Sierra Nevada Mountains, California – Spring 2016 Road Trip – Day 3 – Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks

An early morning was a good time to head out to take photos without people, driving the valley loop road to see the landscapes and a beautiful deer with fuzzy antlers. As the road climbed out of the valley we stopped at a vista to look once more across the Yosemite Valley for a spectacular view of the giant granite cliffs, Bridalveil Falls and  El Capitan from afar.

This was our second trip to Yosemite and we still appreciate the preserved beauty of this national park and so many of the other parks that we have seen. It is a landscape that you do not get tired of seeing. We entered the tunnel next to the vista to drive the twenty-six miles to exit the park.

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Once we reached the valley floor we once again began to pass through the large commercial farms, stopping at one ‘family farm’ that the man in the vegetable stand said is 1500 acres, a small one by Central Valley standards.

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Our route this day took us through Fresno, where I had the Forestiere Underground Gardens but the garden was closed on Monday. These gardens are a hand-built network of underground rooms, courtyards and passageways reminiscent of the ancient catacombs, but that visit will have to wait for another day.

Since we had no chance to see the underground gardens, we hopped on the freeway to go to Kings Canyon National Park, known for its giant sequoia trees.  A stop at a gas station provided lunch in the form of a cookie and ham hoagie to curb the munchies. The drive supplied lots of scenery but not much in convenience of stores or restaurants.

The road climbed upward in altitude quickly. A signpost of 6000 feet in elevation stood at the entrance of Kings Canyon National Park. The temperature also changed from a warm 68o F in Fresno to 45oF at Kings Canyon.

As soon as we reached Sequoia National Park, we went directly to see the General Grant tree. The grove this tree was in had numerous giant sequoias, with well placed informational signs that gave excellent background information, such as the fact these trees need fire to germinate their seeds. The regular fires burn the ground and the base of the sequoias but the fire does not kill the trees. Instead, the ashes from the fire create the perfect condition for the sequoia seeds to grow.

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We stood inside a burnt out part of the tree base while above us soared the growth of the trunk into the sky with many branches.   The General Grant tree, obviously named for the famous Civil War general, is the third largest tree and has the greatest base diameter of any sequoia at 40 feet. It is also 3 1/2 feet bigger in diameter than the General Sherman tree, the world’s largest tree by volume. Amazingly, giant sequoias averaging 250 feet tall have shallow roots growing no deeper than five feet beneath the surface. Even though their bark is fire resistant, the giant sequoia becomes sick from fungi or insects and topples over.

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Also in this grove is the Centennial Stump, left by two brothers who schemed to make money by cutting sections of a giant sequoia and exhibiting it at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1875. It took two men nine days to cut down the 1800 year old tree into sections, ship it, then reassemble it due to its size. This stunt was laughed at and called the “California Hoax.”

Continuing north through the park, we passed into Kings Canyon National Park. The one and only road take you to Roaring River Falls in deep in Kings Canyon with fantastic views along the way. Canyons, mountains, waterfalls, and white water were seen throughout.

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We dropped into the canyon, where we ran along the river for miles. We passed numerous areas of white water, as well as a few stops to go on short hikes to see waterfalls

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The road itself provided some of the most exciting views.

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Returning to Sequoia National Park, we passed our original entrance point to find the General Sherman Tree; the largest tree in the world by volume. The General Sherman Tree was fenced off as the main attraction but it is hard to see the top of tree standing so close to it. Still the path up and down the hills to view the trees left us in awe of the awesome size of them.

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We wound our way out of the park to our hotel, the Buckeye Tree Lodge then went to dinner next door to eat our first decent meal since being on the road. Later we sat on our balcony admiring the roaring white water as it raced by our hotel.

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