Travels

California Dreams (Part III)

Day 3 started with a visit to the General Grant Tree. With a base circumference of  107.6 ft (32.8 m), it is the second largest tree in the world after the General Sherman Tree.

What was more impressive for me was Cristina, whom we met at the entrance to the General Grant Grove.  She was also looking for the General Grant Tree and gave us a lift from the roadside to the parking lot. Originally from Chile, she lived in New York City for 30+ years before retiring about five years ago.  She then embarked on what she calls a second career as a “world traveler”.  After exploring different countries for a couple years, she turned her sights on experiencing the beauties of her adopted homeland.  With that mission in mind, she traveled down to Florida, bought a used 2003 RV, drove it back to New York for registration and then started her journey westward. This as a year ago. Friends and family would join her for short weekend stints or week-long trips.  For the rest of the time, she was by herself with just a map and an vague idea of where she wanted to head to next.

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At the entrance of the General Grant Tree Trail rests the Fallen Monarch.  No one knows exactly when this giant sequoia fell, but the tree had been hollowed out by fires and so when it did collapse, its outer shell formed a natural room-like structure. Native Americans used it as shelter, and from 1868 to 1870, it even served as a hotel and saloon for weary travelers. From 1870 to 1872, the Gamlin brothers used the fallen tree as a temporary house as they built their cabin nearby. Then later, in 1876, the US Cavalry used it as a stable for 32 horses.

Giant sequoias possess high amounts of tannin in their wood – giving them their characteristic red tint. As a result also, the giant sequoia is practically immune to fatal attack by either fungous diseases or insects and becomes very much resistant against decay.  Comparing a photo of the Fallen Monarch taken today with one taken in 1911, you can barely discern the differences a century has had on this felled tree. 6a02211u

imaged obtained from Library of Congress online

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As its name indicates, Kings Canyon National Park revolves primarily around Kings Canyon, a rugged glacier-carved valley more than a mile deep. Road access is only open during the summer months and it is about a two-hour round-trip drive along a curving road that slowly winds its way from the canyon overlook unto the valley basin following more or less the path of the Kings River.  Outlook points have been strategically positioned along the route to provide visitors with awe-inspiring panoramas.

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More than anything, I was struck by the warm deep golden hue of the encompassing mountains and jutting rocks.

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Even when standing in the shadows, the gold would break through, casting a halo-effect upon the mountain-tops.

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All this, while the bright blue-green river waters raged below.

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Within Kings Canyon, there are also hikes of varying lengths leading to hidden treasures, the most famous of which is the Zumwalt Meadow Loop.

The trail starts innocently enough tracing the banks of the river, providing peeks along the way to the mountains afar.

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The denouement though is fully unexpected.  As you walk through the trees, you suddenly find in front of you a stunning expanse of grassy meadow encircled by granite mountains. All I wanted to do was to run through the tall grass with my arms open and feel the each blade glide under my fingertips. But alas, that was prohibited by park rules, and probably dangerous too given this was a wetland.

Nature never ceases to inspire.

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I’ll leave you though on a note of whimsy – a whale in the sand that I chanced upon during the hike around the loop trail. Time runs along a spectrum. At one point this entire expanse was covered in glaciers. Who knows, perhaps in another hundred million years, the ocean will consume this land and it’ll become a home for the whales.

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