Archive for June, 2008
7th day, our last sightseeing day before we hit home. I think at this point of the trip, what the majority wanted was just a relaxing day. So, we abandoned plans hiking to Rainbow Falls after Devil’s Postpile National Monument, and decided instead to just relax at Mammoth Lakes.
A. Devils Postpile National Monument – please click here: http://california.today.com/2009/01/29/devils-postpile-national-monument/
B. Mammoth Lakes
Mammoth Rock and Mountain
We did not do any hiking at Mammoth Lakes, instead, we used this place to relax some more, have lunch and wait for the perfect time to head South on 395.
Falls at Twin Lakes
C. Driving Along Highway 395
Along CA 395
The drive was uniquely scenic. Barren it may be, but it has its own different and unique beauty. The Eastern Sierra is now mostly desert. But desert it may be, it still is filled with wonderful colors.
Along CA 395
The barren mountain exposes the different colors of the earth, the result of the oxidation of its minerals. Snow still dusts and covers some parts of the mountain.
Along CA 395
The desert valley still look a lush green, because it had not been dried up by the heat of the summer sun. Cows, horses, lambs and deers from afar feast on the green grasses, such a wonderful sight.
D. Alabama Hills
Mt. Whitney and Rock Piles, Alabama Hills
This is one of California’s wild wild west. This area is graced by incredible rock pile formations, of all shapes and forms you can think of.
Arch Rock Framing Mt. Whitney
This geological wonderland has become a popular setting for many western and sci-fi movies and numerous commercials. There were just too many movies shot here that if you are interested with the films shot here, you can stop by Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce for Movie Tour and Guide, where they will specify the specific location and rock outcroppings used in the movie. Some of those movies I could remember shot here were: Gladiator, Maverick, How the West was Won, Lone Ranger, High Sierra, John Wayne movies, etc.
Sea of Rock Outcroppings
If you go up to the top of a tall outcropping, you will be rewarded by the magnificent sight of rock formations as far as your eyes can see. Your mind may probably wonder if you have been transported back in time.
Mt Whitney and the Rocky Slopes of the Eastern Sierra from Alabama Hills
But once you look West, and recognize Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous US (does not include Alaska), you’ll know you are still very much in California at present time.
There are many arched rocks in Alabama Hills, and they are easy to find if you follow the map which is usually given at Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce or at the Inter-Agency Visitor Center.
Arch Rock, Alabama Hills
( Arrowhead Bottle Water got a free commercial from us. Hiking in the desert, don’t forget your bottled water 🙂 . )
Arch Rock, Alabama Hills
More Rock Outcroppings, Alabama Hills
E. The Drive Home
Well, despite being inside the car, the unique sights of the Eastern Sierra did not stop us from taking more pictures. Below are pictures of the sights we saw on our way home, taken from the inside of a runnning car.
We had a wonderful trip in the CA Sierra. From West to East, from North to South, we are rewarded by unique sights. Mountains, marble caves, waterfalls, pine forests, groves of sequoias and the largest trees on earth, glacial lakes, glacier-polished granite domes, gushing river, blue sky, sun, rainbow, snow, limestone salts ( TUFA), desert wonders. From the mountains, to the desert, and now we head back home, closer to sea. Water, wind, fire and ice. This is California, it may be the state of innovation and opportunity, but its exquisite natural beauty is also a reality that lingers in our dreams.
6th day, almost the end of our trip, and probably the best part. The first part of the day was slow, horse back riding, checking out the Yosemite Museum and Ansel Adams Gallery and shopping for Yosemite souvenirs.
We left Yosemite Valley at about 4:00 pm for Mammoth Mountain, another great mountain resort in the Eastern Sierra. We took the Tioga Pass, and we had an almost adrenaline rush road tour, rush because we did some running or sprinting to make the most of our time in the High Sierra. We could have avoided the sprinting and just leisurely walked or hiked if we left the valley earlier. But then, we enjoyed the activities early of the day too.
The pictures below are from some of the places we stopped, which would help in describing our trip.
A. Olmstead Point
We reached Olmstead Point after about an hour drive from the Yosemite Village. Olmstead Point is one of the viewing points in Yosemite National Park where one can experience an amazing view of some of the features of Yosemite without having to hike.
