This weekend Todd and I took a trip to the northern part of Sequoia National Forest and Kings Canyon National Park in celebration of our 2 year anniversary of meeting each other. We hiked to the Boole Tree on Saturday and then had dinner and stayed at Montecito-Sequoia Lodge that night. This lodge is definitely a hold-over from yesteryear. It's not just a hotel, but rather a place for families to go on an extended vacation offering a variety of on site activities such as canoeing, swimming, tennis, rock climbing, archery, riflery, arts and crafts, horse-back riding, hiking, and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the wintertime. Meal times are done buffet style and you wait your own tables. In the evenings there are family dance parties and other fun activities. Accomodations are in some traditional motel rooms as well as some rustic cabins with a common bath house. The lodge has been ran by the same woman for many, many years. She's in her 80's now, though, and we're told she may soon be selling the lodge. Hopefully the new owners will keep up the family-friendly atmosphere of the place.
View from our cabin at Montecito-Sequoia
We met lots of nice people at Montecito-Sequoia and had a pleasant night there. Well, except for the fact that our wood stove in our cabin smoked us out in the middle of the night! Not sure why it did, but after airing the place out, we cuddled back underneath the blankets and went back to sleep.
On Sunday we ate breakfast at the lodge then drove down into Kings Canyon on Highway 180. Todd had been to nearby Hume Lake before but never any further and I hadn't been to the base of the canyon in 6 years. Highway 180 is one of the most scenic roads in the country and it is a designated National Forest Scenic Byway. Kings Canyon, shortly after where the middle and south forks come together, is one of the deepest canyons in North America. The river is at around 2,260 feet and the ridge including Spanish Mountain looms 8,000 feet above at 10,051 feet. Needless to say, it is an amazing drive down into the canyon with spectacular views along the way!
Where the Middle and South Forks come together in Sequoia National Forest
Horseshoe Bend, note Hwy 180 carved directly out of the rock! Also, the huge gray rock escarpment is marble! It's part of the same formation that houses Boyden Cave
The Kings River has three main forks, the North, Middle, and South and all are magnificent deep gorges featuring spectacular tall cliffs, wild white water rivers, green vibrant meadows, marble caverns, and beautiful waterfalls. The North Fork Kings River starts in the John Muir Wilderness of the Sierra National Forest and flows in a westerly direction. It is impounded at Wishon Reservoir and then flows in a southerly direction through Blackrock Reservoir and eventually meets the other two forks just east of Pine Flat Reservoir.
The Middle and South Forks are both designated as Wild and Scenic Rivers from shortly below their confluence to their headwaters. This designation took place on November 3, 1987.
The Middle Fork Kings River starts in the northern part of Kings Canyon National Park. It flows through a beautiful glacially carved canyon known as Tehipite Valley before joining the South Fork near Yucca Point in the Sequoia National Forest.
The South Fork Kings River also flows through a glacially carved canyon and this stretch is known as the Kings Canyon. And this is where Hwy 180 takes you.
We stopped at Horseshoe Bend where the highway is carved right out of the rock at dizzying heights above the river. Around the bend is Boyden Cave, a marble cave where they offer guided tours, and then shortly afterwards is Grizzly Falls. We sat for awhile at the falls, enjoying the cool spray of water pounding granite rocks, then drove to and ate at the small Cedar Grove lunch counter. We had fun watching the squirrels and Stellar Jays trying to get people's picnic lunches and afterwards we hiked part of the Zumwalt Meadow Trail. We couldn't have asked for better weather! It was a beautiful day to be in this most wondrous locale. Kings Canyon, in John Muir's own words, is a rival of Yosemite. Best of all, it gets nowhere near as many visitors! We saw only a few people out and about on this sunny and blue-skied October day.
Anyway, I think a no more beautiful descriptive overview exists for Kings Canyon other than John Muir's, so I've decided to include it here.
