Jul 252011
 

The small cabin on the dock was our home away from home here at Five Branches Camper Park in Bayfield, Colorado on the Vallecito Resevoir

That sweet little cabin over on the dock was our home away from home for the past five days while we stayed at Five Branches Camper Park on Vallecito Reservoir. Our lakeside view, the beautiful forest, and the ride through the woods every day is hard to leave behind. Lucky for us, we leave with fond memories. The two bears that had been visiting the camp nearly every night, didn’t have the chance to eat us or any of our neighbors. The sun rose, it set, and inbetween we saw the sun, unless the stars were out. This place could easily stay on our list of places to return to someday. Sadly, we never had the opportunity to go out kayaking or canoeing. The problem here is that no one can take a boat out before 8:00 a.m. by which time we were already gone, and boats had to be returned by 5:00, we never got back much before 6:00. No matter though, we enjoyed our stay.

Two osprey starting to build a tree top nest next to Vallecito Reservoir in Bayfield, Colorado

Today Caroline was sporting her eagle eye as while we were driving along the narrow lakeside road she spotted two large birds sitting atop a barren tree. I turned around so we could inspect (and verify her rare find – think myopic), sure enough, she had seen two osprey, also known as sea hawks. The bird coming in for a landing is carrying a branch that we watched it snatch off a nearby tree with a pronounced snap. It circled around and was about to deliver the beginnings of a new nest for momma and poppa bird.

Aspen stand off the Redrock Highway in northern Arizona on the Navajo Reservation

The next hours we drove through the Ute Reservation and their town of Ignacio. Next was Aztec, New Mexico and the first and one of the last Starbucks we would find before passing through Flagstaff, Arizona later in the day. So, I’m addicted. It is a long drive from Durango, Colorado to Phoenix, Arizona. After Aztec and nearly the same town, we drive through Farmington. It was in Farmington back on October 19, 2000 that we had the chance to spend a night at Kokopelli Cave while my mother in-law Jutta was visiting. The cave is one of the most unique places in all of America to stay at. But today, we are going home.

Looking south on the Navajo Reservation in eastern Arizona

We have left the Redrock Highway with some great views and beautiful red sandstone bluffs but quality photos were not in the cards this trip. Back down on flat land we were afforded some tremendous vistas, even a little rain was spotted way off in the distance left of the centerline. No rivers, no trees, not much of anything out here, can you guess why this made perfect Indian Reservation land? The answer is easy, there was nothing our forefathers wanted from this land. Caroline and I find it infinitely gorgeous, sadly, most tourists do not. The casual observer gets distracted by the poverty, desolation, and inane stereotypes that have been propagated over the years regarding the indigenous people of North America.

Two dead calves roadside on the Navajo Reservation

Two dead calves lie in front of the gate that leads to Keams, Arizona – they are a warning to white people to not trespass on Indian lands. Black magic as used by drunken Indians on welfare is a fashion on the Rez, it’s like white trash girls wearing big framed sunglasses sporting slutty clothes or some dufus guy wearing his white baseball cap backwards with his pants hanging off his ass so we can read what size boxers he wears – it’s just a fashion, nothing more – but it is effective in keeping others away. Or I’m full of cow-poop, yep, that’s more like it, but these two cows wasting away, who could-have-been-steaks, are probably clean out of poop or any other fluid. Even if one were to want to open the gate to take a shortcut to Keams, how would you maneuver the carcasses?

New Native American pictographs of Mickey are replacing the more old fashioned Kokopelli, dear, or sign for the sun, water, or some other dumb stuff

This is the new face of Native American rock-art, also known as pictographs. Out with Kokopelli, the sun, water, dear, or other tired old-fashioned symbols from the previous thousands of years. Modern Indians are putting down new icons, like Mickey Freakin Mouse. Strangely, Mickey is almost across the street from the two dead calves, could this be some mysterious signal to passing native motorists that running down animals to leave subversive and superstitious looking roadside messages is right on? Then they throw out Disney characters to disorient us tourists into fearing the red man. Maybe the tide is turning and the Indian is getting wise to our wacky rightwing belief systems and are starting to toy with our heads. Native America, rise up and takeover the media landscape, it’s time for revenge against what was taken from you. First step, corrupt our icons.

