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Posts tagged ‘Kings Canyon National Park’

Finding Fall Colors in Kings Canyon

I first visited Kings Canyon National Park over 20 years ago with my dad.  I figured Dad was with me as I made a quick drive into Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park.  I was not optimistic about finding much fall color, but I knew the trees would be there—and they never disappoint.

Being out among the trees I always feel relaxed and connected.  There is a spirituality in the trees.  They have weathered many storms and still keep reaching upward.  They sink roots and stand strong. I agree with Robert Louis Stevenson about the power of the trees to rejuvenate a person’s spirit:

“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from old trees that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.”  

It was a great afternoon.  Autumn colors were even mixed in with the wondrous trees.

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Some Quotes about Trees

“Trees are your best antiques.”   Alexander Smith

“For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver.”   Martin Luther

“There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it.”   Minnie Aumonier

“The tree is more than first a seed, then a stem, then a living trunk, and then dead timber.  The tree is a slow, enduring force straining to win the sky.”  Antoine de Saint Exupery

 “There is something about a forest that compels introspection.”  Eloise J. Roorbach

“Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.”   Rabindranath Tagore

“Year on year, the lovely trees have grown more dear.”   V. O. Wallingford

“We can learn a lot from trees:  they’re always grounded but never stop reaching heavenward.”   Terri Guillemets

“The trees are whispering to me, reminding me of my roots, and my reach. . . shhhhh. . . can you hear them?  Selflessly sharing their subtle song.”   Jeb Dickerson

“If you would know strength and patience, welcome the company of trees.”   Hal Borland

“It seems natural to liken venerable trees to grand old men.  It is something to have lived through storms that try one so terribly, but only succeed in giving greater powers. Even the scars of a tree add dignity, and the loss here and there of a limb only makes for more character.”   Eloise J. Roorbach

“The groves were God’s first temples.”   William Cullen Bryant

“He who plants a tree plants hope.”   Lucy Larcom

“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago.  The next best time is now.”   Chinese Proverb

“If I knew I should die tomorrow, I would plant a tree today.”   Stephen Girard

“Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish caught will we realize we cannot eat money.”   Cree Proverb

BIG TREES & MORE: A Wonderful Drive

“These kings of the forest, the noblest of the mighty race, rightly belong to the world. . . we cannot escape the responsibility as their guardians.”  John Muir

The groves were God’s first temples.”  William Cullen Bryant

“How dear the woods are!  You beautiful trees!  I love every one of you as a friend.”  Lucy Maud Montgomery

Sequoia National Park—the country’s second national park—was created by President Harrison in 1890.  Within a week, its size grew to incorporate the newly formed General Grant National Park.  The park’s goal—then and now—was to protect and showcase the Sequoias, those wondrous big trees the park was named for.  Sequoias, of course, are some of the largest and oldest trees in the world.  Redwoods are also evident in the park.

In 1903 the first paved road was completed, increasing access to the park’s wonderfully big trees, but the access was still rather limited.  Generals Highway opened in 1926, expanding visitation to the Giant Forest. This drive through the Giant Forest is one of my favorites—the grandeur and majesty of the trees is overwhelming.

In 1940, Kings Canyon National Park was created by President Roosevelt.  This new park is situated right next to Sequoia National Park.  Since World War II, the two parks have been jointly administered.  The two parks really do work together as one big protected area, encompassing 1,353 square miles.  The majority of this land (97%) is designated as wilderness.  Each year, almost two million people visit the trees and surrounding area.

I feel lucky that these two national parks—Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park—are basically in my backyard.  They are situated only about 120 miles away via a fun twisty-turny-steep road, so it takes about four hours to get to one of the various entry points.  My most recent visit was a few weeks ago, specifically to look for some early fall colors.  That trip was a success, but—regardless of the fall colors—the drive through the parks is always stupendous.

A Quick Glimpse into Kings Canyon National Park

Hume Lake

A Short Terrific Drive through Sequoia National Park

Fallen Tunnel Tree

Some Short Drives through the Trees

If you have not visited these parks—or any of the other Redwood Parks in California—do so.  As John Muir says, “The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.”  Trust me, you will be impressed.

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“Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience.  Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.”  Hal Borland

“But there is one tree that for the footer of the mountain trails is voiceless; it speaks, no doubt, but it speaks only to the austere mountain heads, to the mindful wind and the watching stars.  It speaks as men speak to one another and are not heard by the little ants crawling over their boots.  This is the Big Tree, the Sequoia.”  Mary Austin

“When you enter a grove peopled with ancient trees, higher than the ordinary, and shutting out the sky with their thickly inter-twined branches, do not the stately shadows of the wood, the stillness of the place, and the awful gloom of this doomed cavern then strike you with the presence of a deity?”  Seneca

“The tree is more than first a seed, then a stem, then a living trunk, and then dead timber.  The tree is a slow enduring force straining to win the sky.”  Antoine de Saint Exupery

“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from the old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.”  Robert Louis Stevenson

“For in the nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver.”  Martin Luther

