Kings Canyon and Seqouia National Parks

Trip Start Jul 23, 2000
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Trip End Aug 21, 2000


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Flag of United States  , California
Saturday, August 19, 2000

14/8/2000



Yesterday we stopped at a flea market and I bought two books (a Star Trek book and the making of Return of the Jedi).

The "Moon of Endor" scenes (according to the book) were filmed in Crescent City, Northern California. I will give you one guess where we have camped...?

Just south of Crescent City, North California. I suppose the co-incidence is the timing of the purchase of this book. Weird or what?!

Last night, I was absolutely freezing.

After waking up very early, I did not want to get up so I read until about 9.15am.

After getting up, we decided that our lazy, relaxing day would also have some activities.

We set off in the car heading south on route 101.

After a few miles, we turned off the main road and headed up to Kitmath Viewpoint. From here, it was possible to see the Kitmath River, Kitmath estuary, the sandbar and the beautiful Pacific.

Back in the car, we ventured further into the Redwood Forest. The landscape and scenery were incredible.

It was like being on the forest moon of Endor. Massive redwood trees, dark ferns, cool shade and absolute quiet.

We took three trails. These were:

1) The Southfolk trail;

2) The Big Tree trail (92.6m wow!)

3) The corkscrew trail.

The trees here are magnificent with many of them being older than a millennium.

I stood in sheer awe of these magnificent organisms and their longevity.

We did not do much in the afternoon as this was supposed to be a rest day (despite the earlier expedition).

We sunbathed, relaxed and enjoyed both the sunshine and the shade that the forest provided.

The evening was relaxing too and consisted of some more table tennis and some games of pool where I had mixed fortunes.

15/8/2000

 I honestly think last night was the coldest night yet. Or at least it certainly felt like it at the time!

An early morning shower warmed me up and gave me the impetus to pack away and leave.

By 8.10am, we were heading south on route 101. As we drove through Redwood National Park, we were climbing to over 300 metres. The low cloud was hanging over and under the trees. The effect was beautiful and it was tremendously humbling to see the large redwoods again.

As the morning went on, the clouds began to burn away. Back at sea level, the beaches looked more like I was used to in the north west of England.


After we drove around 30 miles, we entered the famous Avenue of the Giants. We stopped to take the Founder Tree trail.

There was an enormous high redwood here (as if they weren't all high!).

These trees are amazing. Along the trail, there were trees which had holes rright through the middle of them yet they were alive and thriving.

Many of the trees had fallen along this trail. The fallen trees were an amazing sight. All of them had vegetation groeing from them. Apparatnyl, it takes forty years for the trunk to decay into the surrounding vegetation. This is the death and burial of a tree.

After leaving this amazing place, we drove on through Northern california south on route 101. The landscape was suddenly hilly and the trees were short and less dense.

This was the land of the vineyards. The land of Falcon Crest.

Two hours later we were in the outskirts of San Francisco looking for a campsite. China Camp (overlooking San Pablo bay) was full. After a 30 mile drive around route 1 on the Pacific coast, we only found two other full campsites.

So we were forced to cross the Golden Gate Bridge which is an amazing bridge. From there, the views of San Francisco were incredible. We drove around the outskirts. I noticed that the buildings were all whitewashed in pastel colours. Also the streets really were like on the series "The Streets of San Francisco"!

We searched all evening for a campsite but were unsuccessful. We spent the evening in Chinatown where we ate and then in the bars and cafes in the Castro district of the city.

16/8/2000

Guess where we slept last night? Yep in the car! I feel too emotional about the subject to go into detail now.

This was the accumulation of over 130 miles of driving looking for campsites. Here is a précis of events:

1)      Arrive at China Camp State Park. Full

2)     Drive 30 miles to Mount Tampalais. Stroppy ranger. Need a permit.

3)     Drive 15 miles to Muir Wood campground. Full

4)     RV. Park (30 miles further). Full.

5)     Another 20 miles drive to Half Moon Bay State Park. Full. Bollocks it was and he knew we knew it.

6)     Another RV park full.

