Archive for Uncategorized

Sequoia National Park – 6/4/17

We stayed in the town of Three Rivers, about 10 miles outside the south Ash Mountain entrance to Sequoia National Park.

You’re at about 1700′ elevation at the entrance, sitting in traffic:

but climb to over 6,000′. We counted over 25 switchbacks/hairpin turns on Generals Highway with speed limit at 10 – 15 MPH. Because the road looks like this on the GPS:

Park map, and signs, say “Vehicles longer than 22 feet (including trailers) not advised.” Glad we never did this road at night!
First stop this day was Crescent Meadow, which you get to on the shuttle, passing this tunnel log.
John Muir called this meadow the Gem of the Sierras – the meadow leads to a lovely woods trail:

And wildlife! A black bear (with brown fur) just 20 yards off the trail:

The trail continues in among the sequoias:

We got to Tharp’s Log, a cabin built out of a hollowed-out fallen giant sequoia log in the Giant Forest. Hale Tharp grazed cattle in the meadow, and led early battles against logging in the area.  John Muir visited and stayed at Tharp’s log cabin.

Meadow near Tharp’s Log:

And the Giant Forest beyond:

More wildlife – a deer on the trail, and he just kept hiking near us:

We crossed the High Sierra Trail, but didn’t take the 60 mile trek to Mt. Whitney:

The rings on a cross section not only tell the tree’s age, but also the weather each year – narrow rings mean dry years, wide rings were damp:

Headed straight to General Sherman, the largest tree (by volume) in the world:

You can’t zoom out enough to photograph the whole thing:

From General Sherman, we took the Congress Trail, so named because of the clusters of sequoias – dubbed the House and Senate groupings. And hiked with another deer:

Many of the trees had fire damage, but this one was burned dead:

There’s a little waterfall along and under the path:

You can see a tree tunnel on the far side:

And then we reach The President tree:

This group is The Senate:

And The House:

And this might be Lincoln:

Fallen sequoias make great playgrounds, as we reach that tunnel tree:

Little lavender flowers blanket the forest floor:

How big? See this medium-sized tree outside the Museum? It would be 9 yards short of a football field, and would block 3 lanes of traffic on a highway.

On our way out, I loved these mosaic stone walls (that kept us from crashing over the edge on all those switchbacks), and then we got the view of Moro Rock, which lots of folks climb.

Near the exit, we stopped at Hospital Rock, which, according to Wikipedia, was once home to 500 Potwisha Native Americans, as early as 1350. In 1860, Hale Tharp and John Swanson were exploring the Giant Forest when Swanson injured his leg. Swanson was transported here where his injury was treated by local Indians. Tharp gave the spot its name after a second similar incident.

That red marking on the straight rock wall? Petroglyphs!

This “Community Kitchen” slab was where the native women ground acorns into flour – you can see the grinding indentations:

Then there’s a trail down to the waterfall, with stone steps built by the Civilian Conservation Corp:

Shrimp enchiladas for dinner:

Leave a comment »

Kings Canyon National Park – 6/3/17

Kings Canyon National Park is less than 3 hours south of Mariposa. We stopped at one of the roadside fruit stands for a pile of peaches.

We reached the ‘thumb’ of Kings Canyon at the Big Stump Entrance, hit the Grant Grove Village Visitor Center, and headed behind the camping to Panoramic Point – a great spot but not even on the map!

Sat on a bench, enjoying the panorama, eating our sandwiches.

A gecko:

Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Parks are managed together as one park, set aside to protect the massive sequoias, most of which were destroyed by greedy loggers, who went bankrupt:

With this tour bus in view, you can get a sense of the scale of these sequoias:

Took in the North Grove Loop to Sunset Trail:

You really need a panoramic lens – or a wide angle – to capture the size of these sequoias.

This view of dogwood blossoms, sunlight, and sequoias felt like I’d fallen into a Monet – what would he have done with this landscape?

More trail, showing blackened bark. Old growth sequoias have such thick bark that fire seldom kills these trees; and fire is necessary for new growth – sequoia pine cones don’t open and drop their seeds without the heat from forest fires.

Most folks who hit this section of the park skip the near-solitude of the trail we just did, and head straight to the 1/2-mile paved path to the General Grant Tree.

The tree was named in 1867 after Ulysses S. Grant, Union Army general and the 18th President of the United States. President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed it the “Nation’s Christmas Tree” on April 28, 1926. On March 29, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared the tree a “National Shrine”, a memorial to those who died in war. It is the only living object to be so declared.

The trail has other points of interest, including this Fallen Monarch tree trunk, big enough to walk through upright:

Centennial Stump was left after this 24′ diameter trunk was sliced up and transported east for the Philadelphia Exhibition of 1876 –  where the easterners thought it was a hoax:

Grant Tree itself – the 2nd largest in the world:

Driving out to our hotel in Three Rivers, we get the views:

Moonrise over the pool and spa at Western Adventure Lodge:

 

Leave a comment »

Yosemite – Bridal Veil Fall, Tunnel View, Sentinel Dome, and Mirror Lake 6/2/17

Headed straight for the short walk to the base of Bridal Veil Fall.