“There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it.”  Minnie Aumonier

“I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they live than other things do.”  Willa Cather

“If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer.  But it he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.”  Henry David Thoreau

“You can live for years next door to a big pine tree, honored to have so venerable a neighbor, even when it sheds needles all over your flowers or wakes you, dropping big cones onto your deck in the still of the night.”  Denise Levertov

“I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech-tree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines.”  Henry David Thoreau

“Old growth forests are not a renewable resource.”  Anonymous


“Today I have grown taller from walking with the trees.”  Karle Wilson Butler

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”  John Muir

“A nation that destroys its souls destroys itself.  Forests are the wings of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.”  Franklin Delano Roosevelt

“Fancy cutting down all these beautiful trees. . .  to make pulp for these bloody newspapers, and calling it civilization.”  Winston Churchill

“It’s impossible to walk in the woods and be in a bad mood at the same time.”  Anonymous

Looking for Fall Colors

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”  John Burroughs

“If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere.”  Vincent Van Gogh

I love hitting the road this time of year! 

Yosemite 2016

One of my favorite places to watch the fall color transformation is Yosemite National Park.  This year, however, I decided I would visit Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, figuring they would have some yellows and reds hidden away among the big trees and raging river.  I traveled in late October, but the weather—even at the higher elevations of these two parks—was in the 90s.

I did find some color, hidden along the roads and out in the fields.  The colors were a bit muted, but they were there.

It was clear the transformation from green to golds and yellows and oranges and reds was just starting.  Some trees even had leaves that were green and yellow and dried-up brown all on the same branch.

Although the fall colors were not overwhelming like is often shown in photos from Maine or Vermont, I loved being out in nature here in California, finding the start of autumn.  These colorful leaves suggest that even in this year of high temperatures, terrible violence and tragedies, and raging wildfires, Nature is still moving forward.  Change is coming—as it does every year.  Fall. Winter. Spring.  We can only hope that 2018 will be a bit better, in every way.

I always look for beauty in the changes in Nature.  Maybe later this month I will head to the Eastern Sierras to see what fall transformation is going on there.  Even if I do not find extensive fall colors, being out in Nature is so rejuvenating.

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“Look deep into the eyes of nature and everything will make sense.”  Albert Einstein

“I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving he can outwit nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.”  E. B. White

“Nature and Books belong to the eyes that see them.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”  Lao Tzu

“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature.  It will never fail you.”  Claude Monet

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”  John Muir

“We do not see nature with our eyes, but with our understandings and our hearts.”  William Hazlitt

“Adopt the pace of nature:  her secret is patience.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Let us permit nature to have her own way.  She understands her business better than we do.”  Michel de Montaigne

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite along with the heavens, nature and God.  Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature.  As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be.  And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”  Anne Frank

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.  There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”  Rachel Carson

“Now I see the secret of making the best person, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.”  Walt Whitman

Spring Delight! A Visit to the Western Sierra Nevada

This post is dedicated to my dad, Raymond Ross.  I have visited Yosemite and Sequoia with him in the past, and he would have loved to have gone on this trip with me.  He has been on my mind a lot this weekend.  This is the first Father’s Day since he died.  I miss him greatly.  You are with me, Dad, whenever I take Nature Pictures! Happy Father’s Day!


100_0987Yosemite National Park is one of my favorite nature destinations.  I have traveled there many times over the years, and I am always overwhelmed by its natural wonders. Given its proximity, I also visited Sequoia National Park in the past for short little excursions.  If asked back then of my impression of Sequoia National Park, I would have said, “Tree, Big Trees.”  And that impression is certainly correct.  Giant Sequoias are the star attraction of that national park. However, my visit to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in May 2014 emphasized for me that these parks offer much more than big trees, no matter how impressive those trees are.

Map from National Park Brochure

Map from National Park Brochure


Sequoia National Park was created on 25 September 1890, making it the second oldest national park in the country, second to Yellowstone.  At that time, preserving areas for their scenic and recreational value was not a popular idea. Instead, Sequoia National Park was preserved to save the big trees from logging.  As John Muir noted when confronted with the idea of logging the Giant Sequoias, “[We] may as well sell the rain clouds and [allow] the snow and the rivers to be cut up and carried away, if that were possible.”  A week later General Grant National Park was named, eventually merging with Kings Canyon National Park when it was established in 1940.  Since 1943, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks have been jointly managed.

Map of Sequoia & Kings Canyon in Park Newspaper

Map of Sequoia & Kings Canyon in Park Newspaper


The Giant Sequoias are impressive trees!  In fact, they are labeled the Earth’s largest living tree by sheer volume of wood.  As the Parks’ brochure explains, “At least one tree species lives longer, one has a greater diameter, three grow taller, but none is larger.”  Grant Grove and Cedar Grove are in Kings Canyon while Giant Forest is in Sequoia.  However, there are about 75 groves of these giant trees on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada, the only place where these trees grow naturally.