Clouds Rest, Half Dome from Olmstead Point
Olmstead Point may not be as widely photographed as Glacier Point and the Wamona Tunnel View, but if you are driving along Tioga Road, this is a very beautiful stop.
B. Tenaya Lake
Tenaya Lake is a very beautiful and lovely glacial lake. It is surrounded by glacier- polished granite domes. The Tenaya Lake was carved by the massive Toloumne Glacier, and the polished domes around it make it not just another lake.
This is one of the most beautiful sights in Yosemite I’ve seen, yet, with very little crowd. I think aside from us (we were 5), there were just two other people enjoying the lake but they were quite very far from us. The feeling of having all the lake to ourselves was great, and we had a lot of fun photo opportunities without having to fight with the crowd. I could not resist the temptation of getting into the water, even if the water was extremely cold.
Feeling the Ice-Cold Water of Tenaya Lake
The coldness of the water was no surprise for us though, since around the lake, there were still some snow patches that we played around for quite a bit. It was so cool to enjoy snow in the high 60s or 70s probably, and in the middle of summer sun!
Patches of Snow at Tenaya Lake
Tenaya Lake is one of the lakes in the High Sierra that can be enjoyed without hiking, but, one can hike the 2.5 miles loop trail around the lake, and there is very little elevation, making it a very easy hike. Again, if you are driving along Tioga Pass, don’t forget to stop at the lovely and peaceful Tenaya Lake.
C. Tuolomne Meadows
This is my favorite place in Yosemite. I find it hard to describe this place, it is just so beautiful for me.
Seeing the purple irises about to bloom as we walked/sprinted around the meadows made me imagine how this meadow would even be transformed into a purple wildflower paradise. But despite being too early for the wildflower bloom, walking in the beautiful meadows is such an inspiring experience, almost dream like for me.
Spring Pond and the Green Forest at Tuolomne Meadows
I am always fascinated with geology and exposed colored layers of the earth, that is why the unique beauty of the painted desert has that very special place in my heart. And in Toloumne Meadows, it feels like the exposed colored layers of earth ( a common sight in the desert), the glacier-polished granite domes and the forested mountain meet.
Lembert Dome and Red Colored Mountain at Tuolomne Meadows
Exposed Colors of Mountain and Snaking Creek at Tuolomne Meadows
Exposed Colors of Mountain and Spring Pond at Tuolomne Meadows
This beautiful meadow may soon probably become also a forest of pines, since slowly, the pine trees are invading the meadows.
Patches of Snow and Small Pines growing in Tuolomne Meadows
Snowy Mountain at Tuolomne Meadows
When I go back to Yosemite again, I know, I will be exploring the many hiking trails at Tuolomne Meadows and Tioga Pass more. I really love Tuolomne, its serene beauty is just so unique and so captivating. I can say, this will always be my escape spot in Yosemite National Park.
D. At Yosemite National Park- Outside of East Entrance
When we were simply enjoying the patches of snow in Toloumne Meadows and Tenaya Lake, here just a few yards outside of Yosemite entrance in the Eastern Sierra has a lot of snowy hills. Yes, it was getting late and I was also excited to see Mono Lake, but who can stop the excitement of everybody who would want to play with snow in the summer and in the 70s? Not that we didn’t have any snow, for my brother in law and niece came from the snow packed mid-west, but then, they never had snow in the summer, and most of all, snow at 70s!
Thick Snow in the Eastern Sierra, not your typical summer picture
Here, we had enough snow to make snowballs and to have snow fights, definnitely not a typical summer fun. We just did not have enough time to make snowman, otherwise, it would have been so cool to make Mr. Snow Man in the middle of summer 🙂 .
E. Ellerly Lake, Inyo National Forest, Eastern Sierra
Ellery Lake looking West
After playing with snow, we almost were running out of light that we all told ourselves, “no more stop”. They were cooperating with me to see Mono Lake 🙂 . When we passed another snow hill which was a lot higher and thicker than outside the East entrance, and definitely we could ski there, my husband who was driving asked if we wanted to stop. We all said, “no, enough with the snow”, but I know, if it was still earlier, we would stop not only for the snow but for the unique beauty of that place. But then, when we passed Ellerly Lake,
Ellery Lake Looking East
my cousin and my niece chorused, “if there is a pull out or a turn-over, can we stop?” So, we did! It was again another running/sprinting at this lake, where we had to run not walk leisurely to examine the area where to get a picture. Clearly, not the best way to enjoy nature, but it was actually doubling the fun.
