Truly beautiful – and unlike most others, if you only had time to do one park area, we would pick the Sequoia and Kings Canyon area over Yosemite (where we now are).
The first thing of note is the lengths Americans go to claim they have the biggest or best!!! We all know the so called Baseball World Series claim but one of the things we wanted to see at Sequoia was the so called ‘largest living thing on the planet’ – the General Sherman Sequoia Tree. Now as it turns out this tree is not the tallest (which is what we naturally assumed) nor does it have the largest girth. It is in fact the largest living thing by volume!!!
The General Sherman Sequoia Tree is very impressive as are all the Sequoia trees of which most are 2,000 to 3,000 years old. The are an unusual looking tree as they appear to be the same thickness from bottom to top – about the diameter of the width of a medium sized car – with all their foliage and branches being at the very top.
The forests in the area are primarily made of different types of pine so the ground coverage is not thick and the forests are easy to walk through primarily over dried beds of pine needles. One of the variety of pines is the American Sugar Pine, which has the largest pine cones of about 1 to 2 feet in length. If you want to get a similar experience (for significantly less cost) then there is a nice walk just out of Tumut in the Australian Snowy Mountains where a field of American Sugar Pine has been planted.
Our highlight while at the parks was that we got to see a BEAR in the wild. This is not as common as we first thought! It was a beautiful site just watching it rummage around for grubs and berries. The bears here are called black bears they are about the height of a large dog but obviously much fatter with very long claws. Molly read that black bears can be brown, black, white or reddish in colour which has her trying to work out why they are called black bears!
The three nights in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks represent my only accommodation blunder to date. We booked into what we thought was a cabin that would be of a standard that would rate at least a couple of stars. What we got was something that looked like a cubby house with two double sized beds – and that was it! It was primitive and the shower and toilet block was very average. I guess on the bright side we at least had showers as none of the camp sites did plus after the hectic schedule of the last week and a half, all we wanted to do at night was sleep – which we did – and now we are energised and refreshed to enjoy Napa and San Francisco.
There was an additional bonus with the cubby cabin – when I returned from the shower the first morning I stepped into the cabin to find all three girls cowering on the corner of one of the beds – there were two little mice holding them ransom!!!
Although primitive the camp area was nice – there were lots of squirrel’s and chipmunks running around. A pizza place for dinner the first night and a restaurant for dinner on the third night. On the second night we had a lovely BBQ, put on by the rangers, down in one of the meadows. The usual ribs and chicken with corn bread etc. but they also did a veggie burger for Kerrie – she was wrapped – and they had a fire where the kids could cook smoors. This is where the American came out in Molly and Emily as the ingredients for smoors should be a wheat cracker, melted marshmallow (from a stick over the fire) and chocolate. The rangers went with the simpler version and did not provide chocolate. The girls were not happy and noted to everyone that these were not real smoors – thanks to Matt and Ben Finley for the smoors lesson, I do think we did it better over a fire in the Snowy!!!
Another achievement while at Sequoia National Park is that the girls became JUNIOR RANGERS. They had to drag a booklet around with them and complete various activities from it while on hikes with us. They collected a bag of recyclable rubbish from with the park. Took the book to rubbish to the ranger visitor centre and received a certificate, junior ranger badge and patch for their troubles. Emily especially got right into it and has been wearing her badge around.
To see Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks comfortably you really need two days. Basically a day to do each one. All of the tourist sights are in the Sequoia National Park and include the General Sherman Tree, the General Grant Tree, Moro Rock, Crystal Cave, Tunnel Log and Panoramic Point.
Moror Rock is a spectacular climb where a staircase has been cut into a very large granite dome that you climb up to get a beautiful view of the parks. Tunnel Log is where a Sequoia Tree has fallen across the road and they have cut a tunnel through it where normal sized cars can drive through.
Kings Canyon is in the opposite direction hence why the second day is required. Kings Canyon is more for walking and the beautiful and extreme scenery of large cliffs and granite outcrops. If you were doing Yosemite you could give Kings Canyon a miss a Yosemite is similar and more extreme. However I prefer Kings Canyon as no crowds and Yosemite is packed – absolutely packed – with people.