Day 3 – California Trip 2011

Nope – I didn’t sleep well at all the night before.  Our suite had a queen bed rather than a king, which I didn’t think would be a big deal.  Wrongo!  We both like our space when we sleep and lack of space = lack of sleep.  Neither of us slept well!  To add to my insomnia, I was worried about allll that we had to cover today on our agenda, yet I was excited too!   Since we were awake anyway, we were one of the first customers to show up to the breakfast buffet at the lovely Sierra Restaurant at the hotel.  Luck once again rang true and we were seated right next to the fireplace…which was welcome since it was only about 40 degrees outside when we walked there from our cottage.  Breakfast was huge and fabulous, which I’m also glad for since we didn’t really get to eat lunch later in the day.  It was 8am when checked out and got back on the road.  Yes!  I love that we got an early start.  David made a great decision to go out of our way to drive on the highway instead of taking back roads to our destination(s).  We drove from Fish Camp, CA to Fresno, CA, then from Fresno to Kings Canyon National Park.  Once inside the park, I was able to stamp my National Parks Passport Book.  In fact, I was able to get a couple of stamps for the National Parks we visited on this trip.  I hope to get a lot more in the future!

Next stop was the General Grant grove of giant sequoias.  Here’s David checking out the enormity of these amazing trees.

…and here’s me touching the bark on a big ‘ol sequoia:

I’d show you a pic of the Grant Tree, but I can’t get the whole thing in one shot!  It was big, but not the biggest tree we were going to see on this trip.  That was General Sherman tree…more to come on that.

We hiked among the beautiful trees on this glorious morning, but I had full intentions of driving the entire Kings Canyon Scenic Byway.  It is Highway 180…a road that travels deep into the park and has amazing vistas.  It doesn’t go anywhere in particular.  It just comes to an end, and you turn around and come back.  It’s often closed for winter in late fall, so we were lucky in being able to go.  I planned for an hour to the end and an hour to come back.  Ha ha ha!  I didn’t think we would stop so much to see stuff!  We did….  Here are snippets of some of the cool things we saw.

Soon after we walked back to the car after seeing that last waterfall, David told me in a very stern voice, “Get in the car.  NOW.”  I didn’t understand what the problem was, and he had to repeat himself, even more urgently.  I did as I was told and soon found out why.  We had an unexpected visitor nearby.  We encountered the first of SEVEN bears that we would see this day!  This one was the only one that we saw that had been tagged.  Also interesting was that s/he had a whitish muzzle and a white fur on his/her chest.

Very close to this bear was a tourist who stood completely motionless.  The bear walked around and began approaching him, but then turned back toward the woods.  The tourist was hugely relieved!!!

Soon after this, we reached the end of the road and began making our way back from whence we came.  It was already late in the day and we still had to get to the General Sherman tree, which was a good bit further south in the park with no direct route from where we were.  Of course, David enjoyed having a reason to drive at a rapid clip on a curvy mountain road, so we made better time than I thought we would.  🙂

We made it to the General Sherman Tree and were surprised to find a lot of people there, especially so late in the year.  Makes sense though since this giant sequoia is the largest living tree (by volume) on earth!  The branches were just like trees themselves growing out the sides of it.

It’s estimated that General Sherman is around 2700 years old.  Can you imagine being 2700 years old?!?  I wonder what stories that tree can tell….

Our next stop was Moro Rock.  (This is a different Moro Rock than the one that we were going to see at Morro Bay back on the west coast).  I read that it was a hike of 400 steps to the top, but it was worth it to see the 365 degree views.  I wasn’t sure if David was up for such an adventure, but when he saw it, he was TOTALLY into it!

So, yeah, as you can see it was a lot of steps!  In the below video you can hear me say (breathlessly) “We’re old and fat!!!”  lol lol lol!  I’m glad we made it to the top.  The views were awesome!

After a brief respite at the top, we clambered back down to the car.

Next, can you make out the guy standing amongst the trees in this picture?  You may have to click on the picture to find him.  Do me a favor and click on the picture anyway.  It really shows how gigantic these trees are!

 

We saw our 6th bear of the day next.  We were still enthralled with them even though siting them was becoming a common occurence!

After this, we then drove through a fallen sequoia that had been hollowed out to form a short Tunnel.

That burning smell we mentioned became more pungent as we drove on.  Forest fires are a common occurrence, many of which are purposely set and controlled since they (the fires) are a part of the natural growth cycle of the sequoias.  We came upon the final stages of one such fire, we think.  I did find it odd that this particular tree was burning from the top though!

The sun was starting to set and we really needed to get a move-on to get down to Three Rivers, where we planned to stop for the night.  As we began driving down the mountain, the road was once again, very curvy with steep cliffs off to the sides on the switchbacks.  Then, we came to a temporary red light.  Yep, in the middle of nowhere.  I looked through all my guides and found that roadwork was being done during the day and that the road was a single lane ahead of us for the next several weeks.  The wait was going to be 20 minutes!  So we sat and waited, as other cars bunched up behind us…some people getting out of their cars and walking down to see what the hold-up was.  We finally got the green light to go and David was off like a rocket down this insane, single-lane road (no one was working on it now, thank goodness).  We made it back to two lanes and just as twilight approached, we got a glimpse of our 7th and last bear of the day.

We finally made it to our hotel, The Sierra Lodge in Three Rivers.  It’s a funky, eclectic hotel that was built in the ’50s.  I wasn’t able to take pictures of it this night when we checked in since it was dark, so you’ll have to wait for my next post to see what it looked like.

We were starving (we never did have lunch, just a couple snacks since there was no place to eat where we were) and exhausted, so we went to find some grub.   We found a great little Mexican place (Serrano’s) and had a wonderful dinner out on their deck.  Lucky again ’cause for this little town, the food ROCKED.  Maybe we were just really hungry.  😉

I as so thankful we were able to do alll the stuff we hoped to do today.  After all that, I finally slept well (in a big ‘ol comfy king bed).  AHHHhhhhhh!  Tomorrow, we head back to the west coast.  What a long, strange trip THAT was!

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