Friday, January 19

day 4 part i: tokopah falls hike

We started off with another brisk 24 degree morning.  Drove a few miles to the Lodgepole Campground to hike Tokopah Falls Trail. At the entrance to the campground there was a sign that said bear car break-ins in the last 7 days.  It sort of made me laugh, but there were 3 break-ins noted on the sign!!  So we made sure to take every food and drink item that was in our car with us so we weren't number 4.  Hence the extras in my pack for this hike...

AND once again we were the trailblazers.

*note this post is a large mix of cell phone / camera photos

Tokopah Falls (7375 feet) 

We sat at the falls for a bit and ate cliff bars and drank a thermos full of hot coffee.  Much needed as the sun hadn't risen over the peak and it was cold out!  Nothing like sitting on cold rocks either.

When we reached the halfway point on our return we finally crossed paths with other hikers!  I will say, it's quite nice to have the trails to yourself, but you just have to be a bit more on watch for wildlife run-ins.

Watchtower Peak 8873 feet

The water was so clear...

After this hike we headed back to Lodgepole Market for a magnet and ornament.

Thursday, January 18

day 3: astrophotography at sequoia

Okay, I am NOT an astrophotographer, but it was something I had always wanted to at least try.  We were lodging in the perfect location which has an initiative to minimize light pollution, therefore they have very little outdoor lighting at night.  Most people carry flashlights or headlamps to/fro their lodges to their cars or the dining hall.  

The USA light pollution map is quite interesting.  You will note that the midwest to east coast of the USA has very high amounts of light pollution compared to the the majority of the west.  I would encourage you to click the link to see what I'm talking about.
About 8pm it was pitch dark out and we headed to the same parking lot where we saw the deer the day prior.  As it was our first go at this, we wanted somewhere close and relatively safe.  We bundled up, put on our headlamps and immediately with the naked eye we could easily see the Milky Way.  I don't think I knew what to expect as our visibility in the east coast would be nowhere near this.  The clarity of the sky and the brightness of the stars was just incredible!  We were also upon the month long Orionid meteor shower.  Another little surprise!
SONG: God of Wonders
Note: I've seen astro photos over edited and I was trying to capture it more realistic to what the natural eye sees.  These are edited.

The night prior, we used the SkyView Lite app to see what star constellations would be present at different times of the night.  It's 'live' so you have to check every hour or so to see what's going on above.  We knew Scorpius and Askella were part of the Milky Way and as long as we could see those in the app we knew the Milky Way would be visible.  

We didn't stay out all that long as the landscape was just trees.  Beautiful yes!  AND when you turn your head lamps off and you are standing vulnerable in PURE darkness (like never before), that is the longest 25 seconds of your life.  You literally could not see your hand in front of your face...  Disconcerting I would say.  Joe said, don't worry you will hear the bears nails clicking on the pavement if it comes this way.  HA!  No thanks!

God is one amazing creator.

Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth"...

Isaiah 42:5, "Thus says God, the Lordwho created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it:"

As you will see above, the Milky Way was present.

Image below was straight above us where we captured the Milky Way and a meteor!

The image below is probably my top pick.  With the naked eye we could not see any light pollution, however the photograph makes it quite evident that light pollution was indeed there.  The light pollution we captured (near the lower portion of the tree line, yellow / orange color) we are assuming was from Fresno, California as it was the west of us and has extremely high light pollution according to the map.

No Milky Way present on this side, but just beautiful trees and stars.

Our headlamps were OFF to photograph the sky, but a necessity to check our setup.  AND when you are trying to frame your photo you can see NOTHING in the view finder!  It was really a guess as to what was going to be in the photo.  We even tried using the headlamps as a guide and that didn't work either.

Wednesday, January 17

day 3: sequoia + kings canyon

I knew I was going to have to take dramamine for the drive on King's Canyon Scenic byway.  More than once...  I don't know about you, but dramamine for me works like a charm except that it makes me very, very tired (when we are driving, not adventuring in-between).  So I have to do my best to stay awake and not turn cranky.  I'm very aware that it will do this to me, so I really do try hard at least not to be cranky!

We started off pretty early as we had a bit of driving to do.

Sunrise overlook

Beautiful view, but a lot of air pollution!

The sun was just starting to peek and the mountains were a beautiful red orange. 

We made it to our first stop which wasn't far from where we were staying.  It was sooooooo cold!

The General Grant Tree Tail

Gamlin Cabin (below) is the first house in America's deepest canyon.  "The cabin was built in 1872 by Israel Gamlin.  Who with his brother Thomas Filed a timber claim to 160 acres within Grant Grove.  They quartered here until 1878 while grazing cattle in the mountains.  After General Grant National Park was established in 1890, the cabin was used as a storehouse by the U.S. Calvary who patrolled the park until 1913.  Later it became the quarters of the first park ranger station here."  - Gamlin Park signage.

General Grant Tree

The General Grant tree is the largest giant sequoia in the General Grant Grove section of Kings Canyon National Park in California and the second largest tree in the world.  The General Sherman (which was on the previous post), is the largest tree in the world in case you were wondering.

Joe was rather disappointment that the tree was blocked off by a fence.  Most of the monument trees were... for good reason.

McGee Fire of 1955

The overlook below still shown the 1955 disastrous wildfire that swept the area.  McGee fire had devastated more than 13,000 acres of brush and forest and threatened the Grant Grove sequoias.

Thankfully these trees have very thick bark!  The sequoia bark may have up to 3 feet thick and pine may be 2 inches thick.  Noting that fire rarely damages the living wood of these trees.

Somehow I stayed awake for the very long (beautiful) drive on the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway.  BUT I didn't feel sick, so thank you dramamine.

Panoramic of King's Canyon

Kings Canyon area glaciers are the southern-most in North America (Palisade Glacier).

Quick stop at Grizzly Falls

Joe gets the good hubby award for making photos with me in them.  Otherwise I probably wouldn't be in very many.

We hopped across the road to check out the South Fork Kings River

Entering Kings Canyon

Our next stop was Roaring Falls.  It was a short walk to get there and once we did a woman was quite panicked.  Her friend had fallen over some of the rocks.  Of course we couldn't see the lady as you had to go over the wall (which you aren't suppose to do).  Apparently they wanted a different view?  So Joe hopped over the wall and rushed down to help.  However, there were two other men (older family members maybe) down there with her.  Joe helped get her out.  She seemed to be okay, minus a few bruises and cuts.

Heed the warnings people.  Don't break rules.

OH and walking in and out of the car of this area were 10 million gnats that followed you around?  It was awful!  You had to speed walk for them not to be close by.

Our next stop was a hike around Zumwalt Meadow.

Signs of fall were here!  It was October...

Once we made it round the meadow, we finished our hike and drove to Roads End.  Literally the end of the road.

A few of King's Canyon Peaks (not all listed):

Rodger's Ridge
Spanish Mountain (10,051 feet)
Crown Rock (9342 feet)
Obelisk (9700 feet)
Little Tehipite Valley
Mt. Harrington (11,008 feet)
University Peak (13,632 feet)

Another Panoramic of Kings Canyon

During our honeymoon almost 10 years ago Joe wanted to stop by the Napa Valley sign to take make a picture.  During that time there weren't camera phones and I didn't have a tripod so we didn't take the photo.  I still haven't heard the end of it!!  So TO THIS DAY if Joe sees a sign we MUST take a photo by it.  I don't want to recreate / relive the Napa Valley sign story.  One missed sign is enough!

RE-ENTERING Sequoia National Park

Tree hugger...