A curve in the road on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona

With the aerosol bombardment of peyote starting to wear off, a curve in the road returns me to my senses and out of the hallucinations I was obviously having back there deep on the Rez. I’m sure that later when I look back at those photos, the dead calves and Mickey will have proven to be a figment of my imagination. You can bet I’m happy to be returning to normal.

Up that way is the Navajo Rez, behind the camera is America. Fuck yeah!

In front of the camera is Rez land, behind me is America where I feel like a white guy. Soon, we will approach gas stations with hordes of hot tourists driving down Interstate 40 clogging some the grimiest bathrooms your nose wants to experience in the summer. Flushed of their overflowing bladders, they will flock to the freezer for ice-creams and coke – good old American food, no more of that sinewy old mutton and fry bread cooked in lard for me. Just me and my America, going home. Makes me well up and think about listening to this when I get home. Click here to listen and watch

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Jul 212011
 

A dandelion gone to seed, also known as a wish.

Fresh homefries and eggs were enjoyed sitting at the window of our cabin overlooking the lake as the sun rose over the San Juan Mountains. We may have sat lakeside on the deck, had it been about 15 degrees warmer. It’s not always easy going from 110 degree days with 90 degree nights to 55 degree mornings – especially when you are dressed for summer, in the desert. We woke late, moved slowly, and when it was time to leave the lake, we drove slowly on the way to Durango. Caroline had to register in the early day at Fort Lewis College so she could get checked in for her class.

Wildflowers roadside north of Durango, Colorado

Last year Caroline had volunteered to setup the Intermountain Weavers Conference website with online registration and payment for their bi-annual fiber conference. For her efforts she was gifted a workshop. I’ll tell you which workshop in an upcoming blog post when I can show you what she was doing. Today though was simply registration. Vendors of various weaving and fiber art supplies were already set up and selling their goods when we arrived upstairs to see what temptations might exist for Caroline to spend her puny budget. Funny how puny never really stays that way but has this mutability where budget becomes bonanza in what she ultimately walks away with.

A chipmunk hiding in the brush in the mountains north of Durango, Colorado

As this would be the only day for my wife to do some sightseeing in the area, after registration and lunch we headed up the road in the direction of Ouray, Colorado. We didn’t get far; the sign said Ouray was 67 miles away and we knew that our cabin was 30 miles in the other direction requiring at least 45 minutes to get there from the college. Having an appointment with our barbecue and a lakeside sunset, we were limited as to how long we would meander through the mountains. At one of our stops with a fair amount of wildflowers that were demanding our attention, we spotted this little chipmunk. Our first wildlife encounter.

Caroline Wise blowing a dandelion, making a wish in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado

Make a wish. What was it? Can’t tell or it won’t come true. Do you believe that? Don’t know, but it must work to some degree as so many of my wishes keep coming true, I’m here with you today ain’t I? Swoon. It’s a familiar story repeated ad infinitum, we get lost in the green, our eyes get woozy taking in the deeply saturated colors of the forest. Do people who live in lush areas know the pleasure we feel as we compare the world of the parched to that of the verdant?

Purple flowers growing from some random roadside plant in a tablespoon of soil on a rock north of Durango, Colorado

And now, our worlds meet: Tan, let me introduce you to Purple and Green. This burst of color appears to be growing in 2 tablespoons of soil. No, I am not feeling nostalgic for what we left behind in Arizona, it was Caroline that asked me to take the photo. As I get older I slowly learn to be slightly more obliging, and so I stopped, rolled down the window and took the photo for her. Hope you enjoy, “Plant on Rock.”

A roadside waterfall north of Durango, Colorado

If you like waterfalls, you’ll love your drive on Highway 550 north out of Durango. Keep a keen eye, they are everywhere. Attention road designers, those of us armed with cameras are a danger to ourselves and others when you engineers do not afford us pullouts at convenient locations, i.e., beautiful landscapes. We will stop right in the middle of the road if need be, and take pictures – wife yelling at us and all. It has even happened that people encourage me to do so as they drive around me yelling at me to get a good one combined with hand gestures I interpret as thumbs up of “good job buddy.”

