Wednesday, July 8, 2020

SEKI trekking

After (or more likely, during) our backpacking experience at Sequoia National Park, we decided we'd really like to stay in the area longer and explore a whole lot more.  In lieu of a Lodgepole campground site, we found a boondocking spot on Big Meadows Road and it worked out really well.  We like boondocking, I'm just usually more likely to reserve something so I'm certain we have a place to stay before pulling the trailer up the mountain.  In this case, we took a chance, and it was totally worth it.  Free camping, plenty of sunshine for the solar panels, and a convenient location.

We took the opportunity to visit as much of SEKI (Sequoia and King's Canyon) as we could in 6 days.  Starting with Grant Grove, where our truck gives some idea of the size of the trees:


I believe this is General Grant tree, one of the larger ones, although so many of the trees are absolutely huge and most don't have names (that we know of).  They all are so beautiful and amazing:


Walking amid a small crowd of folks in the main area, before we headed off on quiet trails that we mostly had to ourselves:


We spent the morning roaming the North Grove Loop, Dead Giant Loop, then Sunset Trail toward the south boundary.  John found a snack along the way - which amazingly did NOT come from a Sequoia tree:


We met a wonderful park ranger and she didn't mind interrupting her lunch to talk with us about the park, answer our questions, and suggest her favorite places to visit.  We took good notes and used them to plan the next few days.  Thank you, ranger lady!

Sure hope these two like each other, because they're stuck with one another!


So many beautiful wildflowers along the paths:


We can't recall seeing these before:


We made it down to the Big Stump area, which mostly just made me sad.  Mark Twain is perhaps the most famous one.  I'm glad the rest of the park contains trees that men didn't cut down.


We also saw a couple little waterfalls and climbed up to a lookout tower (with a fire watcher actually working inside).  Fun hike!

The next day we drove out early and dropped down into King's Canyon.  Along the way we spotted something the ranger told us to look for - a set of spectacular colorful folds in the rock next to the road.  Nothing like anything else in the park, as least as far as we know.  Is there a geologist in the house who can explain how this crazy stuff happened?


Starting out on a trek from Road's End, heading up the river toward Bubb's Creek:


Hello from the Deadly River!


The views from river level were already excellent:


And they just got better and better as we climbed up a bunch of switchbacks, wow:


Trying to see everything at once:


Looks like someone beat John to this one:


The trail up along Sphinx Creek is really something.  We were glad we'd taken the ranger's recommendation to trek up here.  So much work must have gone into creating this trail!  Who looked at this and said, "yep, we can build a pathway here"?


Manmade stone stairs going up switchbacks:


And around the side of the mountain:


Fun views of the creek:


We didn't go all the way to the top, just until it looked like it was heading back into the woods.  We had another destination, after all.  Mist Falls was calling, so we went back down to Paradise Valley Trail, braved the crowds who had the same idea, and were rewarded with a bunch of views of neat little waterfalls and cascades.


For some reason I didn't get a photo of Mist Falls?  Maybe because there was a bunch of water spray in the air, even from some distance away (it's easy to see how the falls got its name).  Very cool, literally and figuratively.

Our intro to King's Canyon was wonderful and we can't wait to go back and see more.

The next day we did separate runs from our trailer, in different directions along Big Meadow's Road.  I found the trail around to Poop-Out Pass, because seriously, what a name.  I'm digging some of the humor in Sierra place names.

Also the spectacular rock field with a bump in the middle, on the other side of the pass:


Some other time I'll come back and do a loop run here - so many lakes and passes calling to me!


Supper?  Or not...


John found another fire lookout tower, this one with an amazing set of stairs up to it.  But no super-nice ranger to let him up to the top to look around this time.


Another plan we'd hatched during our backpack trip was a loop to Pear Lake and then up and around to Alta Peak.  We'd talked to a hiker who described a cross-country route up from Moose Lake, along the ridge, with some kind of scramble.  Sounds interesting!  I was in as long as we brought a rope so John could help me with the trickier (for me) stuff and as long as we came down the other side of Alta Peak on trails.

Since we were going that way anyway (and with a rope), John had designs on getting up the Watchtower from the easy back side.  I was a bit skeptical but it turned out to be straightforward.  That didn't stop me from seeking the safest spot to sit on as soon as we got up there:


Eventually I ventured a bit further onto the hulking granite outcropping:


And I even made it over to the part that juts out above the valley.  A drone with a camera would make this look so much cooler, but this is the best I could do from my perspective (and the valley beyond is really pretty to look at):


Enough mucking, let's get this hike on the road, as it were.  Back toward Pear Lake and the astounding scenery!


Go... solar!


