Big Trees and Mighty Rivers – Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park

Clinton and I have had the pleasure of visiting Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park multiple times in the past, each time has left us in awe. The serenity and beauty of the giant sequoias, and the strength and magnificence of kings canyon are beyond words. This trip was for work, and I was very fortunate we stayed at the John Muir Lodge one night! I highly recommend the lodge – but be aware that there is no AC, no TV, and it is rather ‘rustic’. For me, it was perfect! It was nice and cool, even during the middle of July, so I left the windows open at night. It was incredibly dark and quiet. Sitting on the rocking chairs outside until after the sun set was a nice feature of the location of the lodge. I was able to see wildlife, deer mostly, multiple times during our short stay. While visiting the park, we stayed in Three Rivers. It is a cute town with a few places to eat – we recommend the Ol’ Buckaroo (we went here multiple times, they have great specials that change daily) and Gateway (beautiful creek side views of golden California)! It is also very close to the entrance of the park.

The park is actually a combination of both Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park. Joined officially by Congress in 1943, both Sequoia and Kings Canyon were founded separately by different acts. The land set aside to protect the sequoia trees became Sequoia National Park in September, 1890, while Grant Grove National Park was established. President Roosevelt abolished this designation and renamed it Kings Canyon National Park. When talking to the Rangers, they didn’t seem to be too concerned about their fellow employees and who was working at “Kings Canyon” or “Sequioa”, though it was fun to see that where they were located in the district was more a point of pride! Lodgepool, Foothills, Cedar Grove…all different areas. Who really knew? 🙂

View at the restaurant Gateway in Three Rivers

The first visitor center, Foothills, is a good first stop for general questions once you make it through the entrance station. There is a fee to visit the park, or you can purchase your National Park pass. We always get a yearly pass – it helps the parks in more ways than you think! Generals Highway is a gorgeous drive to get you out to your first iconic spot – the General Sherman tree. It is really a magnificent tree. I had thought there would be more evidence of the many fires that went through the area but was happy to see that there was not as much damage as anticipated. In fact, you could not see any residual effects of fire – at least at this location. The tree is heavily visited so, much like the General Grant tree up further north, be prepared for lots of people taking pictures! There is a hike to both locations – and yes, I did write both. These two trees are NOT next to each other! In fact, they are a long drive apart. Don’t plan on visiting just these two famous trees. There is the Big Stump Grove and the Lodgepool Visitor Center between the two trees that warrant at least a quick stopover. Various overlooks are worth the view as well.

After leaving General Grant, further up the road you will enter Kings Canyon National Park. Cedar Grove Visitor Center is a great introduction to the park. Down at the ‘end of the road’ is a small ranger station, but lots of trails. If you plan to camp, plan ahead. It may look like there are plenty of places to camp, but most of the park is actually heavily protected. Dispersed camping is not allowed – only designated camping. Follow the camping rules and make sure to pay attention to the bear safety signs! The area is frequented by black bears, and they are no joke. Don’t be THAT person! It is unsafe for you and the bear.

General Grant

Visiting Sequoia/Kings Canyon is always a treasure, but it is especially nice after reading about so many devastating things that have happened in California. Wildfires are frequent and have led to multiple preventative measures. I find it heartening that so many also treasure these wonderful trees and took these measures to prevent them from burning. While many trees did suffer, the destruction could have definitely been worse. Thanks to the many countless hours the fire teams provided, we can still visit these wonderful parks today! There were multiple opportunities to learn about the various plants and animals of the park. Even if you are not able to walk along a trail, the drive alone through the park is amazing. Take your time – it is windy and hard to take your eyes off the beauty!

Speaking of trails, there were many of them. Roaring River Falls in Kings Canyon is definitely worth the trip. If you do want more of a hiking experience, look up the roads end trails. The hikes to the trees are about a mile round trip and are downhill to begin with, but there are plenty of benches along the way. Take your time and enjoy the beauty of all the OTHER wonderful sequoia’s that will surround you on the trail. General Grant and Sherman just happen to be some of the largest bases but there are hundreds of other trees just as majestic.

Don’t visit California without trying to squeeze in a trip to Sequia & Kings Canyon National Park! It is worth your time!