Mountains Bordering Ellerly Lake
Ellerly Lake is another very lovely lake in the Eastern Sierra, along Tioga Pass. It’s really worth to stop here, such a unique beauty.
F. Along Tioga Pass, Eastern Sierra
The drive to Mono Lake from Ellerly Lake was very scenic, but there were not a lot of turn outs for us to pull over. Maybe, that was helpful, otherwise, we would have never seen Mono Lake with some dusk light in it.
We just have to be contented with taking pictures from the inside of a running car if we saw something interesting.
Dusk at Tioga Pass
High Sierra and the Eastern Sierra is really such a piece of beauty, if we had more time and started our trip earlier, we could have stopped every 50 ft :), not every 200 ft as my niece would put it. But only if there is a legal turn out. And would also have hiked the splendid hiking trails there, and see the amazing gifts from nature that lies in its backroads. Someday, we will.
G. Mono Lake South Tufa State Reserve
Finally, we reached Mono Lake, an ancient lake, one of the oldest lakes if not the oldest lake in North America. Before reaching Mono Lake, it is only me who has expectations and could describe what to see in this magnificent lake. But after seeing the lake, this has become my husband’s favorite place in our entire trip. And everybody had fun wondering with the tufa, asking questions, proposing hypothesis as to how the water level dropped drastically, as to how the bizzarre tufa were formed, as to why the alkali flies were so uninterested with us but only with the brine shrimp. Nature is always a great motivator for learning our world, a very nice gift you can give to a child as it stirs their curiosity and thirst for learning.
Mono Lake, Eastern Sierra
We were too late for the sunset, but thankfully, there were still enough dusk light to help us see the full glory of Mono Lake. When we reached the dirt parking area, we again had to give our best efforts in running fast to reach the lake before it really gets dark. But before reaching the lake, I had to stop from running to catch the interesting colors of the sky and mountain which I was afraid would be gone by the time we’ll reach the lake. Thankfully, the tufas were tall enough to be seen from afar and be included in the picture.
Mono Lake from the Trail, at Dusk
When we reached the lake, it was just hauntingly beautiful. The tufa towers may look out of this world, but the scenery is just too beautiful.
The surreal beauty of desert landscape may not be for everyone to appreciate, but definitely, I am one of those who is always amazed by the desert wonders. I am so glad I have seen the amazing beauty of a desert for before my impression of a desert was an uninteresting dry piece of land and always hot. I was wrong. Moving to California exposed me to the unique beauty of the ocean, the mountains and desert, all combined.
The unusual rock formations that graces Mono Lake are called Tufa. The first time I saw pictures of Mono Lake in the web, I had really wanted to see it. And being close enough to Yosemite National Park and other great places in the Sierra makes visiting Mono Lake very accessible.
Mono Lake and Mountain
Tufa Tower at Mono Lake
The tufa towers are limestone rocks that grow exclusively under water. The calcium carbonate precipitates and over decades or centuries the tufa tower will grow. Above the water, the tufa can no longer grow and are already susceptible to erosion. Other Great Basin Desert Lakes also have tufa, but Mono Lake has the most active formation. The Trona Pinnacles National Landmark in Ridgecrest, CA are also tufa towers but in a dry lake basin ( http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/ridgecrest/trona.html ) .