7)     Another hostel full.

In the end, we gave up and car the car near China Camp State Park and slept. When we awoke, we had breakfast by San Pablo Bay and set up the camp immediately.

After wasting time trying to calculate whether taking the park and ride bus or ferry was the best option, we drove into San Francisco.

After parking up we took an electric bus into Chinatown. There, we had an early lunch in a cheap and cheerful restaurant.

We also went to the Cable Car Museum to buy our day pass.

There we saw how the cable car system worked and we actually watched the pulley system. When the cars more, they grip the cable which are underneath the road. Simple or what!

We took one for one stop and then briefly visited the Chinese Culture Centre and its snuffbox exhibition. We ambled on to the pyramid shaped Transamerica Building before taking a bus down to Fisherman’s Wharf, a huge tourist trap in the north of the city.

At Fisherman’s Wharf, we got some great views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the famous prison, Alcatraz.

From here we took a famous San Francisco cable car all the way back to the city centre where we walked though the streets around Union Square.

Very tired from the busy day, we took the car, drove east seven miles to the San Francisco ocean beach where I swam for my first time in the beautiful (but cold!) Pacific Ocean.

Again, the evening was occupied by walking the streets of the city, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the bar, restaurants and cafes (of Castro) before we headed back to the campsite.

17/8/2000

Now I am a bit calmer and detached from my emotions, I would like to metion the theme of “sleeping rough”. Here is a list of my sleeping rough history.

1)      San Sebastian in the car with familty (July 1984)

2)     Seville in a park (with Sibohan) (April 1993)

3)     Algeciras port on my own (April 1993)

4)     Pamplona with Tony in a park (July 1993)

5)     Leonardo da Vinci airport on my own (June 1996)

6)     San Francisco with Bobby (August 2000)

What a list! I do not try and make a habit of this believe me!

What upset me about two days ago was that we tried from 3.00pm to find somewhere to stay and had no luck.

San Francisco is a great city but really does need to get its act together in terms of getting a lot more campsites.

Anyway, back to today! Today, I got up at 10.00am. This is a record for me but we really needed to catch up and rest.

We packed away and by 10.40am, we were in a traffic jam! Luckily, we escaped long delays and were we on the Double Decker San Rafael bridge. From this bridge, I got a great view of the city, the Oakland Bridge, San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.

As we drove way I pondered on my feelings about San Francisco. I resented it for the bad experience it gave me but on the other hand, I admired many aspects of the city’s life. One thing is for sure. San Francisco is far too expensive! $2.50 for 2 minutes parting is simply ridiculous.

So on we went. Today was a rest day so we only drove for 2 ˝ hours eastwards towards Stockton. On the way, I unexpectedly fulfilled a lifetime ambition of mine!

I had always wanted to see a plethora of wind turbines together in a landscape. About an hour east on route 280, we went across a pass there they were.

They were bunched together is groups ranging from 10-50. They were magnificent and to me they enhanced the landscape. What a brilliant invention!

After reaching the campsite, we quickly set up camp and I sent for a dip in the pool. It was so hot (33 degrees C) today. The sun was relentless. In the evening, we chatted to Joe and Jody, a couple from Washington State and then had a late tea.

18/8/2000

Last night was the worst night’s sleep I have ever had in the U.S.A. On average, once an hour, a bell would start ringing to warn of a coming train. Then the train would horn several times. Then, the noise of the passing train. It was deafening and woke me up 10-15 times during the night.

On a lighter note the drive to Yosemite was painless and relatively quick. Around 11.00am, we arrived and hastily put up the tent and got everything into the bear box.

Driving through Yosemite Valley was really interesting.

“Yosemite Valley may be the world’s best known example of a glacier carved canyon.” Yosemite National Park 2000.

The canyon had steep granite cliffs with trees grasped to them like seasoned climbers. The forest was littered with redwood trees.

Driving through the canyon, we arrive at Bridaveil Fall. This was a beautiful, high waterfall which cascaded off a granite cliff. It was mesmerising.

