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Posts tagged ‘Sequoia National Park’

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

Traveling “That Ribbon of Highway”

Traveling “That Ribbon of Highway” (Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge:  This Land Is My Land, 2 Verses)

Coral Reef National Park 259I have always liked Woody Guthrie’s ballad “This Land Is Your Land” that he wrote in 1940.  I was aware of the song from the 1960s when Peter, Paul & Mary sang it.  It moved me in great part because of the intimacy of the lyrics.  The beauty of this great country is truly yours, mine, ours, there for all to appreciate.  Even as a kid, I was aware that not everyone took the time to admire all the beauty around us. But it is always there.


Coral Reef National Park 288As an adult, I travel by car as often as possible because it allows me a closer connection to the myriad of landscapes across the country.  I like the sense of freedom and solitude such drives give me.  Since the roads—paved or not—stretch from coast to coast across all terrains, I can visit most anywhere.  I prefer country roads over city streets, because there I am more apt to see nature, get the feel for the open road, and glimpse the vast panoramas of land and sky.

ribbon of highway

Here—with a little creative editing—is my favorite verse from the Guthrie’s song.

“As I was [traveling] that ribbon of highway

I saw above me the endless skyway. . . .

While all around me a voice was sounding

This land was made for you and me.”

The photos are from some of my recent travels, demonstrating the freedom, beauty and diversity of American highways.  I live in California and am often drawn to the Southwest for some adventures as well.  What are your favorite places to be out on the open road, on “that ribbon of highway”?


Yosemite National Park




Sequoia National Park



Kings Canyon National Park





Eastern Sierra





Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park



See Canyon, Near Avila Beach




Big Sur Hills & Coastline





Drive to Mendota 063

MO & KS drive to Dodge City 004

Drive to KC in rain 004


Bosque de Apache outside Albu 010

Bosque de Apache outside Albu 047

Bosque de Apache outside Albu 248


Saugaro NP Rincon & West 009

Saugaro NP Rincon & West 227

Saugaro NP Rincon & West 325


CO national mon 2 & River Park 048

CO national mon 2 & River Park 062

CO national mon 2 & River Park 070

CO national mon 2 & River Park 127

Pam Day 2 & Garden of the Gods 048


Coral Reef National Park

Coral Reef National Park 093

Coral Reef National Park 123

Canyonlands National Park, Needles

Canyonlands Needles & I 70 045

Canyonlands Needles & I 70 216

Canyonlands Needles & I 70 217

Canyonlands Needles & I 70 293

Zion & Kolob Canyons National Park

Zion & Kolob Canyons 056

Zion & Kolob Canyons 080

Zion & Kolob Canyons 120

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As an adult, while I truly love the great beauty and diversity of this land of ours, I am equally aware of our country’s problems.  Guthrie was aware of the discrepancies in society as well, motivating a satirical if not cynical view to “This Land Is Your Land.”  He wrote the famed lyrics, in part, as a political protest.  Bruce Springsteen performed the song live in the 1980s, acknowledging the harsh realities evident in society that some say question the validity of the lyrics.  But through all the problems, the beauty and potential of America still shine through.  As Springsteen says in his opening comments, it’s “about one of the most beautiful songs ever written about America.” 

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!

IMG_20140522_124558_hdr (2)

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!

































The Majestic Kings River

It was the end of March, so we foolishly figured it was spring.  But in reality winter was still holding forth as a friend and I visited Sequoia National Park.  We saw a winter wonderland and had a great time, but out trip was cut short when the roads through the park were closed due to a storm.  At the time, we were disappointed:  Our plan to visit Kings Canyon National Park was not going to happen on that trip as planned.

IMG_3059IMG_3066Last week, however, we returned to Kings Canyon to finish our trip and were overjoyed about the earlier delay.  In May, spring was finally holding forth, blanketing the roadside with wildflowers.  The big trees were just as impressive even though not covered in snow.











But it was the majestic roaring Kings River that filled us with awe.  It would not have been so impressive several months earlier before the snow melt started to flow.  Over time this river has cut a magnificent canyon.  In fact, the Kings Canyon is even deeper than the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  This impressive river drops 13,291 feet along its course—that is the greatest vertical drop for any undammed river in the United States.  Traveling through the national park on Highway 180, we were able to drive along the river, making it all the way to Road’s End.

IMG_20140522_153031_hdr (2)We first spotted the river at Grizzly Falls in the Monarch Wilderness.  It represents the overflow of Grizzly Lake and eventually wends its way to the Kings River far below.

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As we drove through the park, we could catch glimpses of the actual river far below as well.


IMG_2982But as we continued our drive through the park, Highway 180 eventually took us right along the shores of the river.  The water was moving quickly as the snow melt rushed down from mountains over 8,000 feet above the valley floor.  The river was inviting, but even the pools that looked relatively calm were hiding a raging current that moved the river forward on its journey.














Kings River:  Impressive, isn’t it?

This blog post was my response to Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Water.

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“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.”   Norman Maclean

“Oh, Eeyore, you are wet!” said Piglet, feeling him.
Eeyore shook himself, and asked somebody to explain to Piglet what happened when you had been inside a river for quite a long time.”  
A. A. Milne

“The river is everywhere.”   Hermann Hesse

“Life is like the river, sometimes it sweeps you gently along and sometimes the rapids come out of nowhere.”   Emma Smith

“We must begin thinking like a river if we are to leave a legacy of beauty and life for future generations.”    David Brower

“A river seems a magic thing. A magic, moving, living part of the very earth itself.”   Laura Gilpin

“A good river is nature’s life work in song.”   Mark Helprin

“When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.”   Native American Saying

“Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams—they all have different names, but they all contain water.  Just as religions do—they all contain truths.”   Muhammad Ali

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.”  John Lubbock

“Forests, lakes, and rivers, clouds and winds, stars and flowers, stupendous glaciers and crystal snowflakes—every form of animate and inanimate existence, leaves its impress upon the soul of man.”  Orison Swett Marden

“In Einstein’s equation, time is a river.  It speeds up, meanders, and slows down.  The new wrinkle is that it can have whirlpools and fork into two rivers. So, if the river of time can be bent into a pretzel, create whirlpools and fork into two rivers, then time travel cannot be ruled out.”  Michio Kaku

“Statistics vary, but in less than seven years there won’t be a single cell left in any of our bodies that’s the same as it is today. This means that any human being who ‘wants’ to change is like a mountain river wanting to reach the valley floor.  It’s a done deal; that’s what mountain rivers do, and ‘changing’ should be our first nature.”  Guy Finley

“What makes a river so restful to people is that it doesn’t have any doubt—it is sure to get where it is going, and it doesn’t want to get anywhere else.”  Hal Boyle

“Many a calm river begins as a turbulent waterfall, yet none hurtles and foams all the way to the sea.”  Mikhail Lermontov

“Love is the river of life in the world.”  Henry Ward Beecher

“Rivers know this:  There is no hurry. We shall get there someday.”   A.A. Milne

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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