For more information about Mono Lake, please refer to the following links:
How to get there and hiking trail description- http://www.yosemitehikes.com/not-yosemite/mono-lake/mono-lake.htm
Tufa Rock Formation – http://www.monolake.org/naturalhistory/tufa.htm
Volcanic and Natural History of Mono Lake – http://www.monolake.org/naturalhistory/volcanic.htm
Mono Lake Chemistry – http://www.monolake.org/naturalhistory/chem.htm
Natural History- http://www.monolake.org/naturalhistory/index.html
All Other interesting information about Mono Lake – http://www.monolake.org/
Mono Lake is really a beautiful lake, so unique, so incomparable. Sadly, the reasons why we see a lot of Tufa Towers in Mono Lake was because of water diversion to Los Angeles In 1941. Serving the population in LA caused the dramatic falling of the water level in Mono lake. But the preservation of Mono Lake hopes to make the water rise and hopefully, make the Mono Lake become a large lake again, as it was before. Mono Lake is also a High Desert Rookery, where different species of birds breed and nest here, and make Mono Lake their great stop in their migration ( http://www.monolake.org/naturalhistory/birds.htm ). Despite the saltiness of the water in Mono Lake, where only small brine shrimp can survive the water, yet, this lake is a haven for migratory birds that feed on the brine shrimp, a great place to observe wildlife. Mono Lake is really worth your visit, and really worth preserving!
H. Arrival at Mammoth Mountain
Our little time spent at Mono Lake was not enough, but we had to leave it since the night was getting darker. We reached our hotel in Mammoth Mountain at already 10:00 pm, and their restaurant already closed. We could go back to the town of Mammoth Lakes just a few miles away, however, we were very tired to go back. The front desk staff of Mammoth Mountain Inn was very helpful to us though, she told us if we wanted they can ask some staff to prepare a meal for us. However, we did not want to bother them to do the extra effort since it was not their fault we arrived too late and did not call ahead to order dinner and save it for us. Thankfully, we had some canned goods and instant noodles left which were always our savior whenever we enjoyed the wilderness too much and got back to the park’s village too late.
6th Day, what started to be a very relaxing day in the Yosemite Valley turned out to be a series of high energy sprinting to explore the sights of the High Sierra, Eastern Sierra and Mono Lake. Tenaya Lake, Tuolomne Meadows and Mono Lake are definitely the wonderful highlights of our trip. Experiencing nature is truly a rewarding, educational, and very inspirational vacation/ treat each one deserves.
Vernal and Nevada Falls from Washburn Point
Yosemite is a huge natural park that it abounds with outdoor opportunities. Tourists can have so many ways of enjoying its natural wonders. Whether it be rock climbing, river rafting, biking, hiking, para-gliding, base jumping, fishing, swimming, skiing, horse back riding, and what else is there that man could think of. But for me, the best way to experience a natural park is by foot. Yosemite offers more than 800 miles of trails, from very easy to extremely strenuous. For this day, we decided to experience the power of the waterfalls. Since Yosemite is a waterfall country, there are too plenty of choices to choose from. At first, I considered hiking to Upper Yosemite Falls ( http://www.yosemitehikes.com/yosemite-valley/upper-yosemite-falls/upper-yosemite-falls.htm ), but decided instead to hike the friendlier and more shaded hike to Vernal and Nevada Falls (http://www.yosemitehikes.com/yosemite-valley/mist-trail/mist-trail.htm ). The total combined hiking distance for Vernal and Nevada falls is 7 miles round trip with 2000 ft elevation gain.
Mist Spray from Vernal Fall
Please click hiking Vernal and Nevada Fall for more information and details about the hike.
Yosemite Falls from Cook’s Meadow
Exploring Yosemite at the Valley Floor was not in our plan at all, having the impression that it is too crowded in the summer. Gladly, we were wrong. Except probably for the Lower Yosemite Fall trail, the other parts of the valley floor are very peaceful and has that inspiring beauty really worth exploring. Anyway, what changed our mind to drop what was in our itinerary and explore the valley floor instead? My husband’s diligent reading of the Yosemite Guide’s June- July issue. On page 9 of Yosemite Guide was Yosemite Secrets, it is about the park ranger’s favorite Yosemite spot. One of those spots is Cook’s Meadow. The paper described that many people make pilgrimages to Lower Yosemite Fall, yet only a few crosses the street to take a stroll around the lush meadow. Since we could not find the Cook’s Meadow in the map, we all decided to take a walk to the Lower Yosemite Falls first, then after that, check out the Valley Visitor Center for directions to Cook’s Meadow and what else not to miss in the valley floor, and before the clock ticks at 5:00 pm, we should be at the horse stable to check out the availability of rides.