General Sherman in National Park Brochure

General Sherman in National Park Brochure

The oldest tree in the parks is the General Grant, estimated at 3,000 years old.  But it’s the second largest tree, measuring 267-feet-tall and nearly 29 feet wide at the base.  The largest tree in these parks is the 275-foot tall General Sherman Tree in the Giant Forest.  The details describing the General Sherman are also staggering:

  • The trunk weighs an estimated 1,385 tons
  • The trunk circumference at the ground is nearly 103 feet
  • Its largest branch is almost 7 feet in diameter
  • The tree is estimated to be 2,200 years old
  • Every year, this tree grows enough new wood to produce a 60-foot-tall tree of usual size

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Although the General Grant and General Sherman are the most well-known trees in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, all the giants sequoias are breath-taking and inspiring, worthy of being the cornerstone of these national parks. The Dogwood Blossoms popping up in the forest were also delightful!

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big tree














100_1352100_1394A friend and I visited Sequoia National Park in March 2014, experiencing the trees through the last stages of winter.  And they are impressive in the snow!  But we were equally impressed with the trees when we returned in May 2014. This spring trip took us back to Sequoia National Park but also into Kings Canyon National Park.  In the spring, it is impossible not to notice the steep canyon cut by the majestic Kings River. Highway 180 runs along the river down to the very bottom of the canyon.  At vista points, most of the impressive peaks of the Sierra Nevada can be seen in the distance.  My Whitney, however, the highest peak (14,505 feet) in the contiguous United States can only be seen from the western slopes from remote back country, accessible only on foot or horseback.  [NOTE: We did not go hiking or back-packing!]






Stock Photo

Stock Photo

Black Bear National Park Newspaper

Black Bear National Park Newspaper

As we moved from forest to foothills, we found several wonderful meadows that would have been perfect for a bear sighting, but not one Black Bear cooperated.  By the end of the day, we really thought we were seeing some off in the distance.  We even saw a couple Marmots, but their lumbering gait helped them escape having a photo taken.   Fortunately, a few deer were cooperative. As we continued driving, the High Sierra Vistas were breath-taking, even if the sky was a bit cloudy.
















IMG_3282Driving through the foothills of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in the spring is delightful because of all the flowers!  This part of the visit is what was missing from our winter sojourn.  I especially loved the Yucca in bloom almost everywhere we looked—no wonder they are commonly called The Lord’s Candlestick.  Other flowers also punctuated the roadsides.  We watched a hawk soar for several minutes on the thermals and some quail scurry across the road in the late afternoon.  Occasional birds and lizards came into view, but mostly we were able to listen to birds chirping in the undergrowth.

It was a glorious day!

































SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK: A Quick Drive Through the Park


sequoia map

About ten days ago, a friend and I made a quick trip to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.  Our plan was to spend a couple days enjoying the trees and solitude.  It was a glorious visit even though it did not pan out exactly as expected.

100_1320For one thing, we had planned to have two days in the park, but ended up with only one.  A storm moved in and closed the roads inside the park, so although we were there we could not get anywhere.  Second, we had hoped to see some wildflowers—and we did.  There were some lupines in bloom near the entrance and alongside some country roads, but none were at a spot where it was easy to stop and take pictures.  A few other flowers punctuated the landscape as well—some California poppies and pretty yellow flowers.  And pretty pink trees popped up here and there along the route.  The orange trees we drove past—field after field—were in bloom.  The best part of that was the delightful orange blossom smell that wafted into the car as we drove by.



100_1338Finally, we figured we would enjoy some delightful spring weather.  After all, spring had officially sprung and we were on spring break.  But like I said, a storm moved in and closed the roads—and the temps were a bit chilly. In fact, snow was still all around.  But-don’t get me wrong—I am not complaining.  The weather was crisp and glorious.  The snow on the trees was impressive and made it feel like we were driving through a snow globe.  And the storm closed the roads and sent us home, but it did not rain/snow and pour on us—we even saw glorious clouds and heard rain on the roof overnight.







100_1343Overall, although cut short, this was a great trip to Sequoia National Park.  We technically entered Kings Canyon National Park but never quite made it to Grants Grove to walk among the great big trees.  So, we figure we need to go again—maybe the end of May—to enjoy the forest again.  Next time, I doubt any roads will be closed! But the trees we did see and walk among were great, making us feel the grandeur of nature as seen in these magnificent Sequoia Redwoods.







Our one-day drive through Sequoia National Park helped us remember how accurate John Muir was in his description of the big trees:  “When I entered this sublime wilderness the day was nearly done, the trees with rosy, glowing countenances seemed to be hushed and thoughtful, as if waiting in conscious religious dependence on the sun, and one naturally walked softly and awestricken among them.” 

100_1324The trees are the obvious draw of the park, but there are also glorious vistas and impressive rock formations.  We even took the 10-mile travel-at-your-own-risk-not-cleared-in-winter road out to Hume Lake.





As we ended our first day in the Parks, we decided to re-trace our steps to get to the hotel.  Our plan was to explore Kings Canyon the second day.  Instead, the road had closed behind us, and we could not get back the way we came.  Our detour took us through some farmland that included orange groves. Although not what we planned, we had a great day!



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