Panorama of a mountain top and its surrounding area in the San Juan Mountains north of Durango, Colorado

By this time we no longer need to pull over to take photos, we are only driving 1200 feet an hour, who needs miles per hour when you are in nature? I think it’s almost funny when a Kia is driving slower than a 40 foot motorhome towing a Hummer. If you people behind me are in such a hurry, why are you driving through some place that is astoundingly beautiful? Did it not occur to you that some people don’t enjoy rubber-necking traffic accidents, but can’t help themselves when driving on the California’s Pacific Coast Highway, anywhere in Yellowstone, or moving through the mountains, desert, forest, or anywhere else that demands one’s appreciation.

A travertine bump on the side of the road with a mysterious bubble of water coming out of the top - north of Durango, Colorado

Is this real? Caroline and I have driven this stretch of road many a time, and we have never seen this before. A travertine bump being created by a flow of water out of the top of what looks suspiciously like a pipe? The travertine looks real enough, the water is not all that hot, why haven’t we seen this before? It turns out that it is real. It is called Pinkerton Hot Springs – suppose I’m now a monkey’s uncle.

Los Pinos River just before entering Vallecito Resevoir in Bayfield, Colorado

Los Pinos River as seen from the bridge into Five Branches Campers Park, seconds before it enters Vallecito Resevoir. There’s something about these types of wild rivers, even when they are small, that begs me to get out of the car, abandon everything and follow them upstream. To all you millionaires out there who are in ownership of your very own private stretch of wild river (think Montana / Wyoming area), I’m available for house watching — summers only!

A sunset created sky flame made of clouds over Vallecito Resevoir in Bayfield, Colorado

Another barbecue, another lakeside dinner, and one more beautiful sunset. We are working a theme here on my blog this year, I should change its name from Photo of the Day to, My Perfect Day. What more can I say that would let you know how wonderful a day Caroline and I just had?

Jan 032011
 

Flowers blooming on the Mums plant we were given on our Colorado River trip through the Grand Canyon back in November

Two months ago Caroline and I were still on the Colorado river floating through the Grand Canyon. Every day since then we spend at least a few thoughts reminiscing about those perfect days. I have continued my writing about the experience and am presently in the middle of the sixth day, reaching over 21,000 words to describe my perceptions. Sorry, but this won’t be showing up on my blog any time soon, nor will the photos as first I want to finish writing my story. But this entry is not about fond memories, it is about this flower. On the last day in the Canyon, trip leader Rondo handed off the potted mums that had sat table side during each and every meal we shared with our fellow passengers and the boatmen. Slowly the plant which had been picked bare of blooms is coming back and is putting smiles on our faces as we come and go – it sits outside by our front door.

Jul 042010
 

Caroline Wise receiving her Junior Range pledge from Ranger Frank Helling at Kings Canyon National Park in California

Fourth of July, America’s independence day celebration and Caroline finds one more reason to celebrate. Ranger Helling placed his ranger hat on Caroline’s head and swore her in as a Junior Ranger with a pledge to protect Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. He also showed us details on the ranger uniform we hadn’t paid attention to before. The National Park Ranger patch on the left shoulder is in the shape of an arrowhead, it features a bison which represents wildlife but is also indicative of the first National Park, Yellowstone. The bison stands in front of a mountain which is Mount Rainier and next to tree which is a giant Sequoia. On the Ranger’s hat is a black leather band with two metallic ornaments in the shape of green seed cones of the Sequoia and even the Ranger’s belt is embossed with a Sequoia cone pattern. Caroline is now a Junior Ranger at Yellowstone, Arches, Canyonlands, Petrified Forest, Natural Bridges, Grand Canyon, and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks! Only 51 National Parks left and who knows how many national monuments, seashores, battlefields, historic parks, and cultural sites.