From Curry Village, we took the free shuttle bus to Lower Yosemite Fall trail head, which is at stop 6. The trail is through the woods and adorned by alpine wildflowers. One can either go back in same direction after reaching the base of Lower Yosemite Fall or they can continue on the trail to complete the one mile loop.
Alpine Wildflower Along the Trail to Lower Yosemite Falls
I am so glad for the presence of these wildflowers and woods, they provide a touch of serenity to the place since this is a trail with a lot of people! After all, who does not want to experience the 2,425 ft tall Yosemite Falls? It is the tallest waterfall in North America and the 5th tallest in the world.
Yosemite Fall from the Lower Yosemite Fall trail
I am just glad that most of those people had their eyes focused on the waterfalls only, thus, whenever we see wildflowers, birds, butterflies, nice wood and rock formation, we had them to ourselves. When we reached the base of Lower Yosemite Fall, the mist was very strong and again blowing in all direction. If we stayed longer at the base, probably, it would be like taking a shower. After enjoying the Lower Yosemite Fall at the base, we proceeded to walk back to the trail head by completing the loop. On our way to the trail head, we saw a sign “picnic”, thus we decided to follow the sign for our much needed lunch break. Surprisingly, the picnic place was not at all crowded, and we have the roaring Yosemite Falls for our view. Nice to feel that with all those people walking to Lower Yosemite Fall, there we were, having the Yosemite Falls all to ourselves, with the cute blue birds, Steller’s Jay.
Steller’s Jay Spotted at Picnic Area
But maybe our presence in the picnic area invited others to come, that slowly it gained quite a number of people. Thankfully, we were done with our lunch and on our way to explore the other parts of the valley.
After lunch, we proceeded to the Valley Visitor Center, and asked a park ranger for directions to Cook’s Meadow, which surprisingly for us, Cook’s meadow was just across the street of the Valley Visitor Center. But the park ranger did not only give us direction to Cook’s Meadow, but to the other parts of the valley he believed worth for us to explore. According to him, if we are up to a much longer walk, after Cook’s Meadow, we can continue walking South and then West of the valley, for it is “B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L”!
Half Dome from Cook’s Meadow
I was a little skeptical at first about the valley floor walk for I had this impression that the walk will be like the walk to Lower Yosemite Falls, crowded. Maybe, I read too much while preparing for the trip. But to my surprise, walking at the meadows of Yosemite Valley actually was very quiet, it seemed that most of the people may not be aware about this piece of beauty.
What more can be rewarding in a walk but the presence of swaying wildflowers,
Wildflower at Yosemite Valley (Visitor Center to Cook’s Meadow)
bees and butterflies surrounded by tall granite cliffs?
Wildflower, Insects and Butterfly, Visitor Center to Cook’s Meadow
From here, I will let the pictures speak of the beauty and serenity we found in our Yosemite Valley Floor walk.
At Sentinel Bridge
Half Dome from Sentinel Bridge
At Cook’s Meadow
Cook’s Meadow (2)
Cook’s Meadow (3)
Cook’s Meadow (4)
Wildflower and the Loving Bees, Cook’s Meadow
At Sentinel Meadow and Beach
Enjoying the Meadows
Enjoying the Crisp Clear Water of Merced River, Sentinel Beach
Rafting on Merced River
Yosemite Falls and Merced River
Tranquility at the Bank of Merced River
At El Capitan Meadow
El Capitan, standing at 3,000 ft, the largest granite monolith in the world
Cathedral Rocks from El Capitan Meadow
This walk is quite long, actually, very long according to one of us, but then, because the valley is flat and with all those rewarding views, the walk is not that much tiring. The complete valley floor hike is 13 miles, but we did not really complete the entire loop. The peacefulness of the place and the tranquil beauty are very rewarding and truly inspiring. I am really glad that we did not go anywhere this day but just walked in the Valley Floor. Contrary to what the popular notion about Yosemite Valley being too crowded in the summer, again, there were only a few lucky people who chose to experience Yosemite’s beauty and tranquility here at the meadows of the valley floor. If I may add, while I was browsing the National Geographic website on National Parks just now, the Valley Floor Loop Trail is a must do secret ( http://www.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/national-parks/yosemite.html ) in Yosemite. I have not really been to a lot of the hiking trails in Yosemite to agree or disagree, but to me, the Yosemite Valley Floor is a very beautiful natural garden must see. Where else can you find a garden so beautifully adorned with green grasses and wildflowers inviting a lot of wildlife, surrounded by lush green trees, naturally adorned by majestic granite rocks with North America’s tallest waterfall and the crystal clear waters of Merced River running through it? Only here, at Yosemite Valley. I am very glad we found and experience this exquisite beauty.
