Archive for September, 2011
Sept. 30 – Friday – Visalia to Palm Desert, CA
Today was a relatively short drive of just over 300 miles through some lush agricultural country north of Los Angeles. We couldn’t resist stopping to purchase some fresh nectarines, apples, and peaches. The change in temperature from the mid 60s at Sequoia to 102 in Palm Desert was pretty dramatic. After an early arrival at the Homewood Suites, we took the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to the upper slopes of San Jacinto Peak, some 8,500 feet above the desert floor. Once there, we experienced another shocking temperature change to just 47 degrees. Dinner at the much-hyped Peak’s Restaurant was mediocre but worth the dramatic vistas.
The goal today was to visit two additional national parks, Kings Canyon and Sequoia. After a two-hour drive our first encounter of the day was at the majestic General Grant tree, at 267 feet in height and neatly 29 feet in diameter, the second largest tree in the world. But the entire grove is astounding. In addition to the gigantic General Grant specimen there are dozens of “smaller” companions in the area. Being late in the season and early in the day, there were few other visitors and the Forest Service was doing a controlled burn of underbrush so the whole area had the wonderful scent of incense cedar. We abandoned our drive on the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway after about 45 minutes to save the rest of the day for Sequoia NP.
It’s really impossible to describe the scale and majesty of giant sequoias. The displays at Giant Forest Museum and other visitor centers are informative but the site of so many of these enormous, 2,000 year old trees is just breath-taking. Seeing the world’s largest tree, the famed General Sherman, is thrilling bit I think we enjoyed as much or more the drive south of the Giant Forest where scores of these stately, serene trees line the road sometimes with just enough space between for two narrow lanes. Trisha says she likes the Sequoia forest even more than Yosemite.
Sept. 28 – Wednesday – Yosemite National Park
What a day! More beautiful weather, a leisurely drive northwest from Mariposa and then the awesome splendor of Yosemite. Our first vista was the magnificent El Capitan illuminated with the morning sunlight and decorated with a handful of rock-climbers. We meandered around Yosemite Valley Village and bought carry-out sandwiches for lunch. We headed out on the Tioga Road drive but gave up after an hour of endlessly winding roads before reaching the goal of Tuolumne Meadows. After lunch in a secluded pull-out we headed back toward the Village and drove to Glacier Point. From this vista we could see the whole Valley from above: the Village, El Capitan, Half Dome…. It’s a wholly different perspective than what you see from the Valley floor and really accents the incredible scale of the rock formations. We ended the day stopping at Mariposa Grove to see the Grizzly Giant sequoia.
Sept. 27 – Tuesday – Medford, OR to Mariposa, CA
Today turned out to be a little longer than planned. After leaving Medford at 8:15 we made such good time that we decided to take a side trip off I-5 to Lassen Volcanic National Park, east of Redding, CA. This gave us a chance to check off another National Park in our quest to visit them all. Lassen was beautiful and fascinating but it did add a few hours and quite a few miles (564 for the day) to our day and we didn’t arrive in Mariposa until 7:30. We stayed at a well-worn Best Western motel and ended up getting take-out pizza for dinner from the local Pizza Factory. The highlight of the day was probably enjoying a quiet lunch at this impossibly blue mountain lake in Lassen.
Here are just 6 photos of Lassen.