Out next stop was El Capitan. A sheer cliff with no trees. My thoughts were of a scene from Star Trek V and how silly Captain Kirk was during it.

We then moved on to Half Dome which looked like a collapsed mountain. Beautiful nevertheless!

Our next stop was Yosemite Village and the lower and upper Yosemite Falls.

Unfortunately, they were dried up! I was really disappointed. Although I loved the scenery and the park (they had a series of beautiful features), I still had that sense of disappointment.

However, I quickly shrugged it off and enjoyed the Yosemite scenery for the rest of the afternoon. We cooked a chilli con carne in the evening and enjoyed the sounds of the evening in the park as the sun set.

19/8/2000

No bears last night! Just a cold mountain night. Touching the tent poles when we packed away was agony!

We were on the road at 8.00am and after stopping a few times to take some final photos of Yosemite, we were on our way.

We got to Fresno, California around 10.30am, did some shopping and ate. There were so many Hispanics here. Even more than San Diego.

By 12.00pm, we were on our way again. Around this time, we were heading east and the landscape became hilly with lots of orange trees.

The hills became more mountainous as we approached King’s Canyon National Park. After entering, we stopped a couple of times to get a view of King’s Canyon and the Sequoia redwoods.

We then entered Sequoia National Park which was incredible among the mountains. In between white fir and sugar fir trees stood these enormous redwood trees. The first place we stopped to admire them as Lost Grove!

I climbed into a redwood tree. Yes, inside the trunk of a tree. I also climbed up a trunk (only a short distance though).

After a short drive, we arrived at the enormous General Sherman Redwood, the largest living organism in the world. The sight of this tree was magnificent. So wide, so tall, so strong.

From here, we drove through the Giant Forest and I drove onto Autolog with the car.

Just around the corner was Moro rock. We climbed and climbed until eventually (after 747 steps) we reached the summit which rewarded us with wonderful views of the Sequoia peaks and valley floor.

We got on our way in the end at Tunnel log by taking a photo of the car through the inside of a tress.

Descending back from 7000 feet to earth was fun and soon we were heading west towards the Pacific coast again!

I made a mistake with the map which sent us 30 miles off course. It was dark when we arrived at Santa Margarita Lake.  We ate some steaks and sweetcorn, showered and watched the stars and then went to bed.

20/8/2000

What a great night’s sleeps! No cold air or damp sheets!

We packed away a little later and were away f or 10.00am. We ate breakfast and headed off towards the coast.

Driving through Santa Maria, we got caught in a procession and had to turn back and go north briefly on the freeway.

You can see that this area of the country is absolutely dripping with money. This was the land of Santa Barbara, land of the free, land of the rich.

Massive cars, beautiful chalets, well kepyt parkways and boulevards revealed the affluence on the coast.

We made a couple of failed attempts to camp and we got lucky with Emma Beach State Park.

Disaster struck when setting up. Someone had forgotten to tack away the tent pegs. This was a real worry as we could not be able to set up the tent without them!

Bobby went off to look for a store while I did what I could at the site! Hey someone had to look after it! Our site was about 5 metres from the beach and the Pacific Ocean. A dream come true.

Eventually Bobby came back and although the problem was not solved permanently, we had some pegs and we did not put up the outer tent!

We swam all afternoon in the sea. What a huge force the ocean is! In the evening, we saw a beautiful Pacific sunset. What a great day!

21/8/2000

Over the last few days, I have found myself thinking about going back home, the holiday and the things I missed back in England.

I suppose the things I miss are the things I am use to doing there. Some of these include:

1)      Coronation Street/Brookside!

2)    Star Trek of course

3)    The garden

4)    Work (believe it or not!)

5)    Friends

6)    Going out

I should say that I would not want to trade this experience for any of thee but the price of one expeierience is that of not having another.

Although some of my thoughts dwell on being, they are few and far between,

Anyway, back to the U.S.A. We left Emma Beach very early (with a damp tent) and by 10.00am, we were in affluent Malibu.

