Anniversary Trip to Kings Canyon
October 7-8, 2006
This weekend Todd and I took a trip to the northern part of Sequoia National
Forest and Kings Canyon National Park in celebration of our 2 year anniversary of
meeting each other. We hiked to the Boole Tree on Saturday and then had dinner and
stayed at Montecito-Sequoia Lodge that night. This lodge is definitely a hold-over
from yesteryear. It's not just a hotel, but rather a place for families to go on an
extended vacation offering a variety of on site activities such as canoeing,
swimming, tennis, rock climbing, archery, riflery, arts and crafts, horse-back riding,
hiking, and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the wintertime. Meal times are
done buffet style and you wait your own tables. In the evenings there are family
dance parties and other fun activities. Accomodations are in some traditional motel
rooms as well as some rustic cabins with a common bath house. The lodge has been
ran by the same woman for many, many years. She's in her 80's now, though, and
we're told she may soon be selling the lodge. Hopefully the new owners will keep up
the family-friendly atmosphere of the place.
We met lots of nice people at Montecito-Sequoia and had a pleasant night there.
Well, except for the fact that our wood stove in our cabin smoked us out in the
middle of the night! Not sure why it did, but after airing the place out, we cuddled
back underneath the blankets and went back to sleep.
On Sunday we ate breakfast at the lodge then drove down into Kings Canyon on
Highway 180. Todd had been to nearby Hume Lake before but never any further and
I hadn't been to the base of the canyon in 6 years. Highway 180 is one of the most
scenic roads in the country and it is a designated National Forest Scenic Byway.
Kings Canyon, shortly after where the middle and south forks come together, is one
of the deepest canyons in North America. The river is at around 2,260 feet and the
ridge including Spanish Mountain looms 8,000 feet above at 10,051 feet. Needless
to say, it is an amazing drive down into the canyon with spectacular views along the
The Kings River has three main forks, the North, Middle, and South and all are
magnificent deep gorges featuring spectacular tall cliffs, wild white water rivers,
green vibrant meadows, marble caverns, and beautiful waterfalls. The North Fork
Kings River starts in the John Muir Wilderness of the Sierra National Forest and
flows in a westerly direction. It is impounded at Wishon Reservoir and then flows in
a southerly direction through Blackrock Reservoir and eventually meets the other
two forks just east of Pine Flat Reservoir.
The Middle and South Forks are both designated as Wild and Scenic Rivers from
shortly below their confluence to their headwaters. This designation took place on
November 3, 1987.
The Middle Fork Kings River starts in the northern part of Kings Canyon National
Park. It flows through a beautiful glacially carved canyon known as Tehipite Valley
before joining the South Fork near Yucca Point in the Sequoia National Forest.
The South Fork Kings River also flows through a glacially carved canyon and this
stretch is known as the Kings Canyon. And this is where Hwy 180 takes you.
|View from our Cabin at Montecito-Sequoia
|Deer we spotted peaking around the side of our cabin
|A nice morning to do some canoeing
We stopped at Horseshoe Bend where the highway is carved right out of the rock at
dizzying heights above the river. Around the bend is Boyden Cave, a marble cave
where they offer guided tours, and then shortly afterwards is Grizzly Falls. We sat
for awhile at the falls, enjoying the cool spray of water pounding granite rocks, then
drove to and ate at the small Cedar Grove lunch counter. We had fun watching the
squirrels and Stellar Jays trying to get people's picnic lunches and afterwards we
hiked part of the Zumwalt Meadow Trail. We couldn't have asked for better
weather! It was a beautiful day to be in this most wondrous locale. Kings Canyon, in
John Muir's own words, is a rival of Yosemite. Best of all, it gets nowhere near as
many visitors! We saw only a few people out and about on this sunny and blue-skied
|Scroll right for a panoramic view of the Kings Canyon area as
seen from Hwy 180 between Grant Grove and Cedar Grove
|Junction View - where the Middle and South
Forks of the Kings River meet
Anyway, I think a no more beautiful descriptive overview exists for Kings Canyon
other than John Muir's, so I've decided to include it here.
A Rival of the Yosemite
The CaÃ±on of the South Fork of Kings River, California
by John Muir, 1891
"In the vast Sierra wilderness far to the southward of the famous Yosemite Valley,
there is a yet grander valley of the same kind. It is situated on the south fork of
King's River, above the most extensive groves and forests of the giant sequoia, and
beneath the shadows the highest mountains in the range, where the caÃ±ons are
deepest and the snow-laden peaks are crowded most closely together. It is called
the Big King's River CaÃ±on, or King's River Yosemite, and is reached by way of
Visalia, the nearest point on the Southern Pacific Railroad, from which the distance
is about forty-five miles, or by the Kearsarge Pass from the east side of the range.
