Yosemite and THE CROWDS

If Kings Canyon was a quiet park removed from the crowds, Yosemite was its complete opposite. Swarming with hordes of people, Rick and I often found ourselves quoting Edward Abbey and some of his more extreme solutions to preventing Slobivius Americanus from overwhelming our National Parks.

There were no available campsites in Yosemite, but thankfully we were able to find a site outside the park in the Stanislaus National Forest. Due to long driving times between where we camped and the different sections of the park, we split our time exploring Stanislaus NF near our campsite and battling the masses in the Yosemite Valley. Nearby, we enjoyed a short hike to Carlon Falls, which cascaded from a rock face as wide as it was tall into deep pools carved into smooth rock where the clear turquoise water collected. Rick and I had fun jumping into the icy central pool, while the kids splashed around in the smaller holes nearby.

In addition to Carlon Falls, we enjoyed afternoons cooling off in the river near our campground. Rick even managed to catch some trout using the kids’ nets – a feat he was very proud of considering there were some fly fishermen up river who came up empty handed despite all their gear.

Also nearby, was a swanky mountain resort, which I used most mornings to mooch off their free WiFi for work and even snuck in a shower at their posh bathhouse. They also provided live entertainment, which all four of us enjoyed one night. Rick and I got some drinks at the bar and sat back in large Adirondacks on the lawn to listen to 60’s rock covers while CJ twirled to Jefferson Airplane’s, White Rabbit. Rick wore his cleanest t-shirt so we went unnoticed by the paying guests…

Inside the park, we saw Yosemite Valley by bike, canoe and foot – anything to avoid driving through the mob. These were long days, rising early and packing up for the entire day so that we could secure a parking spot by 8:30 am. We saw our first bears of the whole trip – a momma with her two cubs, one cinnamon and one black high up in the trees while mom foraged in the meadow.

Our final day was spent exploring the most beautiful portion of the park, Tuolumne Meadows. Far removed from the Valley’s crowds, the road to the Meadows passes by alpine lakes and high mountain peaks. The meadow itself is an extensive swath of vibrant green framed by snow-capped mountains and accompanied by the pristine Tuolumne river that runs through it. We climbed a granite peak to look down on the meadow then wandered through the grasses where we spotted deer after deer grazing in the evening. If we ever return to Yosemite, we will be spending all our time at Tuolumne immersed in the beauty and solitude.

Kings Canyon & Sequoia

DSC00591

Kings Canyon was a welcome respite after Memorial Day weekend, which we spent bouncing around from place to place – everywhere being booked with the holiday crowds. We entered the park with some trepidation, assuming we would have the same bad luck of the last 3 days and the campground would be full. Fortunately, we struck gold and miraculously had the campground virtually to ourselves for 4 of the 10 days we stayed.

To orient those of you who are unfamiliar with Kings Canton, it is a sister park to Sequoia. The two are connected and share similar scenery with towering Giant Sequoias, steep granite cliffs, and lush mountain meadows. Between the two parks and the surrounding national forest land, there were an abundance of hikes which we barely put a dent in.

The hikes we did do were gorgeous and I hope to never forget the sight of those monoliths towering above us as we tramped through the quiet groves blanketed with ferns. To describe these trees as big would be an insult. They are gargantuan and majestic, they give the forest character standing as silent guardians over this special place. We stood in awe of both General Sherman and Grant the largest and 3rd largest trees by volume, respectively, in the world. We hugged, walked inside, and across the many other nameless sequoias we passed along our hikes. Enjoying many a picnic on the fallen sentinels that spanned through emerald meadows. We even drove through the famous Tunnel Log – a tight squeeze with the canoe, but we made it.

In addition to marveling at the stately sequoias, we saw many other beautiful sights. Nightly sunsets from our campsite rivaled the painted skies of Big Bend. Driving to the northern part of the park Rick and I were like kids giddy with excitement and wonder over the south fork of the King River. Never having seen a river moving with such volume and force, every section was white water foaming and crashing over boulders. I can’t mention the meadows enough, the dark forest would randomly open up into these lush green, sun-drenched meadows with small streams flowing through them, often unseen only heard by the pleasant trickling of water moving past the rocks and grasses.

We became obsessed with finding bears and began seeking out every meadow we could find (a bear’s favorite stomping ground). Several times we roused the kids early in the morning to cook breakfast on the meadows edge. We came close three times, but never saw any bears. We did spy plenty of deer, marmots, and even a coyote.

 

An added treat to the trip was seeing our friends Ashli and John, and their son Jackson who are also full-timing. The kids enjoyed an evening of roaming around the campsite and playing games, and we had a chance to catch up with Ashli and John’s travels since we last saw them in Texas.

Of all the parks we’ve visited, Kings Canyon and Sequoia has been one of our happiest for its solitude, beauty and expanse.