The Best All Around Destinations Are…
#National Parks #Kings Canyon National Park
Believe it or not, Yosemite is the number one destination, and the Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks together is number six. All are within a 90-minute drive from my house.
The strange thing is that people from nearby seldom enjoy these wonders. I’m sure it’s the same thing where you live. This year two different friends invited me to check out the waterfalls due to the El Nino rains we had this winter.
Monica and I took off to go up there at the end of July to get away from the heat. While it was in the 100s in the valley, it was 75 degrees in the park.
What to Pack for a Mountain Hiking Trip
- A camera or cell phone and a car charger
- A warm but light jacket
- A lunch or at least snacks
- An extra pair of shoes, shirt & pants
- Walking sticks
Sequoia – Kings Canyon National Parks
Three parks form the Mountain Loop. However, you can drive from Sequoia to Kings Canyon without coming back down from the mountains. It’s a grueling drive, though.
Kings Canyon National Park is a gentle drive from either Fresno or Visalia east on Highway 180. The hairpin turns and loops that you encounter on the way to both Yosemite and Sequoia don’t slow down your trip to Kings Canyon.
One advantage of going to Kings Canyon National Park is that fewer people go there. I don’t have exact figures for that, though, and people can be hard to estimate. The folks at the Sequoia National Park estimated that more people came over Labor Day when actually there were fewer. If you can’t find a parking place, there are too many people there.
Roaring River Falls
Almost as soon as you enter the park, you reach Roaring Canyon Falls. Step out of the car, take a few steps, and you’re there. At that stop you find benches and tables to sit and picnic.
The restroom was hideous, but at least there was one. Let’s just say bugs like it. I understand that if you hike off the beaten path, there’s something you can carry that would be infinitely more pleasant than this restroom.
I got carried away photographing this young woman. First of all, she’s not fat, she’s pregnant. The water runs icy cold and swiftly, and as you know, rocks under water are not just sharp, they’re slippery. She’s wearing a watch, glasses and a dress, none of which go well with falling. Luckily for her, she made it to the other side. But those of us on the safe side of the river held our breath until she made it. I didn’t see her come back.
After we ate a light lunch, Monica and I enjoyed hiking, mostly on the roads. We did have one adventurous loop. I don’t hike fast if I’m holding a camera. I had both my Canon and my iPhone. I liked my iPhone color better, but I still like the clarity of the bigger Canon. Color problems are my bad. A point and shoot camera is always a better judge of both exposure and focus than I am.
This was one of my favorite shots.
If you know what it is, then good on ya. But don’t you think it’s pretty?
We drove to the next spot, got out and took a 3-mile trail loop. Monica is friendly, so we started talking to one of the most unwilling rangers I’ve ever met. Even so, Monica dragged about six minutes of interesting facts out of him on the topic of geology.
When we neared the end of our walk, Monica suggested that we tell people to start early and go backward. When you see the end of our walk, maybe you’ll agree.
From our safe perch on the paved pathway, we found plenty of opportunities to capture pictures of the swollen Kings River. The middle and south forks of the 125-mile long Kings River starts somewhere in the Kings Canyon National Park even though this looks much too fast and large to be the headwater.
As you can see, the parks have two seasons, fire and rain. This tree looked sparse, but still viable after the Rough Fire in August 2015. The lightening-started fire burned 151,623 acres of land, making it the largest fire of the year in California, involving up to 3,742 firefighters.
The sun filtered through the trees dazzled the water but left us alone to enjoy the walk in cool comfort.
You can see that the wide path that made walking a breeze. We also saw the devastating results of the fire lying on the ground like charred skeletons.
In the backdrop as we looked away from the river, the granite peaks vied for our attention. I have to admit that the river was noisier, closer and got more of my attention than the rocky backdrop.
Once in a while, a knotty tumor stopped us dead in our tracks to muse about the anomaly. But we walked on, not aware of what we would encounter in just a few minutes.
They didn’t tell us about it, just marched by us stoically by with their leader. No one talked much. Hmmm..
Walking across the bridge did not hold any danger or inkling of what lay ahead.
So we kept going. Monica stopped for a brief respite so I could snap another picture.
Zumwalt Meadow was a bit mushy so I wouldn’t advise walking on it.
I wished the color had been prettier in this picture. I think it could be a post card shot if I’d figured out the better lighting. But that was how it looked.
This was our first hint that the trail was changing. It looked like the end of the trail. Monica is tiny. I wasn’t sure I’d fit through the opening in the rocks.
She bravely led the way. No bears.
Eventually, we found the stairway that led to heaven. I thought we might be in the Holy Land at least. The rocks were somewhat uneven. Normally I wouldn’t think twice about that, but as klutzy as I am, I tread carefully over rocks so I don’t twist my ankle and tumble over the edge of the cliff.
At the bottom of the rock ladder, Monica found a shady spot, and then she found something even better.
You’d never expect a beach in the middle of the mountains, but there it was. People swam in it and shade-bathed in the sand. Within seconds both Monica and I had our shoes off. The sand was pebbly, so it didn’t stick too badly when we finally had to pull our feet out of the cool water and stuff them back into our stabilization shoes. 🙂
Within a few minutes, we arrived back where we started. Who should be standing close by, but our less than smiling ranger helper. As we said hello, he ran for his car. And we walked sedately toward ours, ready to call it a day, and head back to the heat.
I hope you enjoyed our staycation at Kings Canyon National Park.
If you are over 62, you can still buy a lifetime pass. The cost is now $80, but if you visit eight parks, it has paid for itself. If you’re in fourth-grade, there is a special pass for you.
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What National Parks are near you? Do you have a post you’d like to link in the comment section?
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