TO MIRROR LAKE
As planned, before the clock ticked at 5:00 pm, we were at the Horse Stable. From the Valley, we took the free shuttle to bring us to stop 18. We were able to book for a 2-hr ride for the next day. From the Horse Stable, we decided we still have energy left to take another walk to Mirror Lake, and maybe get a dip into the water. Mirror Lake is about 1.25 miles from the Horse Stable. On our way to Mirror Lake, we were greeted by the cute Steller’s Jay again.
Steller’s Jay, trail to Mirror Lake
When we reached Mirror Lake, we could not get nice reflections because there were several people swimming that were making ripples on the water. Also, it was not the best time of day probably to catch reflections at the lake. We were told that nice reflections there is in early morning. But anyway, to reward us of our walk to Mirror Lake, we still took some pictures of Mirror Lake and the nearby mountains, and reflections of Half Dome which graces the Lake.
Mirror Lake and Mountain
Half Dome Reflected at Mirror Lake
Swimming Hole Below Mirror Lake and Half Dome
Before leaving Mirror Lake, we took a half- dip in the water as we promised to ourselves. The water at first felt cold, really cold. But after our long walk almost the entire day at the Valley Floor, taking a dip in the water was so relaxing. The cold water seemed to relax our feet, that later we did not complain about being cold anymore. There were a group of kids who would climb up that rock where we were sitting, and then jump down to the water. When we had enough playful moments at the water, we started heading back to the Shuttle Stop, and on our way, we were greeted by another deer.
Deer Relaxing at Mirror Lake Trail
We ended our day watching moonbow at Yosemite Falls, however, since we (or I) forgot to bring tripod, taking picture at night was so much challenge. We could not hold the camera long enough without shaking. I tried finding a post or a bench to help me with support, but I could not find any. Bringing a tripod always is one area of taking pictures that I have to develop. Anyway, here is one picture I managed to take without a tripod that somehow has a little bit of definition, I do not know if you can find the moonbow 🙂 , it is very small, but that was all I managed to take 😦 .
Yosemite Falls at Night
Instead of getting frustrated about our inability to take pictures at night without a tripod, we happily munched on the Potato Chips we brought with us and continued enjoying that priceless gift of family togetherness under the full moon and the stars, with the moonbow, the Yosemite Falls and the tall granite cliffs. Love it, but now, I can only look at the pictures and dream about being there again! I love Yosemite, am sure you will too, so come, take a hike at Yosemite National Park!
Waking up in the Sierra was very refreshing. We were greeted by the grazing deers that we could see from our room’s window. At first we saw one, then two, then three, and then four. Their party was such a pretty sight. I noticed that these wild deers are very lean, maybe from too much roaming in the field.
Our first activity for the day was taking the easy 3.4 miles round trip hike to Tokopah Falls. I would have wanted to do the Lakes trail ( http://blog.burnerphotography.com/2008/02/travel-recomendation-sequoi-np-lakes.html ), but maybe we have to do that in our next trip.
After lunch at Lodgepole Market, we drove to Kings Canyon National Park. The drive in Highway 180 to Kings Canyon is filled with amazing sights, truly spectacular. Vegetation changes, and so the type of rocks. By the river gorge, the rocks become shiny, jagged and metamorphic, very different from the smooth granite that is seen in most of the park.
Enjoying the Metamorphic Rocks by the River Gorge, Kings Canyon National Park
We made a stop at Boyden Cavern on our way to Kings Canyon. Outside the cave is already so pretty, that I wonder if the cave would be prettier than the sight outside. But then, I love getting inside caves too, I like seeing the intersting formation of stalactites, stalagmites and yes, more marbles.
