Sequoia Kings Canyon May 2012
Day One (Ground Day)
We were up bright and early this morning to beat the L.A. traffic for our 5 hour drive up to Sequoia National Park. The ride was full of chatter about what we were going to experience and how much fun this trip would be. We stopped in the small town of Three Rivers for lunch and discussed our plans for the trip. Everyone was excited to be out in the wilderness and looking forward to the adventure. We got into the National Park and hiked out to Hospital Rock to view the numerous petroglyphs and Indian grinding rocks spread throughout the area. We set up camp in the Potwisha section of the forest and started our 8 mile round trip hike along the Kaweah River to Marble Falls.
I experienced some cravings for alcohol when we sat around the campfire at night. I continued to tell myself that I do not need alcohol to have fun. And when that didn’t work, I would say something out loud to the group for support. They were experiencing similar feelings.
The hike was amazing as the wildflowers were in full bloom with yellow, white, and purple petals. The foliage was a brilliant green and there were numerous spring streams as a result of the snow runoff that we had to forge. We arrived at the falls, which is a multi-tiered cascading waterfall that careens through and over numerous marble slabs and provides a cloud of cool mist. We enjoyed some relaxation in the sun and enjoyed our surroundings. We made it back to camp in the evening, set up our tents, and cooked a feast for dinner. The night ended with S’mores, campfire experience, and restful sleep.
Day Two (Ground Day)
We awoke to the sound of birds chirping at 6 in the morning with the rising sun. We broke down camp and headed to higher elevation. We arrived at the base of Moro Rock with clear sky and began our ascent up over 300 hand-carved steps in the rock. The view from the top at 6,725 feet was amazing. We had 360 degree visibility of the Eastern Sierra Mountain Range, Mt. Whitney, and the Great Western Divide. A strong fog bank rolled in and cut visibility to 50 feet so we hiked back down and went to the Giant Forest. We hiked amongst the 2,000 year old Sequoia trees including General Sherman’s Tree, which is the largest living organism in the world and truly a sight to be seen. These trees grow between 5,000 and 7,000 feet tall in only this part of California.
We left the forest after lunch and drove up to Lodgepole campground at 6,700 feet and established our campsite. Our site reminded me of a military camp with our camo green tents dotting the landscape. After a short rest we started out on a 4 mile roundtrip hike to Tonopah Falls. The hike took us along the Kaweah River, huge open meadows, and ended with a quarter-mile scramble through broken granite rock fields. The falls are fed by snow runoff and plummet 1,200 feet down the side of the mountain. This fall is one of the highest in California.
We rested along the granite slabs, enjoyed the spray, and spied on numerous Marmot (small beaver-like mammals) families as they darted in and out of the rock formations searching for food. We got back on the trail and had a pleasant downhill hike back to camp. We cooked up chicken burritos and ate around the campfire as the temperature steadily began dropping to near freezing. We had a huge campfire to stay warm and shared our experiences of the day. The feedback focused on how humbling the day was and how our problems/stresses are small in comparison to the grand scheme of things.
Day Three (Underground Day)
Another early morning sunrise and the sight of our breath when we spoke let us know that it was cold out. Overnight temperatures had dropped down to 25 degrees. I noticed our group does not move too quickly in the cold. We managed to break down camp at a decent hour and drove into Kings Canyon National Park on our way to Grant Grove. We hiked amongst the old growth forest and visited Grant Tree which is the 2nd largest sequoia in the world. We explored some old squatter’s cabins and took in the marvel of the forest. We drove down into the canyon and stopped to admire the expansive views of the canyon and King’s River.
We arrived at Boyden Cave and got geared up in overalls, helmets, and headlamps for our spelunking hour. We spent the next several hours crawling around on our bellies and backs through the 250,000 year old caves. We had to wiggle our way around stalagmites and stalactites, squeeze through narrow tunnels, and up chest crushing chimney chutes. This was an anxiety provoking experience for all of us and it was great to see how we all confronted our fears and overcame our personal challenges.
We survived the caves, changed out of our muddy clothes, and headed out for our base camp along the King’s River. We arrived at the river and set up camp in the afternoon right along the bank. We met our guides and enjoyed a delicious tri-tip dinner and a roaring campfire with S’mores before we set out on a midnight hike to go stargazing. The stars were extremely bright as there is no light pollution in the middle of nowhere. We used our constellation maps and saw some amazing sights including Mars and Saturn. This was the perfect way to end an eventful day.
Day Four (Water Day):
Most of us slept in this morning while a few got up to run and do yoga. We met with our guides and did our safety orientation where we went over our PFDs, man overboard drills, and proper paddling techniques. We boarded the bus for the drive up the narrow dirt canyon road to our launching point. We split up into two rafts and headed off down the river which was flowing at 4,000 cubic feet per second and was ice cold. We attacked Class III and IV rapids with names like Bonzai, Devil’s Hole, and Bucking Bull. We got soaking wet from head to toe and had a blast.
We stopped for lunch along the banks and ate with the snakes, hawks, and various varmints. We got back on the river and tackled wave trains and other rapids that got progressively bigger. We had the opportunity to float through some rapids. and the experience of being in the water was much different than the experience from the raft. On the last rapid of the day, we lost a client overboard. We responded with our man overboard drill and got the client back in the boat relatively unscathed.
We got back to camp in the afternoon and went for a hike to Spirit Falls. We did some cliff jumping along the North Fork of the King’s River and lounged in the smooth rock formations, basking in the sun like reptiles. Most of us fell asleep for some much needed rest. We got back to camp and played some bocce, corn-hole, and horseshoes. We closed our evening with a campfire under a full moon. It was gorgeous to see the way the moonlight reflected off the river and made the use of headlamps unnecessary. We went to bed tired and fulfilled after another full day of activities.