Monday, November 7, 2011
Nov 7 - Kings Canyon - Another View
The drive was 90 miles, through Fresno on CA-41, then east on CA-180 to Grants Grove. From the 1800 foot elevation at Park of the Sierras we drop to just a couple hundred feet at Fresno in the San Joaquin Valley, and then climb back to 6600 feet at Grants Grove. There are no roads that go east/west through this region as the highest and most rugged portion of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, including Mt. Whitney (14,494'), the highest point in the lower 48, is along the eastern edge of the Parks.
We arrived at Grants Grove about noon, did our usual Visitor Center thing, including the orientation video, checked into a room at the John Muir Lodge (winter deal... only $79 per night... almost half of what they go for during high season), grabbed a quick lunch, and then headed out and down into Kings Canyon just to the north of Grants Grove.
Once described by John Muir as even more spectacular than Yosemite Valley, Kings Canyon is certainly someplace anyone in awe of nature must visit. The road from Grants Grove descends more than 3000 feet to the valley floor. Many "turn-outs" on the way down provided stunning views... on this day illuminated by a low afternoon sun and bright blue skies. Once on the valley floor and alongside the flowing South Fork of the Kings River, you're at first in a "V" shaped canyon -- the signature of a canyon cut by flowing water. But further up-canyon, as you get toward the end of the road (literally called the "Roads End" area) the canyon takes on a "U" shape, with a wider flatter floor -- the distinctive shape of a canyon cut by flowing ice... glaciers, perhaps thousands of feet thick. This is the same process that cut Yosemite Canyon, about 70 miles to the northwest. Recent snowfall was being melted by relatively warm temps while we were there, so the streams and waterfalls were flowing nicely.
The Fireplace in the Lodge
Both nights during our stay at John Muir Lodge we warmed ourselves in front of the fireplace in the lodge. We met some interesting people, some of whom we could even communicate with in our native language. (Had some trouble with a foursome from near Paris, France). But the crackling glowing fire did more than our warm toes... the scent of glowing oak embers, the flickering illumination from low flames, the sounds... the pops and crackles that only a real fire emits... it warmed our spirits, it made us feel that we were really home despite never having been here before.