Friday, July 31, 2009

Kings Canyon NP

The weekend before last my parents, Anil and I went camping in Kings and Sequoia NPs. My parents agreed on camping as I told them that these days camping is pretty comfortable and sometimes it can even be luxuries. They used to camp a lot during their youth (probably last time around 20 years ago) and I thought it would be interesting for them to see how "modern" campgrounds look these days. I sincerely believed that it will be a great adventure for them. Unfortunately, they seemed to think that it was a torture. In particular, they were displeased with "low sanitary conditions", by which they meant lack of showers, lack of electricity in the bathroom and the water tap that only worked when you were turning it with one hand... I have to say that I was also surprised with low standards on this particular campground (Dorst Creek campground in Sequoia NP). I stayed at over twenty different campgrounds in multiple national parks, and I do not recall any other of them not having electricity. You have to admit that washing yourself in a darkness with one hand can not be considered fun...

We started our visit in the parks by driving to Panoramic Point in Kings Canyon NP. There are great views to Kings River, nearby redwood forests and Hume Lake from this vista point:

Afterwards we went to the General Grant Grove, which is home to the General Grant - the world's third largest sequoia, as well as forty other Giant Sequoias mostly named after various US states.

Here are my parents in front of the Fallen Monarch:

Here are my parents and I in front of the General Grant:

From the Grants Grove we drove to "the road's end" in Cedar Grove. It takes around 1h to get there, but it is a such beautiful drive that it is well worth the time. Views to the Cedar Grove from one of the vista points:

In the afternoon we planned to hike to Mist Falls, which is one of the largest waterfalls in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Unfortunately, we had to turn back in the middle of the way as we were running out of time. Still, even the part of the trail that we did was pretty nice, leading us through the glaciated valley of the Cedar Grove with South Fork of Kings River rambling through it:

Kings Canyon is also home to Redwood Mountain Grove, the largest grove of Giant Sequoias on earth. At the same time, the Redwood Mountain Grove is home to the world's tallest Giant Sequoia (at 311ft). Interestingly, this tree does not have a name!

On our way out of the park we caught an early morning fog rolling over the grove:

Sequoia NP - Giant Forest

Five of the ten largest trees by volume on the planet are located within the Giant Forest in Sequoia NP. The largest, the General Sherman tree, has a volume of 52,508 cubic feet (1,487 cubic meters), is 275ft (83.8m) tall and measures 36.5ft (11.1m) across the base.

But if you had not been told that it is the biggest tree in the world, you wouldn't have known that. All of the Giant Sequoias seem equally large and impressive and they make you feel very small. They are so big that without a wide-angle lens you would not be able to have a whole tree on one picture. And even with this lens, it is difficult to appreciate their grandeur solely based on photos.

The Sherman Tree lies along the Congress trail, which is a 2 mile long paved trail that leads to several famous sequoias such as the House and Senate Groups, the President, Chief Sequoyah, General Lee and McKinley Trees. Some of them you can see at the photos below.

My father with the Giant Forest in the background:

The General Sherman:

My father and a big, unnamed Giant Sequoia:

This photo should help you comprehend how big those sequoias actually are:

I met the President:

Anil had a chat with Chief Sequoyah:

The House Group:

Sequoia NP - Moro Rock

In a super fast speed we climbed up Moro Rock (6,725ft/2050m), a large granite dome located in the Giant Forest area. The Moro Rock is the highest point for many miles to the east and west. There are around 400 steep stone steps leading to its top, so climbing it up can be exhausting. However, the views from the top are so fantastic that they are worth the effort.

Climbing up The Moro Rock:

Views to the east:

The Great Western Divide:

And my parents in front of it:

Sequoia NP - Crystal Cave

In Sequoia NP we went for a guided tour to the beautiful marble Crystal Cave. It is one of more than two hundred caves in the park, but the only one open to the public. You can see it if you sign up for a guided tour, which can be as short as 45 minutes or as long as six hours. We went for the forty-five minute tour and it definitely felt too short.

The cave is absolutely amazing - full of soda straws, stalactites, stalagmites, columns and draperies. I would definitely recommend seeing it if you are ever in the park.

Stalactite and stalagmite on the way to connect, in a few hundred years...

Column - a result of successful connection:

My parents, also happily connected:

Impressive draperies:


Nice stalagmite:

More draperies and stalactites:

Waterfalls on the Cascade Creek leading to the cave:

Yosemite Valley & Vernal Falls hike

Visiting the Yosemite Valley on a "regular" Monday (as opposed to Memorial Weekend Sunday) was a surprisingly nice experience. The valley was still full of tourists, but at least this time we did not waste half an hour looking for a parking spot nor we needed to wait 10 minutes for a permission to cross a street...

My parents with Yosemite Valley in the background:

Bridal Veil falls, very beautiful, but difficult to photograph in the midday sun:

My parents and Half Dome:

Me happy in front of the Yosemite Falls:

Last time Anil and I visited the park, we went for the Yosemite Falls hike. This time we decided to go for the Vernal Falls hike. Not only was this hike easier, but it was also prettier than the previous one. Half the pain, twice as much fun :) If you have time for only one hike in the park and you want to see a beautiful waterfall, I would recommend choosing the Vernal Falls hike. You will not be disappointed.

On the way to the Vernal Falls:

Almost there!

Vernal Falls and rainbow:

Vernal Falls and Monika:

Anil on the way back to the valley floor:

If you look closely, you will see the Upper Yosemite Falls in this picture:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

a few photos from San Diego

My parents spent three days in San Diego, visiting Manja and Bartek. From what I heard Bartek and Manja were amazing hosts and took care of my parents extremely well.

That's California my parents were hoping for - long sandy beach and nice weather:

Coronado Beach:

Very cute and very pregnant Manja and Bartek:

Bartek at his workplace:

Somewhere in Balboa Park:

There are Cacti in San Diego! They do not grow too well in misty SF climate... ;)

As far as I can judge from the photos taken by my parents, Seaworld seems like an interesting place to visit. Maybe I should also go there next time I am in SF.