunately, it was right where we left it, so we guessed we didn’t have any visitors during the night. We made some breakfast (oatmeal and French press coffee… fancy), packed everything back up, and made the 6.5 mile hike back out to the car. We had a great time.

We left the park today, and are headed south toward Los Angeles. The plan is to go to Six Flags California tomorrow… we’ll see what happens.

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