We reserved the pitch and then headed off to central Los Angeles. We found Melrose Avenue and I dropped Bobby off. I got lost but soon found Paramount Studios. The tour lasted a few hours and the highlights were definitely saying hi to Jeri Ryan (7 of 9) and Dwight Schultz (Howling Mad Murdoch) as well as entering 2 Voyager sets (the shuttle bay and the holographic simulation of a 20th century cinema.

I saw other sets such as:

1)      Moral Court;

2)    Entertainment Tonight;

3)    Soul Train;

4)    Something Boulevard!

I really enjoyed the tour and saw some unexpected things. In the later part of the afternoon, I ambled up and down Hollywood Boulevard slowly taking in the names of the stars (most of whose names I did not recognise!). Hollywood is amazingly tacky and a tourist trap but hey, this is L.A.!

After suffering a traffic jam and an incompetent campground host, we set up the site and enjoyed the sunset behind the Malibu Hills.

The evening was calm and peaceful and we were once again greeted by the stars; celestial ones this time!

22/8/10

Seeing the squirrels in the beach had me thinking about the remarkable variety of wildlife I have seen during the last five weeks. These are the ones I can remember:

1)      Grizzly Bear (Hyder, Alaska)

2)    Black Bear (Hyder, Alaska)

3)    Polar bear (San Diego Zoo)

4)    Deer (Various e.g. San Francisco, China Camp State Park)

5)    Elk (Yellowstone Park)

6)    Osprey (Yellowstone Park)

7)    Trumpet Swan (Yellowstone Park)

8)    Grey Squirrel (Yellowstone Park)

9)    Coyote (Yellowstone Park)

10) Marmot (Canyonlands National Park)

11)  Chipmunk (Yellowstone Park)

12) Prairie Dog (North Dakota0

13) Orcas (Vancouver)

14) Seals and sealions (San Juna Islands)

15) Woodpeckers (Various e.g. Sequoia I killed one L)

16) Hummingbirds (San Diego Zoo)

And the list goes on.

Seeing each bird, mammal, insect or fish has given me a deeper feeling for the complexities of our world and a sense of how precious ALL life is on our planet.

OK. Back to today. Despite all the noise made by what I would call the French version of the Clampets or Battersrby’s, I had a great night’s sleep.

Timer for a dip I thought! So off we went down to one of Malibu’s beaches. Again the water was blue, the waves strong and the beach filled with golden sand.

As I took my first dip I got a shock. I saw a fin in the water.

I thought it was a great white shark and it moved towards the beach rather quickly.

I soon realised that the fin was in fact a dolphin’s fin. They were only about fifteen metres away.

During the day, the group of dolphins swam passed our point, along the beach several times. What a wonderful sight to see.

The sun was so hot (35 degrees C) that around 3.00pm we went shopping and we used the rest of the afternoon to shelter form the scorching sun.

In the evening a group of French people became our new neighbours. They seemed far more pleasant than the Clampets!

23/8/2000

One of the things that impresses me about America is its diversity. It is so diverse that it is difficult to get used or bored with it  Before I fill you in on today, I’ll try and explain be describing each state we have visited. California is diverse in itself. It has massive cities, beautiful beaches, rocky cliffs, high mountains, dense redwood forests, dense woods, rolling hills. Virtually everything, even dessert.

Nevada seemed very arid and flat with mountainous areas. This state stuck me as being dry and very hot.

Arizona was very similar,. A striking part of this state must be its canyons especially Glen Canyon and Grand Canyon.

Utah has hills, mountains, canyons arches, strange rock formations, lakes, rivers and there’s a striking contrast between north and south.

Idaho, Wyoming and West Montana are forested and very mountainous. Alaska is wild, unspoilt and break taking.

North Dakota was hillier than mountainous and greener. Washington and Oregon are blessed with forest, mountains and masses of beautiful shoreline.

These of course are impressions and do not really begin to reflect either the beauty or even the real diversity within the states themselves. Better to see them with your own eyes!