Visiting Mojave National Preserve #TalleyYourAdventure #FindYourPark

Sunset at Mojave National Preserve

One of the fascinating things I have learned living out west is that no two deserts are truly the same. Case in point, Mojave National Preserve! Located throughout southern California and Nevada, the Mojave Desert is considered “high desert”, or desert between 2,000 and 4,000 ft. Endemic to the area, Joshua Trees are one of many different types of flora and fauna that are native to the area. Distinct from the Sonoran Desert, the Mojave Desert is warmer in temperature – and knowing it contains Death Valley, it seems no surprise to read temps that go well and above 115 F each year! Mojave is named after the indigenous Mojave tribe, which is federally recognized as part of the Colorado River Indian Tribes. Included with Chemehuevi, Hope, and some Navajo, these tribes maintain their individual traditions, religions, and identities without outside involvement. Mojave’s host the Native American Days Fair & Expo annually in Parker, Arizona the first week of October.

I’ve lived part-time for work the past nine or so months in Mesquite, Nevada and the difference between Page, Arizona is evident during summer and winter. It gets COLD in Mesquite – not snowy, just very cold at night; and during the summer, it can get ridiculously hot for a very long period of time. Did I mention the insects? HUGE. But all of them have two things in common: picture-perfect sunsets and amazing starry nights. Do yourself a favor when visiting the Mojave Preserve take in a gorgeous sunset before finding the darkest place you can safely visit in the park after 10 p.m. and be prepared to forget how to breathe.

One of the most interesting places in Mojave National Preserve was Zzyzzx. When I asked the California State University students who work/study there at the Desert Oasis Center, they told me about Curtis Springer, a man who opened up a mining claim in the area turned millionaire. In addition to the spa (plus other luxurious amenities), he hosted a radio show. During his time owning the resort, he mailed out over four million packages for items such as “Antediluvian Herb Tea, Nerve Cell Food, and Hollywood Pep Cocktail”. Eventually, his scheme caught up to him. After serving a few months in jail, he retired to Las Vegas.

Desert Oasis Center ‘playground’

The Desert Oasis Center has year-round studies by students from Cal State. Meeting and talking with them was a treat, as was the gorgeous viewshed. Strangely, since part of the area is still within the Preserve, visitors can still drive down the road and park just outside the center to view gorgeous landscapes such as the picture shown here…but it still is a living, and working, educational program. Be aware that visitors should not be walking around the buildings in this location as students are living, working, and studying year-round.

The history of Mojave Preserve and how it came into existence goes back to the passage of the Homesteading Act in 1862. Any American (any! including women!) could earn 160 acres of land out west. To earn rights to the land, homesteaders had to complete a number of tasks: pay a small filing fee; build a house 10 ft by 10 ft or larger; clear and have under cultivation ten acres the first year, twenty the second, and forty the third; and live on the place seven months each year, for three years. Farming was hard, especially since the Mojave Desert rarely gets more than 10 inches of precipitation a year.

By the late 1800s, miner and ranchers had joined the homesteaders – and with impressive stats! By 1894, over 10,000 cattle roamed the vast, harsh Mojave Desert. From just a couple natural springs, ranchers were able to design sophisticated water distribution methods to support the cattle and life in the desert. There is still active ranching today!

Another great place to visit during your time at Mojave is the Kelso Depot. When the Union Pacific was created in 1862, it strived to reach into rich California markets in Los Angeles. The path for construction lie within the Mojave Desert – hence Kelso Depot! The first depot opened in 1905 and was soon followed by a post office. The Depot ended existence in 1962, but when plans were made to demolish the building locals organized the Kelso Depot Fund to save the building. They stopped the demolition of the building but were unable to raise the money for restoration. By 1992, the Bureau of Land Management (which already owned most of the land around the area) were able to secure the building. With the passage of the California Desert Protection Act of 1994, the Depot was transferred to the National Park Service with renovations beginning in 2002.

If you have some time, go down to the Lava tube and play around! Be careful, the tube itself is not monitored and rangers are not present, but it is an interesting part of the park you would never think to see in a desert! The road getting to the lava tube is unpaved and we definitely recommend using a high clearance vehicle for the drive. There is a short hike after the road ends to the tubes and the view along the way is amazing!

Hopefully you take some time if you are in the area and stop through Mojave National Preserve. It is an amazing part of the park service with so many different ways to experience the desert.

Pictures – Grand Canyon Rim to Rim

Welcome back! Hopefully you enjoyed reading about my trip from the north rim to the south rim – I had a great time writing about it. Especially after Clinton and I went back last weekend to visit the south rim. Looking down into the canyon and pointing out Indian Garden brought back a lot of memories. I am very happy that this hike was so successful! Here are some pictures highlighting our experience, starting from the north rim.

%d bloggers like this: