Sequoia and King's Canyon National Park are adjacent to one another and it took us almost four hours to reach the park gate. The ranger informed us that the camping in Sequoia was full so we decided to camp in the Cedar Grove area of King’s Canyon. We headed over the sequoia covered ridge peaking at around 7000 feet. The narrow road wound along steep and jagged cliffs as we made our way down the back side of the mountain and along the sides of King’s Canyon. The sun was rapidly lowering in the sky highlighting the majestic vistas of the glacially carved landscape
. I glimpsed waterfalls through the pine trees; the water eventually flowing to the surging King’s River that cut its way through the narrow canyon floor. An hour later the road ended in the Cedar Grove area. Twilight was settling in as we tried to select a good camping spot. We finally decided on a large site in the Sheep Creek campground. Although several large pines and sequoias towered around the area, I was a little disappointed that the campground was not more densely forested. Then I looked up. The first stars of the evening were appearing directly above. The shadows of the tall trees bordered the perfect outlook of the night sky. Once our tent was set up and the camp fire crackling, we nestled around the fire watching the sky brighten with stars until there was almost more light than darkness.
The next morning we woke to see the campground in daylight. Despite our 4600 foot elevation, the cliffs of the canyon loomed above us. We decided to stay in King’s Canyon for the day then explore Sequoia National Park on Saturday. A park ranger recommended hiking to Mist Falls, a nine mile round trip. Despite the beautiful scenery, the first steps of the trail were sandy causing it to be more difficult to walk on. The wooded area of the trailhead opened to meadows allowing the sun to beat down on us. Luckily after a mile or so, more trees lined and shaded the trail and pine needles were a welcome relief to my calves
. The chilly green water of the turbulent King’s River offered lower temperatures especially in areas where large boulders dotted the trail trapping in the cooler air. Rocky stairs appeared ahead and we climbed up above the tree line onto granite boulders. Sweating, I looked up the canyon walls and beyond to the mountain tops. Small patches of snow still remained in the cirques above. The roar of the water increased and water toppled over the side of a giant rock. We questioned if that could be Mist Falls, but did not think we had walked far enough. Another twenty minutes later, the aptly named Mist Falls appeared. At least 100 feet from the base, the spray hit our faces as we walked to the edge of the water. It felt amazing. A lot of people were sitting in the area enjoying their lunch. We continued climbing up to the top. Smooth rocks provided a perfect sitting and vantage point. Snacking on apples, we spotted a waterfall high up on the canyon walls, tumbling through a narrow corridor. The break from hiking was nice, but we were still hot. On the way down, we walked back into the mist and spent a couple minutes enjoying the refreshing droplets. I was happier and feeling better than before we started as we retraced our steps back to the trailhead.
After a little rest and a late lunch back at the campground, Mike decided that he needed to cool off with a swim. Posted all along the King River were scary "Deadly River" signs warning against swimming with a photo of a lone hand reaching out of the water waving for help
. “We don’t advocate swimming anywhere, but people sometimes swim in a calmer section near the Zumwalt Meadows trailhead,” a ranger advised. Mike looked for a good spot to get in and also get out. There did not seem to be a lot of options. He finally just dove in. The current was much stronger than he anticipated and he grabbed onto a branch in the water to stay in place. It did not take long in the nippy water for Mike to cool down. He dried off and we hit the Zumwalt Meadow trail, a 1.5 mile loop that had also been suggested. We followed the river than headed across a footbridge that resembled a miniature Golden Gate. We entered a small forest than followed the trail along a wooden path raised about a foot above the meadow. The aquamarine river flowed between the trees and the emerald green pasture. The gorgeous setting was backdropped by huge granite mountains. The trail skirted the perimeter of the meadow before ending at the base of the southern mountains. Here the trail was flanked with massive boulders and riddled with smaller ones that often required climbing. The rocks were visible reminders that glaciers had once carved this canyon, plucking these rocks out of the mountains as they advanced and depositing them as they melted.
It was late afternoon. There was one more spot we wanted to see: Roaring River Falls. Fortunately for our tired legs, it was a short five minute walk from the parking lot to the overlook. The two tiered cascade swirled through the stone walls surrounding it. The hot temperature had faded and the air was perfect as we sat on a enormous rock watching the torrent of water. For now, my hiking craving was satisfied and my soul was happy. I believe some addictions are nothing but positive. Besides, twelve step programs are said to provide
The first step is admitting you have a problem, an addiction. Ever since our West Coast road trip, I have been itching to go camping again. I get absolutely restless if I go a week without a good hike. Sequoia National Park was another place I desperately wanted to visit so I convinced Mike that we could leave as soon as he got out of school and go camping for a couple nights.