A Rival of the Yosemite
The Caņon of the South Fork of Kings River, California
by John Muir, 1891
"In the vast Sierra wilderness far to the southward of the famous Yosemite Valley, there is a yet grander valley of the same kind. It is situated on the south fork of King's River, above the most extensive groves and forests of the giant sequoia, and beneath the shadows the highest mountains in the range, where the caņons are deepest and the snow-laden peaks are crowded most closely together. It is called the Big King's River Caņon, or King's River Yosemite, and is reached by way of Visalia, the nearest point on the Southern Pacific Railroad, from which the distance is about forty-five miles, or by the Kearsarge Pass from the east side of the range. It is about ten miles long, half a mile wide, and the stupendous rocks of purplish gray granite that form the walls are from 2500 to 5000 feet in height, while the depth of the valley beloved the general surface of the mountain mass from which it has been carved is considerably more than a mile. Thus it appears that this new Yosemite is longer and deeper, and lies embedded in grander mountains, than the well-known Yosemite of the Merced. Their general characters, however are wonderfully alike, and they bear the same relationship to the fountains of the ancient glaciers above them.
"As to waterfalls, those of the new valley are far less striking in general views, although the volume of falling water is nearly twice as great and comes from higher sources. The descent of the King's River streams is mostly made in the form of cascades, which are outspread in flat plume-like sheets on smooth slopes, or are squeezed in narrow-throated gorges, boiling, seething, in deep swirling pools, pouring from lin to lin, and breaking into ragged, tossing masses of spray and foam in boulder-choked caņons,--making marvelous mixtures with the downpouring sunbeams, displaying a thousand and colors, and giving forth a great variety of wild mountain melody, which, rolling from side to side against the echoing cliffs, is at length all combined into one smooth, massy sea-like roar.
"The bottom of the valley is about 5000 feet above the sea, and its level or gently sloping surface is diversified with flowery meadows and groves and open sunny flats, through the midst of which the crystal river, ever changing, ever beautiful, makes it way; now gliding softly with scarce a ripple over beds of brown pebbles, now rustling and leaping in wild exultation across avalanche rock-dams or terminal moraines, swaying from side to side, beaten with sunshine, or embowered with leaning pines and firs, alders, willows, and tall balsam poplars, which with the bushes and grass at their feet make charming banks. Gnarled snags and stumps here and there reach out from the banks making cover for trout which seem to have caught their colors from rainbow spray, though hiding mostly in shadows, where the current swirls slowly and protecting sedges and willows dip their leaves.
"From this long, flowery, forested, well-watered park the walls rise abruptly in plain precipices or richly sculptured masses partly separated by side caņons baring wonderful wealth and variety of architectural forms, which are as wonderful in beauty of color and fineness of finish as in colossal height and mass The So-called war of the elements has done them no harm. There is no unsightly defacement as yet; deep in the sky, inviting the onset of storms through unnumbered centuries, they still stand firm and seemingly as fresh and unworn as new-born flowers.
"From the brink of the walls on either side the ground still rises in a series of ice-carved ridges and basins, superbly forested and adorned with many small lakes and meadows where deer and bear find grateful homes; while from the head of the valley mountains other mountains rise beyond in glorious array, every one of them shining with rock crystals and snow, and with a network of streams that sing their way down from lake to lake through a labyrinth of ice-burnished caņons. The area of the basins drained by the streams entering the valley is about 450 square miles, and the elevation of the rim of the general basin is from 9000 to upward of 14,000 feet above the sea; while the general basin of the Merced Yosemite has an area of 250 square miles, and its elevation is much lower.
"When from some commanding summit we view the mighty wilderness about this central valley, and, after tracing its tributary streams, note how every converging caņon shows in its sculpture, moraines, and shining surfaces that it was once the channel of a glacier, contemplating this dark period of grinding ice, it would seem that here was a center of storm and stress to which no life would come. But it is just where the ancient glaciers bore down on the mountain flank with crushing and destructive and most concentrated energy that the most impressive displays of divine beauty are offered to our admiration. Even now the snow falls every winter about the valley to a depth of ten to twenty feet, and the booming of avalanches is a common sound. Nevertheless the frailest flowers, blue and gold and purple, bloom on the brows of the great caņon rocks, and on the frosty peaks, up to a height of 13,000 feet, as well as in sheltered hollows and on level, meadows and lake borders and banks of streams."
To read more of this John Muir article, click here!
The mountains are calling and I must go. ~ John Muir ~ www.tarol.com
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