It is about ten miles long, half a mile wide, and the stupendous rocks of purplish gray
granite that form the walls are from 2500 to 5000 feet in height, while the depth
of the valley beloved the general surface of the mountain mass from which it has
been carved is considerably more than a mile. Thus it appears that this new
Yosemite is longer and deeper, and lies embedded in grander mountains, than the
well-known Yosemite of the Merced. Their general characters, however are
wonderfully alike, and they bear the same relationship to the fountains of the
ancient glaciers above them."
|Horseshoe Bend - note how the Highway is carved
right into the rock on the lower right and the huge
escarpment of gray rock - that's all marble!
|This road was built by Chinese Convicts in the 1930's
|A rugged individual, Ponderosa Pine
|From Boyden Cave on up the Highway follows the river
|Interesting peaks near Boyden Cave, I wonder if anyone
has ever climbed them?
|I love this rock! I don't think I've ever seen one more intricately folded
"As to waterfalls, those of the new valley are far less striking in general views,
although the volume of falling water is nearly twice as great and comes from higher
sources. The descent of the King's River streams is mostly made in the form of
cascades, which are outspread in flat plume-like sheets on smooth slopes, or are
squeezed in narrow-throated gorges, boiling, seething, in deep swirling pools, pouring
from lin to lin, and breaking into ragged, tossing masses of spray and foam in
boulder-choked caÃ±ons,--making marvelous mixtures with the downpouring
sunbeams, displaying a thousand and colors, and giving forth a great variety of wild
mountain melody, which, rolling from side to side against the echoing cliffs, is at
length all combined into one smooth, massy sea-like roar."
"The bottom of the valley is about 5000 feet above the sea, and its level or gently
sloping surface is diversified with flowery meadows and groves and open sunny flats,
through the midst of which the crystal river, ever changing, ever beautiful, makes it
way; now gliding softly with scarce a ripple over beds of brown pebbles, now rustling
and leaping in wild exultation across avalanche rock-dams or terminal moraines,
swaying from side to side, beaten with sunshine, or embowered with leaning pines
and firs, alders, willows, and tall balsam poplars, which with the bushes and grass at
their feet make charming banks. Gnarled snags and stumps here and there reach out
from the banks making cover for trout which seem to have caught their colors from
rainbow spray, though hiding mostly in shadows, where the current swirls slowly and
protecting sedges and willows dip their leaves."
"From this long, flowery, forested, well-watered park the walls rise abruptly in plain
precipices or richly sculptured masses partly separated by side caÃ±ons baring
wonderful wealth and variety of architectural forms, which are as wonderful in
beauty of color and fineness of finish as in colossal height and mass The So-called
war of the elements has done them no harm. There is no unsightly defacement as
yet; deep in the sky, inviting the onset of storms through unnumbered centuries,
they still stand firm and seemingly as fresh and unworn as new-born flowers."
"From the brink of the walls on either side the ground still rises in a series of
ice-carved ridges and basins, superbly forested and adorned with many small lakes
and meadows where deer and bear find grateful homes; while from the head of the
valley mountains other mountains rise beyond in glorious array, every one of them
shining with rock crystals and snow, and with a network of streams that sing their
way down from lake to lake through a labyrinth of ice-burnished caÃ±ons. The area of
the basins drained by the streams entering the valley is about 450 square miles, and
the elevation of the rim of the general basin is from 9000 to upward of 14,000 feet
above the sea; while the general basin of the Merced Yosemite has an area of 250
square miles, and its elevation is much lower."
"When from some commanding summit we view the mighty wilderness about this
central valley, and, after tracing its tributary streams, note how every converging
caÃ±on shows in its sculpture, moraines, and shining surfaces that it was once the
channel of a glacier, contemplating this dark period of grinding ice, it would seem
that here was a center of storm and stress to which no life would come. But it is
just where the ancient glaciers bore down on the mountain flank with crushing and
destructive and most concentrated energy that the most impressive displays of
divine beauty are offered to our admiration. Even now the snow falls every winter
about the valley to a depth of ten to twenty feet, and the booming of avalanches is a
common sound. Nevertheless the frailest flowers, blue and gold and purple, bloom on
the brows of the great caÃ±on rocks, and on the frosty peaks, up to a height of
13,000 feet, as well as in sheltered hollows and on level, meadows and lake borders
and banks of streams."
To read more of this John Muir article, click here!
More about this area
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|Grand Sentinel, above
North Dome, below
|Glacier Monument in the distance
|Todd on the suspension bridge near
|Huge gnarly old cedar near Zumwalt Meadow