Friday, July 15, 2011

07-07-2011 Sequoia National Park

Many months ago Frank planned a summer trip up to Sequoia National Park. This week we rented a van, and along with Heidi we drove up the I-5 to the 198 up into the park. As expected there was a mass of humanity up there. We had a nice site in the Lodgepole campground for three days. Much to my dismay I had forgotten my air-mattress, damn it. Conveniently there's a store on site that sold really cheap foam mattresses. So with that and some folded up tarps, towels, etc.. I would have to make do.  After we set up camp Frank and Hedi took off to do some horseback riding in Kings Canyon. I took the opportunity to make the leisurely hike up to Tokopah Falls.

Kaweah River

This is a super easy hike. I saw tons of smiling kids walking the trail and plenty of parents carrying the ones that were to tired to do the whole thing. As popular as the hike is I didn't see much trash. The few bits I did see looked they had fallen out of people's pockets, not left deliberately. There's a huge mountain overlooking you the whole way. I saw a few of the local marmots doing their thing.

It took me maybe 45 minutes to get to the falls. It's a 1200ft cascading waterfall made of pure snow melt. To say I was impressed is an understatement.

Tokopah Falls from below

This is the biggest waterfall I have ever seen in person. I snapped some pictures and headed back to camp. That night we ate smoked salmon and corn on the cob. We washed it all down with Doghead Midas Touch and some Port for dessert.

 An interesting looking grill

My alarm clock

The next morning we decided to hike up to Heather Lake. It's the first of three lakes on the appropriately named Lakes Trail. Instead of hiking all the way from Lodgepole we started from the Wolverton Trailhead. It's a nice winding uphill trail. About half way up the 2000ft ascent we started to see snow in shady spots along the trail. By the time we made it 2/3's of the way up the trail was pretty much covered in snow. Thoughtfully the powers that be have put yellow markers high up in the trees to show the way when the trail is hidden by snow. It took us about two and half hours to get the first "peak".

Heidi navigates the trail

 Tokopah Falls from above

From that vantage we could see Tokopah Falls in all it's glory down below us. We were up around 9000ft, I think. We dropped down a couple hundred feet and were greeted with an incredible view of the lake.

 Heather Lake

We hung out for a bit and ate lunch. Some of the local wildlife came over and checked us out. The lake had a big disk of ice taking up the majority of the surface area. I tossed a brick sized rock out there and it just landed on top of the ice, so I think it's still fairly thick. Snow melt waterfalls framed the lake.


This marmot was feeling pretty bold

The yellow markers were super helpful in getting us out of there as there was no way to see the trail beneath the snow. A couple of hours later we were back at the trailhead parking lot. Then we went back to Lodgepole. We got cleaned up at the shower facilites. Then we grilled up some steaks and potatoes. We drank Gulden Draak. And for dessert we made some pie-iron smores.

The next morning we started a little late. Around 11:00 we drove to the flagship of the Sequoia National Park, The General Sherman Tree. Before this trip the biggest tree I had seen was the massive kauri, Tane Mahuta, in New Zealand. It seems barely gargantuan in comparison to the General. General Sherman and the other giant Sequoias are awesome in the classic sense of the word. They are dumbfoundly gigantic, just stop you in your tracks behemoths. I could use every "big" word in the dictionary, but nothing would do these trees justice. You really need to experience them for yourself. I don't see how even the most pessimistic person couldn't be impressed by this natural wonder of the world.

General Sherman

We headed down the highway for bit then turned off on a narrow, winding road.  Our destination was the Crystal Cave. This cave discovered back in 1918 by a couple of fishermen. It been a tourist destination since the ‘30’s. Frank had signed us up for the Wild Cave Tour. Two guides would lead us and two other people through the tight, muddy, caverns that the regular tour never sees. We met our guides Khrys and Tara. They both seemed very knowledgeable, professional, and enthusiastic. Having never been caving before I was excited to see what this entailed. Once we got inside the cave the temp dropped to a refreshing 48F. Khrys was the leader, and he took us all over the place. We spent about three hours crawling through ice cold water, and mud. This was no place for the claustrophobic, or fatties. Our guides showed us sparlkly golden bacteria, rock formations that looked like popcorn or bacon. They took us down to a subterranean pool with perfectly clear water. We were shown little, tiny spiders and centipedes (or were they millipedes?)  At one point the seven us were in a  tight little slot that only had enough room for us to lay on our belly's. We all turned off our headlamps and experienced the complete and utter darkness, it was pretty cool.

We gotta go through this?

Sure, no problem

We emerged from the cave with big smiles on our faces and sense of accomplishment. That was something I've never done before that turned out to be super fun. Gotta give Frank credit on this one, good call. We headed back to camp tired. Frank and Heidi had feasted on steak again, I had left over Fourth of July hotdogs.

The last morning of our trip Heidi woke up early and hiked out to Tokopah Falls. Frank and I packed up the van. On our way out the park we made one last stop. When I had been up at the Lodgepole Cultural Center (or something to that effect) a few days earlier I saw display about the local indian tribes. The display said that Monanche Indians had left some pictographs at a spot called Hospital Rock. The ranger at the center said it was easy to find. When I got home and did a little research Wikipedia and Flikr both suggested that the pictographs belonged to the Potwisha, a band of the Monanche. Those aren't the best sources, but that's all the research I'm gonna do.

So a big thank you to Frank for organizing everything. This trip took some foresight and pro-activeness to plan, two qualities I'm severely lacking. Thanks to Heidi for joining us too, it was a lot of fun.   

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