March 27, 2017 Sequoia National Park, California

Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park

Finally Make it to the Top!

Weather for today was forecast to be nice, even up in the mountains! I left camp in complete sunshine and warm temps and headed up into Sequoia National Park.

Redbud
Redbud

Always have to stop for the redbuds.

Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park

One minute, redbuds in bloom, next minute six foot snow banks and icy roads as I drive up and into the clouds. Again, these two shots were taken only 15 miles apart, but with a 6000′ change in elevation.

The Climb up to the Sequoia Groves on Route 198
The Climb up to the Sequoia Groves on Route 198

This small section of the road climbing to the sequoia groves is all at about a 6 – 8 % grade … and this is just a tiny portion of this serpentine road. Needless to say, this is one road that you do not take your RV on. Each twenty miles of travel on this highway probably only covers a straight-line distance of 5 or 6 miles, made necessary by the altitude gain of roughly 7000′ on this highway through the park.

Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park

Fortunately there were a few breaks in the clouds up in the sequoia groves, even saw a couple patches of blue sky. I was constantly monitoring the outside thermometer in the Prius as it hovered dangerously close to 32 degrees all the way through the groves along the highest elevations of Route 198 through the park.

Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park

Definitely a winter wonderland feeling up here today!

Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park

The crowds certainly thinned out at the higher elevations today as most folks were probably a little concerned with icy road conditions. Note the photographer’s assistant in the back of the Prius protecting my gear from marauding squirrels.

Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park

The clouds cleared as I proceeded north on Route 198 to Kings Canyon National Park …

Looking Toward Yosemite
Looking Toward Yosemite

… and began the descent on Route 180 to head home. In the image above … way out there is my next destination, Yosemite National Park, just waiting a bit for the weather to warm a little more before heading there, since they are still getting regular dumps of snow right now.

Roadside Waterfall
Roadside Waterfall
Roadside Waterfall
Roadside Waterfall

Leaving Route 180, I headed down the steep, winding grades of Route 245, where I stopped for a few shots of this nice little roadside waterfall.

Roadside Waterfall
Roadside Waterfall
Roadside Waterfall
Roadside Waterfall
Redbud Guardian
Redbud Guardian

Continuing down Route 245, I once again had to stop and shoot the redbud blooms and found this impressively massive bull guarding access to the best spot to shoot from.

Redbud
Redbud

Today I covered about 120 miles in my loop up and through the two National Parks. All the side roads up in the park are still closed by snow, so there would be much more to see if I were here in the summer, but I don’t think I would ever be able to handle the crowds. All the roads are two lane with no place to pass pretty much the whole length of the highway, so summer traffic would undoubtably be a bear. Plus there would be no redbud that time of year!

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March 23, 2017 Lake Kaweah, California

Redbud Bloom
Redbud Bloom

Patiently Waiting on the Weather

Horse Creek Campground on Lake Kaweah, California
Horse Creek Campground on Lake Kaweah, California

Two days ago, I made the short move from Lake Success to Kaweah Lake and the Army Corps of Engineers Horsecreek Campground. I settled in on a fairly level campsite all but on the campground loop road. Fortunately, there are very few other campers here right now so I really haven’t been bothered by any traffic. I took this particular site because there are no other sites anywhere near it and it is fairly level … and level sites are pretty scarce in this campground. All the sites are primitive but there is a dump station on site, though I have yet to find any drinking water source here. Camping fee is $20/ night with a 50% senior discount making it $10. This place is probably very popular in the summer months, but with the roads up in the National Parks still intermittently closed by snow, most sites are empty right now.

Despite the very steep surrounding foothills I was able to get my rooftop satellite to lock on and surprisingly, there is a very strong Verizon signal here for some decent internet connectivity, something I have been lacking for the last several weeks.

Collapsing Arch
Collapsing Arch

Directly across the loop road from my site is a collapsing stone arch with a rubble pile of boulders below it, tumbling right down to the road’s edge.

Rock Rabbits
Rock Rabbits

And the rubble pile is home to several cottontail rabbits that are constantly hopping all over the rocks and ducking down under them every time they see the shadow of a black vulture or raven flying overhead.

Rock Rabbits
Rock Rabbits
Rock Rabbits
Rock Rabbits

Their antics are kind of fun to watch when I am stuck in the RV during the rainy days.

And speaking of rain … there has been plenty of it lately and more is forecast. I have made a couple of forays up into Sequoia National Park but can only venture in a dozen miles or so before encountering rain … or sleet … or snow … and always running into clouds ( literally ) once I get up to 3000′ elevation, and that makes any kind of photography impossible.

Spring in the Foothills of the Sierras
Spring in the Foothills of the Sierras

The entrance into the park is at about 800′ elevation and the sequoias grow at an elevation of 6000′-7000′. The morning I took the beautiful spring shots  ( above and below ) I ran into snow and ice just 12 miles into the park, probably no more than 15 miles from where these two shots were taken.

Spring in the Foothills of the Sierras
Spring in the Foothills of the Sierras

In the distance of just 15 miles of serpentine road climbing up into the park, probably no more than 8 or 10 miles as the crow flies, you go from beautiful sunny weather in the low 60’s to snow and ice and freezing temperatures … pretty amazing contrasts in weather here right now.