More mountain flowers, so lovely:


John leads the way off-trail, climbing up from Pear Lake in search of a route to the top of Alta Peak:


After some excellent route-finding, we discovered a nice little snowfield that led to the top of the ridge.  John loaned me the trail cleaner stick he was carrying, and also snapped a nice photo:


King of the Ridge:


The ridge that circles around to Alta Peak - we stayed on the left side (the side without the cliffs):


John is off to find a way through the rocks:


This was good practice for me, mostly in focusing on exactly what John was asking me to do at that moment and not looking ahead to try to envision how we were going to figure out the next big looming obstacles.  We did some short-roping which always gives me more confidence to try things that I wouldn't otherwise (I have way too much of a "what if" brain).

Eventually we got around the tight corner and the rest of the ridge was easy, just rock hopping and easy scrambling.  We met a guy near the top of the peak, weird timing because there wasn't anyone else around all day.  He pointed out another path in a scree field much closer to the peak, one that reminded me more of a Hardrock kind of route.

Checking out the terrain around us:


The ridge from the other end:


Yay, we made it to Alta!  Mission accomplished.


Thank you, Sierras:


Heading down the trail, John noticed some white rocks that seem out of place.  We'd be interested in knowing what these are and what they are doing there:


My Mountain Man:


One last look at Emerald and Peak lakes:


One last day in SEKI!  And it was another good one, this time walking and running some of the many trails weaving through the Giant Forest.  It's a wonderful maze of big trees, seemingly never-ending things to discover.

A sequoia at the (currently closed) museum:


This line in the pavement demonstrates just how tall the tree is, which helps give perspective for people who are there, but still doesn't help photography-wise:


Trying to clean off the dome of random extra rocks:


The climb up Moro Rock was great fun, what a neat walkway up a bunch of stairs:


Also a great view of the crazy windy southern entrance road (not recommended for travel trailers!):


It took some work to create this:


Awesome view at the top, and another spot where a photo from a distance would look a lot more impressive:


Just as we were returning to "earth", some nearby trees started shaking and rattling.  An animal?  Nope, an earthquake!  We didn't find out until later, but it was the Lone Pine one that caused a rock slide near Mount Whitney.  Welcome to California!

Trekking to see more giant trees:


I nicknamed this one "Eleanor":


Occasionally the lighting made for a excellent photo:


Getting familiar with how the tops of sequoias look so we can recognize them more easily:


Hello, tall tree!


Our ranger friend described how to tell if a seedling is a sequoia (because you can't get close to the branches way up high on the big ones to get a look at the limbs) - maybe this is one?


You could almost walk right up it... if the world turned sideways:


Fun with flora shapes:


Ah, such pretty pink flower carpets:


Sequoia cones, the size/shape of eggs:


Touching by their little toes:


John called me back a few steps to get a look at someone watching us, and it still took me a minute to see what he was talking about - no movement whatsoever:


We split up so I could do some longer running, and I wandered out to see Sunset Rock (nice view of the valley) plus this gorilla-looking boulder in a meadow:


You put your right foot out and shake it all about...


Round Meadow is a fabulous loop trail, with interesting signboards teaching us all kinds of things about the trees.  It has an accessible path and is a great introduction to the forest:


Wow, I didn't know trees give birth to boulders!


The meadow gives a bit of perspective to the height of the sequoias - if you can see the little bitty people at the bottom:


Sometimes it's easier to make a hole instead of clearing a rootstock:


This raven was making a kind of a "whirring" noise, just perched there and ignoring me.  Even as I tried to figure out why my camera didn't want to shoot a video (oops, full card).  The bird and I eyed each other, quietly going about our own business.  Not sure what it was communicating, but it was interesting to listen to.  Thank you raven!


After clearing a bunch of old photos from the camera, I continued on, finding the Lincoln tree at the end of the Rimrock trail.  Hello Mr. Lincoln!


Eventually I came to the General Sherman tree, but didn't stay along amidst the crowds:


Back to the Congress trail and other beautiful sights.  Hello, Mr. Obama!


I had a bit more time, so I took off to see the longer Trail of the Sequoias to the east.  It's gets pretty quiet pretty fast away from the popular spots.

So, it's just a tree trunk, right?


Actually, the trail goes through here!  Too funny:


One of several lush meadows, with a tree slowly decomposing:


Tharp's Log, one of the more interesting downed trees.  This one was apparently lived in for a while!


Inside the log, complete with table, bed, and window:


I went looking for the "bedrock mortars" on the map and found these - a place to grind seeds in a rock, that makes sense now:


John took a picture of this sign showing how this place was once filled with cars:


And is now a quiet museum, many fewer buildings, and a much nicer experience:


Such a fun week and two wonderful parks!