Anyway, what a blast today was! We drove about 50 miles to Six Flags, a theme park. We went on the following rides:

1)      Goliath x 2 (255  feet drop, 85mph)

2)    Colossus x 4 (old white, wooden, massive rollercoaster)

3)    Batman (Nemesis at Alton Towers)

4)    Riddler’s Revenge

5)    Freefall x 3

6)    Psyclone

7)    Jet Stream

8)    Ride the Rapids

9)    Log Slammer

10) Meteoroide (spinning thing)

11)  The Revolution

12) The Viper x 4 (7 loops)

13) GoldRusher (Runaway train)

14)  Superman Escape (100mph)

At a count, we rode 16 rollercoaster and 23 rides altogether. IU was all rollercoasterd out for the first time in my life!

It was great to experience them all especially the Colossus and the Viper as I had seen them so many times on the television. By the time we retuned to the camp, it was dark and I fell asleep immediately (despite more rude (group) neighbours!

24/8/2000

34 degrees C today. Today, I would first like to make refere3nce to the highlights of this trip. Where do I begin?!

I will go through them in chronological order. I really enjoyed the Mexico experience. Something different I suppose.

San Diego Zoo was great and it was a while since I had been to a zoo.

The Utah parks namely: Zion, The Grand Canyon, Canyonlands and Arches were a unique experience and wonderful. I really want to come back here.

Yellostone was special. Just as special as the first time round. Glacier was extraordinary. Banff and Jasper were simply out of this world.

Hyder was special. Seeing the grizzlies and their cubs was such a wonderful experience as were the glaciers.

King’s Canyon and Sequoia were a treat as were the redwoods. Finally, I really enjoyed being in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver. Oh Las Vegas was tacky but great too!

So as you can tell it has been a thrill from start to finish. What a wonderful time.

Anyway, back to today! Still a few days to enjoy yet. We set off early and headed off to Los Angles and Venice to be more precise.

What a great experience this was for me. Ever since I was eleven and I had seen the film “Breakdance” with its Venice beach scenes, I had wanted to come to Venice.

It was just how I remembered it; palm trees, golden sand, walkways, skaters, electro music, bodybuilders. This place was timeless!

We ambled up and down Ocean Beach Walk before heading off into Hollywood.

After spending a while walking up and down Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard, we took a drive around Beverley Hills and Bel Air. The wealth is impressive here but it is only money. People here do not seem to smile more here than anywhere else.

In the late afternoon, we did what Americans do best. We went to a shopping mall about 20 miles north of Los Angeles and I shopped and shopped and shopped.

On the way home, we were caught in a traffic jam due to a scrub fire but we eventually passed it. I suppose this is the price of the hot weather.

25/8/2000

As I commented on the highlights of this trip, it is only fair that I do not paint too rosy a picture, Therefore, I must note the low points of this trip.

The first low point (but it was a good experience as well) has to be Death Valley. When we arrived, we knew things would be difficult but we did not account for:

1)      The blistering heat after the sun went down;

2)    The blasting wind;

3)    The hard rock which did not like the tent pegs;

4)    Everything radiating heat.

We survived! Up in Alaska, camping in the campground next to where someone had been eaten by a bear 10 days previously was also very frightening. The second night, I was truly frozen with fear as we had been eating fish and we smelled of smoked salmon. We survived.

Finally, the day we arrived in San Francisco and did our, “Let’s drive 150 miles to every campground only to be told its full”. Sleeping in the car was OK but it’s the thought of being pestered told to move on by the police that worries me.

Oh of course the day before yesterday’s discovery of no tent pegs was a real low point. However, we have come through the other side without any scars but certainly some stories to tell!

Back to today! I was tired this morning as we had had a good chat with Erica and Jamie, two girls from Ohio who had the pitch next to use.

They had been down to Tijuana and were going to meet friends in San Francisco and go to a party iun the Castro area.

Even though we had only known them for half a day, we got on really well. I was sad to see them go son soon.

After our habitual wash, we gave the car a thorough clean on the inside and I washed it on the outside with a dish cloth and a 2 litre bottle of water.

