May 13-15 — Giant trees. Towering mountains. Dramatic canyons. This is the Sierra Nevada, the area in which we are staying for nearly three weeks as we explore three more of our country’s magnificent national parks.
The vastness and beauty of this place is hard to comprehend. The Sierra Nevada range is larger than the French, Swiss, and Italian Alps combined, and these rugged granite mountains which tower over dazzling deep glacier gorges and glorious meadows truly take your breath away. Six peaks rise above 14,000 feet, including the tallest peak in the Continental U.S., Mount Whitney. More than 90 percent of the land is designated wilderness, thus it is kept in its wild state. It’s truly spectacular!
Kings Canyon National Park is north of and adjacent to Sequoia NP, so not surprisingly it features more of what we saw in Sequoia, but in addition also includes a great canyon framed by stunning granite cliffs rising thousands of feet above, and the wild Kings River running through the canyon floor. Driving down into the canyon offered stunning vistas, as the photos in the embedded photo album below show. Another famous Giant Sequoia, the General Sherman tree, resides here in Kings Canyon; it’s the third largest tree in the world.
Our friends from Chicago, Bill and Lisa, met us at the John Muir Lodge – a lovely log-and-stone lodge located in Grant Grove Village inside the park. For the first time in nearly a year of us being full-timers, we left Charley in the parking lot and for three nights enjoyed the amenities of staying in a national park lodge. Much to our surprise, although it really shouldn’t have been since we were at altitude, we got snow! Having been in Florida and in the desert southwest recently in shorts and swimming suits, bundling up in fleece, hats and gloves was a bit of an unwanted step backwards weather-wise for us, but alas, didn’t stop us from enjoying our time here.
Bill and Lisa and Fred and I took one of our days in the park and drove down into the canyon along the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway – a 90-minute drive that was truly spectacular! At Roads End where the road ends (go figure!), we enjoyed a hike out to Mist Falls, had lunch at the beautiful falls, then hiked back; 9.2 miles of great exercise and a wonderful day.
Of interest to us as the national park buffs that we’ve become, we were surprised to learn that this park, founded in 1890 just after Sequoia NP and Yosemite NP – our country’s third and fourth national parks – was originally incorporated as General Grant National Park. It remained under this name until 1940 when it was combined with some other property, expanded and then renamed Kings Canyon National Park.