Trail side in Redwood Canyon at Kings Canyon National Park in California

With the formalities out of the way it was time for recreation. Not far from the Grant Grove ranger station is the narrow dirt road into Redwood Canyon. We are taking the Sugarbowl trail. Early in Arizona’s summer around mid March  leading into April, we will typically have already been experiencing days that are approaching the upper 80’s. During these weeks we might venture north to enjoy a great spring day in the mountains only to be reminded that it is still winter in other places. Here in Kings Canyon we are reminded that while it is summer most everywhere else, it is still spring time up here. Wildflowers are in abundance, we feel lucky to be witnessing this spectacular bloom and are all but certain that in two weeks summer will have arrived and the wildflowers will be but a distant memory until next year.

Standing in the burned out center of a very live Sequoia tree in Kings Canyon Natoinal Park, California

We are in the Sugarbowl grove. This is another one of those moments where it would be easy to show you the obvious, that being the giant trees that were all around us, but you should see that with your own eyes. What I am offering is a much rarer sight. Just off the trail at the bottom of a tree is a hole, a hole singed by fire and not too small that it would keep big guys like myself from crawling through. To our amazement we could both enter the tree. Once inside there was ample room for both of us to stand up – at the same time. The center of the tree was burned out but the hundreds of feet and tens of thousands of pounds of tree above us is very much alive and well. How far up the black scar ascended was impossible to see.

On the Sugarbowl trail in Redwood Canyon - part of Kings Canyon National Park in California

The trail continues. On occasion a hiker or two passes us but it is quiet and peaceful out here. I hope the photo conveys to you just how perfect a day we were having. And while I will soon sound like a broken record, suppose I’m dating myself with that reference, we are moving as slow as humanly possible so that we might not miss even one detail. Sure we know we’re missing a million little things and probably more than a few big things but augmented reality with geospatial overlays offering detailed information regarding geology, flora and fauna, are not yet available for hikers in the back country, or maybe anywhere else either.

Fresh green growth of a tree in Kings Canyon National Park in California

The narrow ringing of fluorescent green at the ends of the older and darker green growth was an impressive showing of how far this tree was extending itself into the world. This was also our first occasion to see something like this, makes one wonder if our powers of observation are normally asleep. Are these phenomena always around us demonstrating the magic of nature but we are simply not truly aware? It leaves me pondering why as a mass of humanity we concern ourselves with the machinations of talking heads, relegating the grand stuff to the eggheads.

Base of a Sequoia tree in the Sugarbowl grove in Kings Canyon National Park, California

Half way. No photo will ever convey the feeling to be had being here. You may perceive the colors and shading, you may glean size and random details but these are all poor perceptions of a design by nature that only one’s own eyes, nose, and other senses can at once be intrigued with and baffled by. The immensity of this perfection is lost in our cynicism that for many of us prefer the artificial. Had other men had their way, all of these trees would have been converted into fences distancing us from our neighbors and ourselves. When you look into the beauty of nature you should be so lucky to witness your own complexity and great fortune at being counted amongst the teaming life, sharing a moment of mutual respect. Sadly our reality is more akin to the idea that tree huggers are a weak shadow of humanity who would steal the bread from the hungry mouth of a child. Our balance tilts to the stupid, the nature of man has the roots of the ugliest weed.

On the Sugarbowl loop trail in Kings Canyon National Park, California

I cannot break out of the idea that on the second half of the loop we are returning to an end point. What conditioning brought this poor thought to my mind? If only I could not see the end of the trail and this hike until the moments just before seeing the parking area. I feel part of the magic is stolen from me as I walk along in recognition that this is the last half. It is pessimism, my glass is now half empty. Is this an affliction of modernity or of aging where time has become our master? Lucky children never see their own end of innocence as time has not yet become their guide; they still see all of the opportunity ahead of them, time is boundless and full of promise. Alas, getting old rears its head letting you know that an end is near and these trail moments, happy moments, and pleasure moments that come to a close are little reminders that our own existence is limited. Maybe I should spend more time hiking into life than returning on its trail.