The beach was great and we spent the whole day there! Finally at 6.00pm, we called it a day. Just before we left 3 men appeared in military uniforms and 2 were simply abusing the third (MR Chiu( by making him run in the water, run down the beach. What a bunch of weirdoes. If this was some sort of joke, it was not funny. If they were army, they are nothing but bullies and should have been arrested.

We ate as the sun went down and enjoyed the dusk.

26/8/2000

After a good night’s sleep, I awoke to the sound of a group of Hispanics laughing loudly and shouting. It was 6.15am!

One of the down sides of camping is this . If you have even the aslightest noisy of neighbours, it is difficultto do anything about it!

I decided to go down to the beach to escape the noise. I am so glad I did. In the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of something. I looked up and in the water (about 15 metres away) were a group of dolphins! I could not believe it! They were so close. They were not shy and swam around me and in front of me.

I saw two really clearly. A clear wave hit them and passed over them. I shared a couple of minutes with them before they swam away back to the deeper water. I felt exhilarated to have shared this experience with them.

At 10.00am, we moved out side to T8 (hopefully our last pitch!)and had breakfast courtesy of our neighbours and set up the new site under a tree.

At 11.00am, we headed off again for our third day in Los Angeles. He headed off into down town Los Angeles which is east of where we had been up to then.

We did not spend much time there as it seemed to be a bit lifeless. It was Saturday and this appeared to be a business like district and there were only a few people around!

So from here, we went over to Melrose and the park where we were two days previously. We had a burger lunch and ambled along the shops of Santa Monica Boulevard.

I was eager to shop and I had this hunger well and truly satisfied.

I spent two hours in just one shop and I must have gone through every clothes rack there. I bought so many things I felt guilty but I then I realised just how seldom I actually do buy clothes.

Upon our return, our new neighbours (the ones who had kindly provided our breakfast) gave us some steaks for supper. They were so delicious. We reciprocated by giving them the remainder of our meal. They were a really kind family. So many Americans are.

27/8/2000

It occurred to me this morning that we have used a verity of modes of transport. I will try to list them:

Mode of Transport                    Where?

Aeroplane                                 Newcastle, London, L.A.

Car                                           Everywhere!

Foot                                         Everywhere!

Electric bus                              Seattle, San Francisco

Ferry                                       San Juan Islands

Train/Metro                             Vancouver

Cable Car                                  San Francisco

Ferrybus                                  Vancouver

These are the ones I can remember. We had of course a flawed attempt to rent a scooter and bicycle at the San Juan Islands.

To have the wonderful experiences that I have had the last five weeks , all of the above have been necessary at different times and for different lengths of time. I am grateful for them all.

Today was a quiet rest day. Despite some personal difficulties (the content of which I could not possibly describe in this blog!) I was determined to rest so I would be ready for the return journey.

In the morning, I sat on Malibu beach, possibly for the last time and listened to the ocean.

My friends, the dolphins made another appearance albeit for a short period of time. My emotions today are that of looking forward to returning but on the other hand not wanting to leave.

The hours passed by without incident , the waves just kept rolling forwards and then backwards in their  seemingly endless cycle. To my horror I discovered that the camera was broken. I am not sure when this film began but I really hope we do not loose it. I tried twice to get it working but I was unsuccessful.

The heat of the afternoon was too much for me so I spent much of it under the shade of the tree on our pitch. As I drove to the supermarket, it occurred to me that we have done 8900 miles which is virtually the same as two years ago. I will try and make an exact note of the mileage. Wouldn’t it be spooky if….??!!!

My final evening was uneventful and really dominated by a sense of reflection and wondering about the future. Who knows!

28/8/2000

Today was a busy day. Although I looked forward to hgetting the journey over with I found myself reflecting on the last 37 days.

37 days. It seems more like 6 months. What a holiday. Sometimes, I tihkn about what we did, where we went and what we saw and wondered how we fitted it into 37 days.

From an urban point of view U.S. cities are very distinct:

1)      Large freeways;

2)    Walk/Do not walk;

3)    Skyscrapers

4)    Blocks, streets and avenues..

They lack history but certainly not excitement. On the other hand, rural U.S.A. cannot be beaten. Oh and don’t foget Canada!
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