Kings Canyon and Yosemite National Parks

We drove out of Death Valley, over the Sierra Nevada Mountains, down the other side into the gigantic San Joaquin Valley.  As we crossed through the Tehachapi Pass and started our decent, we could see a layer of dark clouds below us.  It took us a few minutes before we recognized it as not clouds, but a thick layer of smog covering the entire valley.  The smog is generated in Los Angeles and blown here by the Pacific winds.  The winds are not strong enough to force the smog over the mountains and it spreads, covering the many thousand square miles of the valley. 

It is not a welcoming sight, but we have to descend into the smog and drive north through the valley where we will camp for a few nights.  Carsten wants to visit two popular National Parks in the area.

The San Joaquin Valley is known as America’s Fruitbasket.  Much of the California fruit and vegetables that can be found in supermarkets across the United States is grown here.  We pass one huge plantation after the other and innumerable vineyards.  I can’t help thinking that all that smog is carried into the ground with the rain and the sprinkler systems used to farm.  How much of it is absorbed by the plants and dispersed into the fruit and vegetables we eat?  Copenhagen has no air pollution compared to what we see here.  I wonder what the statistics say about lung cancer and other respiratory ailments here.  Who wants to live in an area with such visible pollution?  Fortunately, we will only be here a few days and then we will be driving out to the coast where the winds have blown any pollution inland.

Ok, we will be here – the reason for being here is that Carsten wants to see the world’s largest tree – General Sherman.  General Sherman is a Giant Sequoia (giant redwood) that grows in Sequoia National Park, far up in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range.  It’s February and the winter has dropped record amounts of snow in the Sierras, so Carsten checks to see if the park is open and if they are requiring snow chains.  Good news – the park is open and they aren’t requiring chains but we decide not to drive Caprise up in the mountains, opting instead to rent a 4-wheeler.  You can never tell – the weather changes quickly up here.

As usual – the best laid plans of mice and men……

When we arrive at the entrance Ranger Station to Sequoia National Park, they tell us that the road out to General Sherman is closed due to landslides that haven’t been repaired yet. But, he says, if we can live with seeing the world’s second largest tree, then we can drive back out and up to Kings Canyon National Park and see General Grant.  Kings Canyon is mostly open, although a couple of roads are closed due to snow.  Ok, back out 25 miles then 35 miles on a narrow mountain road to Kings Canyon.

Since we have nothing else to do and we really want ot see the giant redwoods, we go for it – after all, we are in a 4 wheel drive.  The 35 miles on the narrow mountain road are 35 miles of hairpin turns and I end up becoming horribly carsick.  We finally arrive at Kings Canyon, park the car and wander down the trail.  Great to be out in the fresh air and after a couple of minutes my carsickness disappears.

Here you can get an idea of just how big the trunk is. Carsten easily fits inside. He almost took a spill on his butt climbing down – he didn’t notice there was ice there

Giant Sequoia trees can apparently also be found as “Twin Towers”

The Giant Sequoias can grow old.  Very old. Some are over 3000 years old.  Even after they die and fall the trunk and the thick bark remain for many years.

This photo shows the remains of a tree known as The Monarch – it was cut down in 1900.

The outer trunk of the tree is almost unchanged – even after more than 100 years.

The extremely thick bark is on of the reasons the Giant Sequoias survive forest fires.  The shrubs and undergrowth burn and burn out before the tree catches on fire.  Forest fires are a natural part of nature’s eco-system, burning away the undergrowth and some of the older dying trees, making room for new ones.   Most forest fires spread through the easily lit undergrowth, burn quickly and the thick bark protects the tree.  On several trees we can see burn scars at the bottom, where the undergrowth has scorched the tree and it si apparent that the flames have not reached very high up.

We wander along the trail and finally come to General grant, the world’s second largest tree, according to the park Ranger.  But his memory is a little off; the trail guide say General Grant is “only” the world’s third largest tree.

Not that we care – it is BIG!

Facts:

Volume:  1320 cubic meters (13,200 cubic feet)

Height: 82 meters (282 feet

Diameter (at the base): 12 meters (40 feet) the widest tree in the world

Circumference:  36meters (126 feet)

Age: Approximately 1700 years (but 1500 years younger thanthe world’s oldest tree).

General Grant is all its glory

Yes, it was worth the carsickness and the long drive to see this.

Yosemite National Park

Carsten is a great admirer of the American photographer, Ansel Adams, famous for his unbelievable black/white landscape pictures.  Some years ago, Carsten took me up to Humlebæk and the Louisianan Museum to see an exhibition of his photography.  Even I, a novice in regards to photography was overwhelmed by these fantastic pictures.  Remember, these photos were made before there was anything called Photoshop.  Adams was a genius in the darkroom.  Carsten has always admired his pictures from Yosemite and therefore wants to see this park himself.

To see some of his most famous photos, go to: the collector.com and in the search field type: “Ansel Adams”. Up will come an article showing his 25 most famous pictures.  Note that the one, “Moonrise over Hernandez, New Mexico” was taken only a few miles from my brother’s house.  I have stood there and taken the same picture – I have it at home.

The next morning we drive back up into the Sierra Nevadas on even smaller roads and even more hairpin turns.  I get carsick again but fortunately not as much as yesterday.  We enter the park through the southern entrance and drive about 30 miles before coming to a tunnel that leads into Yosemite Valley.  The view as you exit the tunnel leaves breathless.  Ansel Adams stood here and took some of his most famous pictures.

Ansel Adams took his pictures from this spot.

The mountain seen on the left is known as El Capitan and is a favorite of mountain climbers. To the right are Bridal Falls and in front is the famous Half Dome.

El Capitan

El Capitan can’t be climbed in one day so these two climbers have “pitched” their tents halfway and are getting ready to spend the night.  I can only hope they don’t roll over in their sleep and fall out.  ( I know they have strapped themselves in – but seriously).

Yosemite has an abundance of hiking trails but it is winter and there is snow everywhere.  We give up on the idea of hiking through the park and drive back out through the west entrance.  The drive back is longer (100 miles) but very few hairpin turns and I didn’t get carsick.

Tomorrow we’ll drive out to the coast and then turn north.  That means we will be heading back towards Capri and resuming our sailing adventure.  We have reserved a liftout of Capri for April 4th and she will be on the hard for a week so we can clean and paint her bottom and polish her sides.  If the weather cooperates, we will leave Port Angeles May first and sail up through Canada’s Inland Waterway to Alaska where we will spend the summer

Can’t wait!!!!!!!!

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