A butterfly sucking up nectar in a flower at Kings Canyon National Park, California

For a moment I envy the butterfly. From flower to flower a neverending feast of nectar. But it too will see the end of the trail, in so many days or weeks the flowers will shrivel and fall away. With nowhere left to nourish itself it will then lay eggs to start the next cycle of life and its wings will cease to flutter. Is self awareness all that it is made out to be? To live instinctually served our ancestors but a milestone in the development of our mind and the advancement of language gave our species the curse of recognizing our own frailties, shortcomings, fears, and understanding that death is on the horizon. Maybe it is our ultimate fatalism that has us running amok on an earth trying to lay our next seed before all of the flowers are dead and gone.

In the forest of Redwood Canyon at Kings Canyon National Park, California

Deep in the forest with trees towering into the heavens, plants surrounding me, I feel the ancient wisdom of the man or creature who might have looked around and knew their place. They were themselves but a tree, a leaf, a branch, the butterfly, one with and of the natural world, not its master. While standing here in awe there is also the overwhelming sense of tragedy that these small corners of what remains of nature are forever being diminished and lost due to our need to control all facets of our existence. A real Independence Day would be for these trees, these ferns, and salamanders to be able to live without the ax, the bulldozer, and the smog threatening their environment.

A stream flowing under a fallen tree in Kings Canyon National Park, California

Meanwhile, Caroline was off exploring a creek cutting her own path through the thicket. I hollered out but heard no response, my first thought was that nature in the form of a bear has struck, no, she would have screamed. Second thought, she fell into a hole. Third was that incredibly dumb TV induced idea that someone jumped out of the bushes and has attacked her. Now on my way to panic I holler out again, still no answer. Cursing won’t help me now. Once more I holler, or maybe it was a scream, and not eighty-feet away I hear her asking me what I want. Just making sure that Mike Meyers hadn’t dragged you into the bowels of earth to chop off your limbs before selling you into an international prostitution ring. Fears allayed I follow my wife with both arms and legs still intact over to the stream for this beautiful view and some hugging knowing she wasn’t bear food either.

Lush green foliage and purple flowers at the foot of giant Sequoia trees in Kings Canyon National Park, California

Now I know we are slow, purposefully lingering at a crawl but can we really be this slow? At other times, slow was typified by our mile per hour pace. Well if this trail is six and a half miles and we have been out here nearly eight hours we must surely have lost the trail back to the parking lot. Caroline is assuring me that I can stay calm, that we are right where we should be and we are not far from the finish line. Earlier we passed a family that was heading up the trail to the Sugarbowl grove from where we had come and they insisted they were on their way back to the parking lot and that there wasn’t a fork leading to the parking lot in the direction we were hiking. We did go through an especially thick overgrown part of the trail, maybe we missed the turn off? I must be getting forest fever as now I start wishing I’d brought more food, water, and a flashlight for our night in the forest.

A bear crawling up a giant Sequoia tree looking for food in Kings Canyon National Park, California

What’s that? Did you hear that? Yes, I heard it too. There it is again, what does it mean? IT MEANS BEAR!!!!! No, this wasn’t a forest fever induced hallucination, it was a real bear. And the sound? It was clawing into trees looking for food, maybe grubs, maybe bees, but hopefully not looking for fat guys about to make pee pee filled hiking boot appetizers. Where the hell did my wife get this sudden burst of calm, I’m ready to run, if I could breathe, and she’s like, shhh let’s just stand here and watch it. Are you serious, maybe its mother is on the other side of the trail and is getting ready to gouge some eyeballs out of my puny not-bear-proof-head? She tries to reassure me that it’s obviously not interested in us and that everything’s cool. The only reason it’s not interested yet is it hasn’t picked up on the scent of fear I’m exuding. Slowly my lungs refill with oxygen and I step back to Ms. Braveheart and snap a few photos before I slither away with both eyes over my shoulder making sure we’re not being hunted. After an hour of being tracked by this monster bear we safely returned to our car, but I’m sure life was in the balance more than Caroline would ever admit.

Jul 032010
 

Hazy layers of mountains in the early morning at Kings Canyon National Park, California

It’s morning in the mountains with the sun straggling over the heights, slipping over one peak to be trapped behind another. Shadows still rule the early day up here. The traffic that will befoul the roads in a few hours is still at bay, as is the heat. A cool, moist air tries convincing us that we could be a bit chilled. But we come from the desert below and will enjoy our moment of freedom from oppressive weather. At  home, even the early morning sun peeks over the horizon with a sizzle this time of year, up here we are temporarily saved from its blistering attack.