Early June, and we’re in peak flow season.

Morning view across from the Fall:

The trail gets steep, and soaking wet as you approach the Fall, so that the paved path is running like a stream:

Then off to Tunnel View, which gives a spectacular panorama of the whole Valley, plus an actual tunnel to drive through:

Down to Glacier Point Road to Sentinel Dome, a hike recommended for its full 360 views. This warning is for the Taft Point trail, we’ll go the other way:

There is a little snow on our trail, at the very beginning, but then we cross a stream and the snowy patches have melted:

Oh. My. Goodness! We can see the Dome! And there are little tiny people on top! How am I going to climb THAT!

The trail has a number of beautiful Jeffrey Pine trees, big, red bark, and a distinctly fragrant resin – stick your nose up between the plates of the bark and you’ll smell butterscotch!

By now the trail has left the soil path to traverse the rocky surface approaching the Dome. Cairns mark the path:

The path has taken us around to the less-steep, but shaded side of the Dome, where the scramble to the top is through a snow field!

Couldn’t take photos while trying to climb up slippery snow. A little scary, but oh so rewarding. We’re eye-level with Yosemite Falls:

Above Half Dome:

Surrounded by the Sierra Nevadas:

And there’s El Capitan:

This is Ansel Adam’s photo of the lone Jeffrey pine on top of Sentinel Dome:

And this is that same tree now, after it died from a drought in 1977, and finally fell in 2003:

There’s still life growing up here:

Elevation at the top of the Dome is 8,117 ft. It’s easy to wander around the dome, from view to view to view.

But it’s time to head down, back through the snow. You’ve got to dig your heel in to grab a foothold, one heel at a time. One grandpa helped his little granddaughters down by sitting on the snow, propping one girl on each thigh, and sledding them down on his butt – fast, scary ride for them. But as soon as they reached the bottom, they clamored to do it over and over!

Back down from the Dome, and we drove over to Glacier Point, where the views just keep on coming – including a view of yesterday’s Vernal Falls hike:

Back through Tunnel View, where the light has changed the scenery:

Then back up to the Valley to the Mirror Lake trail which crosses and skirts Tenaya Creek:

Half Dome looms above the lake:

We were here:

Folks resting on the rocks above the roaring creek:

A last view of Yosemite Falls through the trees:

Back to Mariposa for a one-man band in the Art Park:

And a little western flair:

 

Leave a comment »

Yosemite Valley 6/1/17

It’s an hour drive from Mariposa to Yosemite Valley, winding road, one lane bridge, along the Merced River. This may be the rockslide that closed the road, requiring the 1-lane crossing:

We started at the Valley Visitors’ Center, and strolled this native village display, telling the story of the Ahwahneechee people who called this area home (before the Gold Rushers displaced/killed  them):

Morning hike – Yosemite Falls, tallest in the Park (and 20th tallest in the world) drops 2,425′ from the top of the upper fall to the base of the lower fall. You can see the falls from nearly every spot in the Valley:

There’s a lovely Falls View spot (doubleclick any photo to enlarge):

This is a good view of the upper fall to the right and lower fall on the left – the middle cascade can’t be seen from the Valley.

The trail up to the lower falls viewing spot crosses the river, and gets into the spray:

Since Yosemite Falls is mostly snow-melt, the Falls can be completely dry or just a trickle by September. Not likely this year, after the record snowfall in the Sierras. We walked back towards the open valley, and kept turning back for different views of the Falls:

Next trail was across Swinging Bridge to the other side of the valley:

Areas of the meadow valley were flooded, turning sections of the trail into dead ends. And the view of Yosemite Falls just keeps coming:

Across the valley from the Falls is Yosemite Chapel, the oldest building in the Park, from Yosemite Village 1879, although moved to this location in 1991:

We took the park shuttle to the Happy Isle stop, and walked to the Vernal Fall trail. Happy to rely on the shuttles, by the way. Not yet peak season, but the parking lots were nearly full when we arrived early morning. The shuttles get you all over most of the park, without worrying about finding a parking space. There are shuttles from the nearest towns, to get you into the park. Glad to have the shuttles cutting down on the emissions from idling cars – good place to be good to the planet. But first, a picnic lunch along the Merced:

There’s also a starting point for the hike up Half Dome – but the cables were out (like that’s the reason we didn’t do it!):

Onward to the Vernal Fall, all uphill, and a real challenge for my sea-level lungs, just to the footbridge at the base of the waterfall. Lots of stops – and views – along the climb.

The trail continues up to the top of the fall along the Mist Trail – wet, slippery, steep, and dangerous. Lots of signs in the park about the deadly dangers of slipping into the rushing waters. Didn’t tackle it.  Headed back down to the Valley. Don’t know what this “free speech” sign is about, but there were no groups there at the time.

