Giant Sequoias &
High Country Lakes
Day 6 - Garfield Grove and out to the South Fork - July 31, 2006
In the morning I woke up at first light. I wanted to get an early start - we had 8 miles
to hike and my boyfriend Todd was going to meet us at the South Fork Campground at
1:00 pm. So we got hiking by 7:00 am. We had to cross the creek and then the river
twice in the first 1/3 mile of trail so we just wore our Crocs until then. This trail is
called the Hockett Trail and it is one of the oldest built trails in the Sierra. It starts
its decent down the north facing side of the South Fork Canyon soon after crossing the
river for the final time. After a couple of miles you enter the Garfield Grove of Giant
Sequoias. This grove is one of the largest in wilderness condition in Sequoia National
Park. The trees grow on that north facing slope which is lush and green and is
criss-crossed by many streams but there aren't very many flat areas in which you could
camp. After a little while though you start to notice that up above the grove ends
abruptly at a boulder field. This was the site of a very large landslide back in 1867.
This is from the book "A Guide to the Sequoia Groves of California" by Dwight Willard:
"One of the most cataclysmic events affecting the Sierra Nevada in historic times
impacted the Garfield section of the grove. On December 20, 1867, a warm rain fell on
heavy snowpack blanketing the higher elevations of Dennison Ridge. One observer wrote
that "the north side of Dennison Mountain" fell through the heart of the grove into the
South Fork of the Kaweah, destorying a reported one-third of the grove's forest. The
avalanche and landslide swept down from as high as 7,500 feet, covering hundred of
acres, and devastating an area about 2.5 miles long and ranging in width from 1,500 to
4,000 feet. A natural dam was created measuring a half-mile wide and 400 feet high,
and the reservoir that formed behind it breached the dam on Christmas night."
"The flood scoured the canyon, then flooded Visalia in the Central Valley to a depth of
five feet. Sequoia logs and tree sections were carried to the valley, where they floated
far and wide beyond the riverbanks. Though new growth has disguised most signs of the
1867 avalanche in the grove, its effects are still dramatically apparent in the vicinity of
Snowslide Canyon, where dense sequoia forest ends abruptly at an avalanche boulder fild
which swept away all that was growing there before the slide."
After snowslide canyon the trail started descending ever steeper. It was here that I
noticed Torreya trees growing. I stopped to tell Candace about them as these are one
of my favorite trees to find. To most people they look like just another fir tree, but
they are not. Torreya trees are an ancient lineage of trees and now only 4 species are
found in the world. One grows in California, one in Florida, one in China, and one in Japan.
Click here to find out more about them. I think there are more Torreya Trees growing
along the trail below the Garfield Grove than I have seen any other place. We also saw a
few large ones.
The last 2-3 miles of trail descend through dry cedar and oak forest. Parts of this trail
are also very overgrown and we found ourselves bush-wacking through thimbleberry many
times. Thank goodness thimbleberry isn't a spiny or hard shrub to get through, but it
was still taxing. There is also a lot of poison oak along the trail. By the time we got
down to the South Fork Campground at 1:15 we were beat. We had hiked 8 miles and
descended 4,600 feet. I didn't see Todd right away so we put our packs down on a
campsite table and rested a little while. I then managed to get up and walk uphill to the
trailhead parking area and he wasn't there. So then I went back to the table to rest a
little before I could muster up the strength to go to the lower part of the campground,
lol But before that happened up drove Todd in the Subaru. Bless him, he had cold water
and Gatorade and a turkey sandwich for us. We loaded up then headed for Three Rivers
then south to Springville.
As is tradition, we all ate at El Nuevo. Many a hiker that has visited me has eaten at
this little hole-in-the-wall Mexican food place now :) It was a great way to end another
|Candace on the trail through the Garfield Grove
|Looking down a hollow fallen giant
|A mountain called Homer's Nose
|We made it!
8.1 miles and 4,600' descent made for a long last day...
|Torreya tree foliage and fruit