Continuing South through the Sierras
Following my 3 day expedition in Yosemite, it was time to flock further South to absorb more of the Sierra’s.
I left Yosemite through the Wawona tunnel at about 5am and headed to Fresno to stock up on some much needed supplies, as to not get stung when heading towards the substantially inflated wilderness.
Preferably, I would have rather continued my drive through the mountain range for the duration but, as it was late April, most of these passes were closed.
By 10am I had restocked, refueled and was heading back towards the mountain range.
Kings Canyon Scenic Byway
I meandered through the much more discreet and secluded mountain-side, which was everything as imperious as the drive to Yosemite valley. After checking in at the visitor centre, to seek advice on the best routes to take, I followed the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway across the knife-edges of the mountain tips.
The Byway was still partially closed as the winter had not yet thawed yet on the further reaches. Nonetheless it was spectacular. There were only a handful of other cars on the 20 mile stretch of cul-de-sac, all reaping the early spring flowering across the vast mountain-range.
There are plenty of stunning vistas and viewpoints to pull over along the by-pass. Kings Canyon is still a largely undiscovered wilderness, with many of the mountains unreachable and completely untouched by man. It is a continuous bed of mountainscape that, if one was to hike the 210 miles of the demanding John Muir Trail heading North, would reach Yosemite. I think its pretty incredible that a good dozen people are able to complete this trail each season. Its also something worth considering for future reference.
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The General’s Highway
After spending my lunchtime basking in the mountain peaks, I’m ready to continue my drive towards Sequoia National Park, along the Generals Highway. If ever there was a time to have a top-down, James Bond, super car, this was it. Even in my 4×4 logger truck it was without doubt the best and most fun I’ve had behind the wheel!
Much of the Top-Gear mimicking journey flowed downhill, hugging the cliff-edges at first, before snaking through large boulder landscapes and then into shady evergreen forests. About 30 miles along the drive I reach Hume Lake- a large expanse of ice water were people are kayaking and enjoying the generous campsite and lodging activities on offer. I can imagine that this place is heaving with activities and children s camps in the summer, as present though, its fairly quaint-but by no means quiet.
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General Sherman Tree: The Largest in the World
I’m quite comfortable sitting by the lakeside of Lake Hume, but I have further plans of exploration before the day is done.
Another 20 miles along a dense forest-shielded road is the land of the Sequoia Giants and the location of 3 of the 5 largest trees in the world!! I have previously wondered and pondered in the forests around Muir Valley, San Francisco at the Giant Redwoods. Although the Sequoias are not generally as tall as their Redwood siblings, they are far superior in volume and diameter.
Following the Congress route trail, the trees start out huge and only get bigger. Some have grown out of their resources, with their hollow shells collapsed to the ground, allowing people to dissect along the very inside of the tree. Only when the tree is flat on its side can the scale of these giants begin to be appreciated- its mad!
The largest and most dominant trees are all named after significant Generals and figure-heads of American hierarchy. Its a pretty cool accolade to have a tree named after you! General Sherman though is a name, maybe shamefully, that I have never come across-instead all I can recall is P Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney; Finding Nemo.
But yeh, its the largest living tree in the world! Can’t really say much more than that really- its crazy big!
I have been advised to hike Moro Rock for sunset. But as I still have an hour of so before then I decide to head to the tunnel tree, to drive my car, through a tree! Its a typical, cliche picture, but again reveals, to some extent, the expanse and size of these giants.
It’s more of a fairground attraction that, if it wasn’t for the sheer tranquility and lack of footfall within the National Park on this particular day, wouldn’t really be worth queuing up for (as there is so much more on offer)
Yet, I had the total freedom of having a couple of loops through the tree at my own leisure before following the tracks towards Moro Rock, where signposts of ‘slow, bear families’ litter the road. Alas, despite keeping my eyes peeled there are none.
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There were a lot of steps (uneven stones) which completed a full circle around the giant rock before bringing me up to its summit. This 360 view was incredible and revealed so much about the Sierras in the once small hike; To the East there were snow capped mountain ranges, as far as the eye could see- a winter freeze! The Northern vistas revealed thickets of evergreen forests, with the emergence of colour and spring completely contrasting the wintery Eastern lookout. The South began to flatten out into large open meadows and fields, again revealing the beginnings of Spring and the glowing surfacing of the moon. Finally the West; Grey slabs of smooth granite and carved rock reached out towards the sunset.
As promised the hike and the sunset was spectacular. The sun became lost, like an eclipse, in the dense fog before re-emerging at the sculptured granite peaks. As all this beauty convoluted into one, I read that the fog ,that added an atmospheric filter to the sunset, was in fact pollution from China, Japan and Eastern Asia that had traveled across the Atlantic, merged with that of the super-cities of the West Coast, LAX and San Francisco to come to rest at the mountain ranges. I found this both fascinating and naturally pretty damn grim. I’m not really sure why they chose to convey this information at the top of such a glorious peak- maybe to ponder, further the appreciation of nature and the effects of mankind. I couldn’t afford to get too remorseful in it all as the sun had now long-set, the winter chill was creeping in off the mountains, the stars were crawling to the horizon and I needed to set up a camp. Que the end of another spectacular day.