Stalactites, Boyden Cavern
The trail to Boyden Cavern is along the scenic Kings River Canyon, the trail is short but climbs up on 30 degree slope.
Trail to Boyden Cavern and the Kings River Canyon
The cool breeze from the river and the roaring sound of the flowing water, make the short hike up Boyden Cave very relaxing. But once inside the cave, we no longer hear the river, but instead the joyful sound of the tour guide and some kids throwing the guide a lot of questions. It is always inspiring to see kids showing a thirst for learning. Here are some more formations from Boyden Cave.
Drapery Looking Stalagmite (taken by my cousin)
Drapery Up Close (taken by my cousin)
Wedding Cake Looking Stalagmite
Christmas Tree Stalagmite
After Boyden Cavern, we went to Kings Canyon Road’s End, where the road stops since it can not cross the Sierra anymore. The end is a narrow U-shaped canyon with towering granites, the floor of the canyon is covered with forest. We were standing in the middle of a glacial gorge with towering granite cliffs thousands of feet high. Unfortunately, we only have very little time to explore this place where the beauty lies behind the towering granite cliffs.
South Fork of the Kings River by Zumwalt Meadow, Kings Canyon National Park
After Road’s End, we head back to the hotel, but stopping at Grizzly Falls along the way. Grizzly Falls is probably the easiest access waterfalls in my whole life :). We did not have to hike to see the waterfalls, it is just a few steps from the parking lot and the picnic area.
Grizzly Falls, Cedar Grove, Kings Canyon
Grizzly Falls is only 70 ft tall, yet because we are so close to it, and the water falls straight down, the 70 ft drop seemed to be about the same height than the 1200 ft drop in Tokopah Falls.
Grizzly Falls, Cedar Grove, Kings Canyon
Though small compared to the other famous Sierra Nevada Falls, Grizlly falls is really pretty.
After enjoying Grizzly Falls for some time, we went back on the road to head back to the hotel, hopefully, before it gets dark because I did not want to catch darkness on a road that narrowly meanders in between sheer rocky walls of the Kings Canyon and the exposed ridges where we could fall several thousands feet below.
We were lucky this day that when the sun set, the road has small turn-out for us to enjoy sunset. It is called MgGee View.
Sunset, Kings Canyon National Park
The sunset was so pretty, the sky slowly turning pink, purple, really lovely.
Sunset, Kings Canyon National Park
As the sun was setting over layers of mountains and pines, the full moon was rising on the opposite side. What a lovely night to end our very beautiful day at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. Two great National Parks worth visiting, worth enjoying, and worth exploring!
We left San Diego in the morning of June 14, 2008, for a 7 day trip to the California Sierra. We hoped to get to Sequoia National Park before 1:00 pm so that we can make it to Crystal Cave. Unfortunately, we met very heavy traffic at Highway 5 North of Los Angeles that we did not get to the Foothills Visitor Center before 2:00 pm, and tickets to the last Crystal Cave tour were already sold out.
Coming from the South, we made the South Sierra as our first major stop.
The Great Western Divide, from the top of Moro Rock, Sequoia National Park
The South Sierra is home to two neighboring National Parks, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon. “These two National Parks testify to nature’s size, beauty, and diversity: immense mountains, rugged foothills, deep canyons, vast caverns, and the world’s largest trees!” – http://www.nps.gov/seki/
A very impressive scenery that unfolds while driving to Sequoia is the change in vegetation. The foothills are filled with dried grass, the beautiful yuccas, clusters of oaks, pines and low lying chaparrals.
Moro Rock from the Foothills’ Amphitheater Point, Sequoia National Park
Then, the vegetation slowly changes to Sequoia and other pines. Our first major glimpse of the giant sequoias was on a divided Highway 198 where it seemed the 4 giant trees were perfectly spaced from each other allowing the passage of a single lane highway from each direction.
Divided Highway 198 and the 4 Sequoia
After that short inspection of divided Highway 198, we continued moving up to Crescent Meadow- Moro Rock Road. In the higher elevation, Sequoias give way to slender but tall lodgepole pines, very impressive how vegetation changes in a few yards.