Grizzly falls in Kings Canyon National Park, California

A subtle, yet magnificent waterfall – Grizzly Falls. The mist is being shot out of the foot of the falls; all around us the ground, the trees, the leaves, and soon we as well, are covered in moisture. Until then we delight standing near the cascade of wispy veils of waters that spray over the boulders, wet our faces and cover our glasses in droplets obscuring our sight. Eventually, the cold of the early morning finds its way through our thin layer of toughness, shortening our stay. Anyway, we have a date with a ten-mile-long trail.

Mist Falls trail in Kings Canyon National Park, California

So, we cut the thirty-mile drive from three hours yesterday down to an hour and a half this morning, but it  still this was too long to be off on our hike near sunrise. We reach the trailhead at 7:45, we might have to do better than a mile an hour this time – maybe. Luck would have it that the parking lot is still relatively empty so not too many people should be on the trail yet, plus some of these cars probably belong to the backpackers who have taken the longer hike up to Paradise Valley and points beyond. We are on the Mist Falls Trail which becomes the Woods Creek Trail just beyond our destination.

Amongst the ferns in the forest on the Mist Falls Trails in Kings Canyon National Park, California

The first part of the trail is nearly level and casually cuts a path through meadow and intermittent forest. In a moment boulders dot the landscape and the hike turns up a canyon. Grasses give way to ferns and the trail becomes ever more lush. Down in the foot of the canyon we are once again in shadow, this time from the sun eating Mount Gardiner standing overhead at 12,907 feet. After more than an hour no one else has passed us, but this is about to change.

Vibrant green summer growth on the forest floor in Kings Canyon National Park, California

The forest is old and constant yet at the same time new and dynamic. The trees may have towered above for hundreds of years but this fresh green growth has come up with the disappearance of the last snow and the march forward of spring. We would easily be forced to our knees and a crawl to catalog all that is to be seen here but that would give short change to what is above our heads. And what of all that is before our noses? The day is too short for everything our eyes, ears, noses, and fingers can behold, life is too short to see all that it has put before us.

White water rushing by the Mist Falls Trail in Kings Canyon National Park, California

For an hour now we have been walking along the river. It’s not always visible but we can hear it. When it does come into view it doesn’t fail to amaze. Maybe we dam our rivers to allow us to forget what a wild river looks and sounds like. This way we do not wish to see more racing tumbling water, we accept that water is controlled, portioned, priced, and commodified. There is an inherent, maybe even primordial, draw to rushing water. When you look into the crashing waves, the deep emerald flow, and the white foamy tumult there is an elevation of senses that tells you that the world and all that is around you is vibrant and alive. It demands your attention, your respect, your sense of awe.

Cascading water next to the Mist Falls Trail in Kings Canyon National Park, California

The trail steepens and the river grows louder. Mosquitos politely remind us that we should put on gobs of insect repellent which we do in great haste. We are gaining in elevation and while the trail map claims that we will only gain 800 vertical feet, it feels like a lot more. If it weren’t for the flying mini-monsters emitting those high frequency buzzing noises we could pull up a chair and feel like we’ve seen it all, being content to call this the end of the trail. Moving forward keeps the blood sucking tyrants away from the places the repellent missed and who knows, maybe Mist Falls will be even more beautiful than what we are looking at on our way.

A rattle snake on the Mist Falls Trail in Kings Canyon National Park, California

Is that the sound of rattle snake? Well, look at that, right next to the trail, the first rattle snake in the wild Caroline and I have seen. Over the rest of the day we’ll see two more. For twenty minutes or so we stood still watching the snake map his territory. Or maybe it was just trying to figure a way out. From where we first saw this five-year-old specimen, it was at the end of the road unless it was going to try to pass us. It curled up behind the rock next to the trail in a defensive position until it recognized that we were not trying to corner it and finally it started to relax and slithered back up the trail in front of us. The snake found a crevice and and within minutes was above us in the rocks and soon gone.

