Sequoia National Park

Monday I drove in to Sequoia National Park, which is only about 45 minutes east of where I am staying in Visalia, CA.  Although I usually try to get out and about early in the day, I didn’t leave the house until 9 because I wanted to stop downtown at the Visitor Center which wasn’t open on Sunday.  After getting maps, brochures and recommendations I set off for Sequoia.

I drove past this big lake on the way to the Park.




I would drive past the lake again in the afternoon on my way out of the Park, when I would see what I am quite sure was a bald eagle (white head, white tail, long black wings) flying above it.  I went back to find a legal place to stop and by the time I got in position it had risen way up above the lake, too far away to even zoom in for a picture.

Before getting to the Park I drove through the little town of Three Rivers.  I stopped there to get a sandwich to take into the Park so I could enjoy a picnic lunch.  When I got to the Park entrance there were signs warning of road construction, with hour-long delays at times.  When I stopped at the Visitor Center I saw a sign that said if I left there at quarter after the hour I would make it through the construction zone before the hourly closure.  I looked at my watch and it was 1116.  I hopped back in the car and resumed driving (obeying all speed limits in the Park, of course).

Well, I got up to the zone at 1146.  And sat in line.  I thought I had missed my window of opportunity.  I ate my picnic lunch sitting in my car.  I did get out and take these pictures while I was waiting.

In the distance are the Castle Rocks, at 9,180 feet elevation.  (I was parked in the road at around 5,000 feet, I think).


And this is Moro Rock, at 6,715 feet elevation.


I turned around and started driving down the mountain.  I studied the map while I had sat waiting and discovered that I really didn’t intend to be where I was anyway!  I had planned to turn right after entering the Park on a road which dead-ended east of the Park, then go back and drive a scenic loop to the southeast of Visalia.  I was now on the road which goes northeast, deep into the Park, which I wasn’t planning to do to until Tuesday.

I stopped on the way down and took these:



I stopped at the Visitor Center and told them they needed to fix their signs.  Turns out it was my error – I has misunderstood a large sign that told about the road opening at 1130.  I thought that was the target I was trying to beat.  It seems that the road opens on the hour, not the half hour.  The sign I saw was for 1130 PM, when they close the road for several hours at night and only open it once at that time.  I suggested they clarify the fact that during the DAY the road opens at the top of the hour.

I also learned that the road I had been planning to take all along is outside the Park, about 2 miles before the entrance.  I exited the Park and went and drove part of it.  It was paved but not in very good shape, and was narrow.  I only went about half way back the full distance and decided to turn around and leave, as I wasn’t seeing anything really impressive anyway.  It’s a good thing I did, as the next road I planned to take took much longer than I thought it would and I had already wasted enough time…

Before leaving I did get these pictures:




As I was driving through Three Rivers I stopped to get this picture of a Paul Bunyan statue.  The sun was behind it when I passed it earlier.


This was created in 1941-42 by Carroll Barnes.  It is 16 1/2 feet tall and 9 feet wide.  It was created from a single 200 year old sequoia log that weighed 40 tons (weight before cooking!).

Giant Sequoia National Monument

After exiting Sequoia National Park for the day on Monday (I will be back there for a full day on Tuesday) I drove south on a series of roads to get to the Giant Sequoia National Monument – South Unit, which is located south of the Park (and there is a North Unit north of Kings Canyon National Park).  Evidently these areas didn’t qualify for inclusion in the Park itself.  My plan was to make a big clockwise loop on a series of scenic roads before heading back to Visalia.

I suppose I should have stopped to take more pictures in the National Monument area but it evidently experienced a large fire years ago and many of the steep slopes towering over the road on which I was driving had been stripped of trees and vegetation and all that remained was dirt and large rocks – not a good combination on their own.  I could just imagine me standing there wearing my Safety Sam vest and holding my digital camera saying “Oh, look” while a 50 ton boulder came rolling down and squashed me like a bug.

I did get this photo looking back at the direction I had come, where the sun would soon be setting.


Actually, another reason I didn’t take many pictures is that I was afraid I was putting myself “on the clock,” a phrase I adopted last year when I would take so many pictures and talk to so many people throughout the day that it would be dark by the time I got back to where I was staying.  The loop I was making didn’t look all that long on the map but now that I was driving on it I realized it was a series of slow, winding mountain roads.  At least the roads were two lane, with a double yellow line down the middle – unlike the mountain road I drove on out by the coast which could barely accommodate two average sized vehicles opposing each other.

I drove up to around 6,000 feet elevation, twice,  and the temperature cooled from what it had been in the Park, so it was a very pleasant, if slow, drive.  After driving through the burned out areas the trees were plentiful and it was not unlike driving in the North Carolina or Virginia mountains.  Later in the drive there were some nice views of a big valley and big mountains off in the distance.




And today was my first experience this trip encountering cows in the road.  Many places in the West warn drivers of free-range cattle in the road.  As I was driving down one of the mountains there were some cows meandering in the road and I flashed my lights at a Sheriff’s truck coming the other way (uphill, into the setting sun) to warn him of the road hazard.

I did make it back home before dark, and will have a full day in Sequoia National Park on Tuesday.