Kaweah River Rapids
Kaweah River Rapids

The Kaweah River runs next to the park road and there are some wonderful overlooks along the road. This is all snow melt runoff from the first good snow year in the Sierras in quite a few years.

Kaweah River
Kaweah River
Redbud Bloom
Redbud Bloom

Redbuds are in bloom from 2000′ to 4000′ elevation along the park road and when the clouds allow, they are something to see.

Redbud Bloom
Redbud Bloom
Redbud Bloom
Redbud Bloom
Redbud Bloom
Redbud Bloom
Redbud Bloom
Redbud Bloom

I have only made it up to the elevation where the sequoias grow one time so far and everything was enveloped in a very thick fog, actually a cloud I suppose, so I didn’t bother taking any shoots. But there are supposed to be a couple decent days coming this week and I am sure I will eventually make it all the way up the mountains and into the sequoia groves, so stay tuned.

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March 19, 2017 Success Lake COE Campground, California

Wildflowers Across Lake Success
Wildflowers Across Lake Success

Looking for Sequoias

The scene above is what I see when I leave my campsite in the Army Corps of Engineers Campground on Lake Success just east of Porterville, California. This is a nice enough campground with paved interior roads and lots of green grass with sites that are for the most part, pretty well spaced. The spaces are all backins and are reasonably large but very few are terribly level.

Unfortunately there is only a very weak Verizon signal here and I was unable to even get weather forecasts online here. There is 50 amp electric at some sites and some sites have shared water spigots. There is a dump station in the campground as well as trash dumpsters. $30 night with 50% discount for old farts.

Fields of Wildflowers
Fields of Wildflowers

While here I took a couple of trips in the Prius up into the mountains to explore Sequoia and King’s Canyon NPs for Sequoia trees. I drove Route 190 from the campground up into the Sequoia National Forest until I came to where the road was still closed by snow.

Red Buds Blooming
Red Bud

At around 3000′ elevation, I ran into lots of red bud in bloom, hope to get some better shots into a future post because there are areas where entire hillsides are dotted with these colorful trees.

California Route 190 in Mid-March
California Route 190 in Mid-March

Once up around 6000′, there are snowbanks still hemming the roadway …

The End of the Road, Route 190
The End of the Road, Route 190

… and around 7000′ you come to the end of the road, where they just stop plowing in the winter and wait for spring ( May or even June ) to reopen the road.

Entering the Giant Forest
Entering the Giant Forest

This is the scene as you enter the Giant Forest along Route 198 east of Three Rivers in the Sequoia National Park. To reach this point traveling up into the park from the south, you will have negotiated about five thousand switchback turns as you ever so slowly ascend from 300′ elevation to 7000′, don’t even think about driving an RV up here! These were the first sequoias I ran into but I had to turn around here for an appointment I had back in Visalia, but I will venture farther up and into the park in the next week ( weather permitting, lots of rain coming ). Stay tuned!

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March 10, 2017 Joshua Tree National Park, California

The Desert in Bloom
The Desert in Bloom

The Desert in Bloom

BLM camping area south of Joshua Tree NP
BLM camping area south of Joshua Tree NP

I am camped just outside the south entrance to Joshua Tree NP on BLM land located along the access road to the park. Very fortunate this area is available for camping since it appears all but impossible to get a site within the park. The park campgrounds were not designed for today’s camping rigs so very few of the campsites in these campgrounds will accomodate a larger rig and the few sites that might are pretty hard to snag. I have made the run through the various campgrounds within the park hoping to luck out and snag an empty site pretty much every day I have been here but have had no luck, so I am thankful for the BLM site.

This would be a perfect spot to stay were it not so warm. There is no shade and the temps are hitting the very high 80’s every day. I even turned on the big generator and ran the AC for three hours the other day to make it through the heat of the day, I think that was the first time I have ever done that while boon docking. The other issue is the distance one has to travel across the Park to get to where the Joshua trees grow, about 40 miles from the BLM land. On the other hand, the best displays of wildflowers are all right here at the south entrance to the park just a mile away from my campsite.

Joshua Tree in Bloom
Joshua Tree in Bloom

Joshua Trees

The park’s namesake trees are a multiple branched Yucca on steroids, and many of them are in bloom at this time.

Joshua Tree in Bloom
Joshua Tree in Bloom

But I came here primarily for the desert wildflowers and for once I timed it fairly well.

The Desert in Bloom
The Desert in Bloom

The desert floor is carpeted with colorful blooms right now and the brittle bush is about ready to add to the color.

The Desert in Bloom
The Desert in Bloom

The only drawback so far has been the heat and the unrelenting wind that makes any type of closeup or macro photography impossible. But that wind that ruins my chances for any decent flower images also is the only thing that allows me to survive in my RV when the temperature comes close to hitting 90 every day. Interestingly the park info states that the average March high temperature is 70 degrees. Fortunately, when the sun sets, the temperatures do drop to very comfortable levels fairly quickly.

Looking East at Sunrise
Looking East at Sunrise

Went outside this morning to snap a shot of the colorful sunrise to the east …

Looking West at Sunrise
Looking West at Sunrise

… turned around to get back in the RV and got the full moon still out at sunrise. Just love boon docking in the desert !!

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