Our last day in the cabin we decided to venture down the mountain, and then back up into another part called Balch Park. It was another winding drive through what seemed like the middle of nowhere, but this time we started to see some really big trees. At first we were just seeing stumps, and hoping it wasn’t going to be a depressing day in the woods. But eventually we got to a picnic area with a lot of full-grown sequoias.
One interesting thing about giant sequoias — they actually have tiny pinecones, about the size of an egg. They are really tightly closed, though, so it takes fire to open them up. That’s why a lot of trees have visible fire damage. They’re built to survive it.
After lunch we went on a little hike in the woods. Once again we kept seeing all sorts of interesting plants.
This one was easy — wild roses.
This particular area had some archaelogical sites where thousands of years ago people had used these basins in the rocks.
After lunch we drove on into Balch Park. You can see a lot more significant trees in that area. And you can even camp underneath them! (note to self for future trips).
I love that a lot of the trees have names.
Some of them were so big they were once used as shelters, houses, restaurants. I’m glad there was a little museum there so you could see all the historical photos of the area.
We were surprised to learn that giant sequoia wood isn’t even good for building. It was so brittle that some of it was used for stakes or pencils. It’s kind of unbelievable that people were so driven to cut them down anyway.
This one refused to be cut down!
The scale of the trees is just really hard to put into words.
We kept taking photos of the Yaris next to them for comparison.
There were cute little ground squirrels all over the place.
But after a long day of exploring we had to make the trek back to the cabin. The next day we drove to the Kings Canyon National Park, where we stayed in the Grant Grove area at the John Muir Lodge.
I can highly recommend this place. It’s really comfy and is right nearby the restaurant and visitors center.
Anyway, our first goal was to drive down the road a little bit and see the General Grant tree.
It’s a short, easy hike to get to it, and there are lots of other huge trees in the area.
The Nation’s Christmas Tree.
We could have gone to see the biggest tree, the General Sherman, but it was such a long drive that we couldn’t fit it in. Instead we cornered this park ranger and got all the information we could about giant sequoias.
He also helped us identify this strange looking plant. It’s called snow plant.
That night we ventured to a lookout point not too far from the lodge and ate blackberry pie with this view.
The next morning, our last day there, we decided to drive down into Kings Canyon. We’d heard the drive itself was as much a part of the experience as getting to the bottom, and that turned out to be true.
We took more photos of the intrepid Yaris on the way.
Eventually we made it to, literally, Roads End, where we went for another hike.
More interesting plants.
You could see these cool domes, where the rock had slid off forming a sheer face.
And at the very end of our trip, while Brigid and I made lunch on “Muir Rock,” our husbands decided to jump into the freezing cold water.
I can’t believe they did it, but it was pretty awesome.