A lush fairy garden on the Mist Falls Trail in Kings Canyon National Park, California

To think that a few months ago this trail was covered in snow. Maybe ice had formed along the river or had it stopped flowing over the winter? Is it silent here under the trees in January? While wildflowers can’t literally scream and dance they do come close with their beauty beckoning us to admire their perfect setting as we walk by. All of the pieces are laid out in such a way that the contrasts, gradations of color, and depths say, you are about to see just what your imagination of what a perfect reality should look like, looks like. And there it is, next to the red bark of a tall tree, against the dense forest, in sun, speckled with blotches of shade, fern fronds in the background catching glimmers of light, fluttery insects bouncing from purple flower to flower and floaty ephemeral unknown things drifting in the air above this perfect scene, it is all so dreamy and all ours for as long as we choose to bask in its glow.

Caroline Wise standing in a pool next to a cascade above Mist Falls in Kings Canyon National Park, California

Mist Falls. We have arrived. While Mist Falls themselves were quite nice, it was the cascade just above them that really drew our attention. Riverside Caroline took off her boots and stepped into the “very” cold waters of what is part of the South Fork of the Kings River. This was also a great spot for her to dry her socks and for us to break out our lunch. Today’s gourmet mid-day meal was of whole wheat bread bedecked with peanut butter, raspberry peach jam, and sliced banana – a PBB&J. Drink was courtesy of our Camelbak and was of the lukewarm water variety. But then who cares about food while the eyes are feasting?

Caroline Wise and John Wise on the Mist Falls Trail in Kings Canyon National Park, California

Ok, time to run down the mountain. Like that’s going to happen with Pokey and Sleepy Wise. Everything looks so different hiking in the opposite direction, we have all the reason in the world to inspect these details with all of the attention spent on the trip up. There was a photo I didn’t include of our trek up the the trail, it was taken just before the photo of the rattle snake and a glimpse of it can be seen behind us in this photo. The view from up here is the kind of vista you hope to see after hiking through forest and up mountains. It is obscured here by our big heads and to see it in its full grandeur, one should have to make the journey to Kings Canyon National Park and get off the beaten path to witness it in person.

On the meadow of a loop return trail after leaving the Mist Falls Trail in Kings Canyon National Park, California

The trail back to the car took a detour over a bridge and through the forest on the opposite side of the river. We were almost turned back by our apprehension of crossing a small but fast moving knee deep stream. Lucky for us a group of half a dozen hikers came by and marched right over those strategically placed trees limbs like they were a bridge built just for them. We mustered our courage and followed their path. Yay, we will be able to take this alternative route to finish our hike! This was only as good an idea in theory as the reality of the soreness in our feet counterbalanced that enthusiasm and had us thrilled when we finally saw the next bridge that would deliver us back over the river towards the trailhead.

Mosses growing on a dead burned out trunk of a Sequoia tree in Kings Canyon National Park, California

With that hike behind us and it still early in the day we weren’t about to waste the light of day by putting our tired feet up, we drove right over to Converse Basin. The night before, Ranger Frank (aka John Muir) Helling told in his narrative of a burned out sequoia tree that the real John Muir cut into with his axe more than a hundred years ago to count the growth rings. Those axe marks can still be seen and rings counted like they were exposed just yesterday. Funny thing to stand there thinking that John Muir would have seen pretty much the identical things I’m looking at. No, this picture is obviously not those axe marks, it is the moss that grows on the opposite site of this burned out hunk of tree. As mentioned above, some things have to be seen by your own eyes.

The General Grant Sequoia tree, the second largest tree on earth at Kings Canyon National Park, California

The sun is low but not gone after dinner. We take the short drive to the Grant Grove to see the namesake of this corner of Kings Canyon National Park. The General Grant tree is the second largest tree on earth and the nearby General Sherman is the largest. While reading about the trees I was reminded that Caroline and I have visited the largest trees on earth here in Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park, the tallest trees at the Redwoods National Park, and the oldest trees on earth, the bristlecone pine in the Great Basin National Park. Not ready to go to our cabin, we took in another ranger led camp fire talk, this one about the history of the sequoia groves, logging, and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.