Half Dome from the valley:

On the drive out we stopped at the El Capitan viewpoint. Some folks had set up camp chairs to sit and watch the climbers through binoculars – tiny specks of color and movement against the massive sheer wall:

I’ve never been good with heights, but I still can’t imagine someone looking at this and thinking “I should climb that.” And this guy just did it in 4 hours without ropes.

Long drive back to Mariposa, which has a nice little western town feel. Their Arts Park has this memorial to 9/11. The rusted steel is salvage from NYC’s twin towers:

 

Leave a comment »

Bodega to Napa to Yosemite – 5/30/17

Headed into to the town of Bodega, CA, where Hitchcock filmed that scene of the schoolchildren being attacked in The Birds:

The Potter School (1873) is still there, a private residence:

 

Back on the road, with a stop for fruit at a market, right next to the Guayaki Yerba Maté factory – we’ve had that!

One of the great things about racking up miles on the rental car is that we get to search out places to check out to break up the long drives. Santa Rosa is a great stop, where we toured the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens, a national historic site. Burbank (1849 -1926) was born in Lancaster, MA but settled in Santa Rosa and spent his 50 year career as a horticulturalist. He worked to expand the world’s food supply, and introduced more than 800 new varieties of plants — including over 200 varieties of fruits, many vegetables, nuts and grains, and hundreds of ornamental flowers – including the Shasta Daisy. The gardens are free, and lovely:

 

Next stop, The Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone campus, once the largest stone winery in the world. Gorgeous building, with oranges growing in front, and a crazy corkscrew collection on display:

 

 

Back on the road through Napa Valley, surrounded by grape vines climbing hills or filling fields.

 

The town of Napa has a nice riverfront park, and lots of restaurants – but we hit the supermarket for sandwiches to go.

 

From grapevines to windfarms, until we’re climbing higher:

 

And then Yosemite as the day is waning:

We’re just driving through on a long, winding road to get to our hotel in Mariposa, and stop at an overlook. An overwhelming, my cup runneth over overlook:

The winter’s heavy snows have turned the Merced River and waterfalls (or is it just snowmelt?) high, fast, and wild:

 

Drove through a tunnel to a waterfall at Cascade Creek:

 

An info panel showed this early 20th century ad for 36-hour wagon trip to Yo Semite:

Can’t blame them for enduring a 36-hour drive to see this place – What a planet!

 

 

 

Leave a comment »

Bodega Bay, CA – 5/29/17

Drove through rolling landscape towards Bodega Bay. Doubleclick any photo to enlarge.

Spent the windswept afternoon, exploring the cliff-bottom beaches overlooking an assortment of sea stacks – those weird  pillarlike masses of erosion-resistant “rock detached by wave action from a cliff-lined shore and surrounded by water.”

Arch Rock

Goat Rock is huge – connected to the coast by land turned into a parking lot.  This whole Sonoma Coast area has lots of beaches, but not for swimming due to the dangerous rip currents.

Goat Rock

Never saw the seals nesting – too windy to walk all the way. There’s a great Kortum Trail on the cliff-top meadow above the beaches, but the wind was wild. And the views were spectacular:

Next stop, Bodega Head, where there were reportedly pods of whales. I swear wildlife hides when they hear us coming. But more ridiculously windy views:

Drove down around to Hole in the Head, a beautiful beach area where Pacific Gas & Electric began excavations in 1958 to build a nuclear power plant – next to the San Andreas fault. Public protest and opposition to this is considered the birth of the anti-nuclear movement. In ’64, the Atomic Energy Commission gave a negative review, and the project was abandoned – leaving a nice little pond and an apt nickname for this stupid plan:

Ended the night with dinner at Lucas Wharf, where we would have had a sunset view if it weren’t so overcast:

 

Leave a comment »

Muir Woods 5/29/17

Left San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge:

We drive through the rainbow-painted Robin Williams Tunnel:

on the way to Muir Woods National Monument. Muir Woods has been protecting old growth coastal redwoods since 1908. Most of the redwoods in the monument are between 500 and 800 years old. The oldest is at least 1,200 years old, and the tallest is 258′. Redwood Creek runs through the valley, nourishing the trees.

“God has cared for these trees… but he cannot save them from fools. Only Uncle Sam can do that.” John Muir, 1897

The trails are beautifully groomed, and much of it is wheelchair accessible. It’s hard to appreciate how tall these things are – picture a 24 story tower.

United Nations Conference on International Organizations, meeting in San Francisco to sign the UN charter in 1945, met in this Cathedral Grove to honor the memory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt who had died just weeks before.

We were here:

Found a little resting spot along the creek, for trail mix and some words of tribute to the redwoods:

This is a detour around a section of trail that crumbled into the creek:

The trail back crosses the creek and climbs the cliff on the other side, so you’re looking down onto the creek, and the trail we’d been on.

Next stop, Muir Beach Overlook, with its WWII era stations to watch for an invasion:

Leave a comment »