After we got off the John Muir Trail backpack, we arrived back in Mammoth and headed to the Twin Lakes Campground where we had spent our first night in California. First order of business was a shower! I think all of us were very happy to plunk down $5.00 for unlimited access to hot water. Clean hair is a luxury you learn to appreciate when it isn’t. After hanging out for awhile at the campsite, putting up tents and strolling around the park, the group drove back into town to find a place for dinner. This would be one of several dinners for me (at least) consisting of a veggie burger. I do not want to see another veggie burger for a long time!!! While I’m on the subject of food, I will say that we had several wonderful Thai dinners in Clovis, California (near Fresno) and Carson City, Nevada. As a hiker, some of you may appreciate that where and what we are going to eat after a hike is usually a popular topic of conversation. It carries us for many, many miles! The red meat crowd did get their steak in Reno but that came much later in the trip.
First thing in the morning, we were off on an approximate 4 1/2 hour drive to Sequoia National Park. Unfortunately our reservation at Kings Canyon had to be changed due to a fire and we found ourselves relocated to another campground (Dorst). We couldn’t feel too sorry for ourselves about that as the female park ranger we spoke to had also been relocated. It was just that sort of day. After claiming two adjacent sites, and setting up the tents, we decided to head over to the Visitors Center to check out the hiking, gift shop, and food (which was mediocre at best). The group then moved on in our rental cars to visit the General Sherman Giant Sequoia. A paved path wove its way downhill towards the small grove of trees where we would find General Sherman among others. This is billed as the largest tree in the world. Unfortunately the small but steady stream of visitors posing in front of the trees (we did it too) took away from the spiritual nature of the experience. As some of us waited for the balance of our group to arrive back at the cars, we watched the sun go down through the trees.
We were able to have some time with the trees to ourselves the next day at the Muir Grove which could be reached by a trail that started right at the Dorst campground. It’s hard to explain but it is almost like you are in a cathedral in the woods albeit one without a roof. There is something sacred about being in the presence of living things so old and that have been standing in the same place for several thousand years. When we got there, I went straight to a tree and stood touching it for a few minutes sort of letting it know I was there and didn’t mean any harm. It is my understanding that many people have a similar reaction.
When we got back to camp, the group decided to decamp because of the heavy smoke. We decided we would do one more hike before leaving Sequoia and drove up to Crescent Meadow (after lunch at Wuksachi Lodge & Restaurant). On our hike, we saw a rattlesnake and several bears at Long Meadow as well as a baby bear in Crescent Meadow. A small crowd had begun to gather on the path abutting the meadow and several overly aggressive nature photographers started to pursue a photograph of this small, startled bear. He or she at one point came running towards us whereupon I jumped up on a log to get out of its way. The poor thing turned back into the meadow. Thank goodness there was no sign of its mother! Some of us also saw a deer in the meadow on our way out.
Lots of wildlife here and no apparent fear of people.
On our way out of Sequoia, we stopped at an overlook for the view and could see a small puff of smoke in the distance (which was the Rough Fire) amid a strong smell of smoke. Fire is part of the natural order of things here in the Sierra and brings new life to areas that burn. That being said, there is a delicate balance between maintaining the park as it is, protection of private property, and letting nature take its course. Just pointing this out and not trying to make social commentary.
Next stop: Yosemite.