From the parking lot of Moro Rock, we took a short hike through a 400-steps stairway that snakes its way to the top of this granite dome.
Winding Staircase to the top of Moro Rock
The view at the top showcases layers and cascades of mountains. Looking to the East is the Great Western Divide (see first picture above), a series of 13000 ft plus mountain peaks that runs from North to South. To the west lies the Sierra foothills.
The Sierra Foothills from the top of Moro Rock looking West
From the parking lot of Moro Rock we continued on Crescent Meadow Rd, and saw from the road these interesting cluster of giant Sequoia, the Parker Group.
Parker Group, Sequoia National Park
These groups of Sequoia looks so interesting, some of them are so close to each other their trunks form like a creepy cave.
Parker Group, Sequoia National Park
After enjoying these majestic giant trees, we continued on the road and saw an intersting drive through of the park, The Tunnel log.
Tunnel Log, Sequoia National Park
The Tunnel Log is made from an unnamed sequoia that fell in December 1937 from natural causes. Sequoia’s demise oftentimes is due to toppling from its weight, otherwise, this majestic tree can withstand diseases and natural fires due to its chemical make-up. John Muir wrote, “ Most of the Sierra trees die of disease, fungi, etc, but nothing hurts the Big Trees. Barring accidents, it seems to be immortal.” The chemical make-up of Sequoia helps them to survive for centuries, the oldest known Sequoia lived more than 3200 years, and they only grow in the Sierra, mostly in the Southern Sierra. Because they continue growing for centuries, from a tiny seed they mature slowly into giant trees! John Muir fought for the preservation of these Big Trees against logging, making Sequoia National Park the nation’s 2nd oldest National Park, after Yellowstone.
Leaving Crescent Meadow Road, we were blocked by several cars illegally parking on the streets. We thought there was accident since most people were on the road and seemed to be following something, but when we asked, we were told that “ there’s a bear”. Since no one of us got out from the car to join the chaos, some of them realized that they needed to pull over their cars properly to give clearance for normal traffic flow. As we continued on the road, everybody inside our car except the one driving were zooming their cameras to take the bear a picture. Because of low lighting inside the forest, and we were taking picture from the inside of a running car, the pictures we took were of really poor quality, but enough to remind us that we should be very “bear aware”.
Bear Spotted along Crescent Meadow Rd, Sequoia National Park
For more information on how to properly manage your foods and beverages in bear habitat, please click http://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/bears.htm .
We then proceeded to General Sherman Tree trail. The General Sherman trail is paved that goes downhill but on very gentle slope. The walk was so lovely since the trail was surrounded by the giant trees. Walking in the midst of these giant trees gives a really special feeling of being able to be up close to the full glory and beauty of nature. The walk was further made special by the presence of several deers on the trail.
Deer Spotted at General Sherman Trail, Sequoia National Park
And here is General Sherman,
General Sherman Tree, Sequoia National Park
the world’s largest living tree. General Sherman Tree is not the widest, nor the tallest, but it is the largest tree in terms of volume, having an estimated trunk volume of 52,500 cubic feet.
It may be hard to fathom how huge are these Sequoia trees. For its height, I can not take a full length picture of General Sherman, even though I really went down to shoot from the ground. But that is the beauty of Sequoia, you lie on the ground to look up at the heavens as you take a picture of the trunk of Sequoia towering to the sky.
General Sherman Tree, Sequoia National Park
It would have been nicer to continue walking amidst these big trees in Congress trail, however, we were already running out of light. Not wanting to get lost in the middle of darkness, we walked back to our car. On our way to Wuksachi Lodge, we saw a very beautiful sky. Really pretty, but unfortunately, there was no legal turn out for us to pull over to take pictures of that wonderful sky. We ended the day by hauling all our foods and beverages from the parking lot to our hotel room to be very “bear safe”. The sky was dotted with stars, really pretty to look at, if not for the very cold temperature outside, mosquito bites and the promise of a beautiful tomorrow, it would have been nice to just sit there and gaze at the star dotted sky.
The Sequoias, worth visiting, worth enjoying, worth preserving, worth the drive. Sequoia National Park, aside from the Big Trees, it offers majestic Sierra Nevada sights, that for now, I just have to dream about going back.