Kings Canyon and Yosemite

Tracy and I took a couple of days off work, and headed out to California on October 7, 2010 for a short vacation. We left about noon on Thursday and drove to Bakersfield, CA. On Friday we drove on to Sequoia National Park. We really didn’t form much of an opinion about Sequoia. It seemed that the Sequoia groves were pretty small…or at least, there weren’t a lot of trees in the groves. We did see the General Sherman tree, which is the largest tree by volume in the world. It’s not the tallest tree, and it doesn’t have the largest base, but it’s the biggest tree by volume…and that’s BIG. But we only spent about half the day in Sequoia, and then we headed out to Kings Canyon. We hiked at Redwood Canyon inside Kings Canyon, and that Sequoia grove was nicer than anything we saw in Sequoia. Redwood Canyon was a nice, quiet hike, and we had it all to ourselves. There were lots of really big trees, and it just made for a really nice hike. We left there just before it was starting to get dark. We had planned to camp on Friday night, but the weather report was calling for colder weather than we felt like dealing with. So we tried to get a room in the park, but decided it was too expensive, so we drove to Fresno to get a room for the night. We already had a reservation for Saturday night in Fresno, so we just went to the same hotel for Friday night.

On Saturday we headed back the hour drive to Kings Canyon and headed to the Road’s End. We made a short stop at the General Grant tree on the way in. General Grant is the National Christmas Tree. The drive down into the canyon was really pretty with some nice views of Kings Canyon and the surrounding Sierra Nevada Mountains. Once down into the Canyon, we hiked at Zumwalt Meadows. This was a decent hike, but it was mostly uneventful. We didn’t see many people, and we spent an hour or so by the river just reading before we headed back. After getting back, we drove to the very end of the road, and saw lots of cars at the backcountry parking lot. So, even for late in the year, these trails were still pretty crowded on the weekend. I think that’s another good reason that I don’t want to live in southern California. After leaving there, we headed back towards Fresno. We stopped on the way at a small pizza place, and then headed into the country to try to find a comet that was passing through. We spent about 45 minutes looking for it, but we never found it, so we headed back to the hotel.

The next day we drove up to Yosemite. We had geared ourselves up for crowds, but we figured we at least just needed to see Yosemite. Well, the crowds were bad, but they weren’t as bad as I had been afraid they would be. But I hated the park. Well, more specifically, we both hated Yosemite Valley. Yosemite Valley was one of the most badly managed national parks we have ever seen. There were very limited trail signs, very limited view point signs, and very limited parking signs. The signage in the park was really just atrocious. I couldn’t imagine how bad the traffic is in the valley when the crowds were really bad…with the lack of signage being a big contributor. The parking lots weren’t paved, with large water-filled potholes all over the pace. The bathrooms weren’t clean, and they were ancient pit toilets. I realize we deal with this in the Forest, but you expect more in National Parks…after all, it costs $25 just to enter the park. We literally just drove into the Valley, spent about 15 minutes, and turned around and left. And we don’t feel like we missed anything.

We then drove to the Glacier Point overlook, which was really crowded, but had some great views. From there we headed out to Hetch Hetchy, which wasn’t really all that. It was a long drive, and it was pretty hot down in there. So we only spent a few minutes there and then we headed out. Once we got to Tuolumne Meadows, we found a part of Yosemite that we liked. It was less crowded back there, and it was really pretty. We walked around a little, but it was getting late in the day, so we couldn’t hike much. We found the Pacific Crest Trail, and it made me want to hike that trail. However, while it was pretty back in there, I’m not sure it was any better than the Winds or the Beartooths. And yet it’s much more crowded and has many more bear problems. So I don’t know if I’ll ever feel compelled to spend much time out there, or not.

We drove on to Bishop and went out looking for the comet again, and this time we found it. We just had binoculars, so it was little more than a fuzz ball, but it was still nice to see it. The next day we headed back home on Highway 6. Highway 6 was interesting, though, and I think I might want to go explore the Extraterrestrial Highway out there.

All in all, this was a great trip. Kings Canyon was our favorite park of the three, and I might want to hike more on its east side. However, I’m glad to have that trip over with…now I don’t feel like I have to go back.

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