March 29, 2017 Sequoia National Park, California

Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park

A Second Trip Up to the Sequoia Groves

Sunny, warm weather predicted for today, so I headed out early again hoping for cloud free skies up in the mountains.

Sequoia Black Bear
Sequoia Black Bear

On the way up, I spotted a dark spot way up above the road, fortunately right where there happened to be a turnoff. Unfortunately, today, not expecting to be shooting any wildlife, I had left my big, bulky 600mm lens at home and only had my 200-400mm with me.

Sequoia Black Bear
Sequoia Black Bear

So, not as sharp as I would like and unable to get any real close shots. This is one of, if not the largest black bear I have ever seen, easily has to be in the 400 pound range I would guess. Not sure, but judging from the size of him, and that incredible girth, I would guess that he doesn’t need to hibernate here in the Sierras, but probably just descends in elevation to find year round feed.

Sequoia Black Bear
Sequoia Black Bear

Several other folks stopped when they saw me there with my tripod set up and camera pointed way up the hill and I had a nice chat with a young couple from Argentina.

Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park

The roads up in the groves were a little drier and safer today as the temps remained just above freezing and thus, there were a few more folks up here.

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

I read in the local paper that the snowpack in the Sierras this winter is as much as 190% of normal after years of very little snow and rain. They are expecting flooding and full reservoirs this year after many years of severe drought. The extremely wet weather has certainly changed my travel plans as I had hoped to travel the coast all the way north through the state. But with road washouts, mudslides and even bridge damage due to slides, there are several sections of the coastal highway that are closed to travel this spring, some sections closed for as much as a year while road and bridge rebuilding work goes on.

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

As you probably are aware, these sequoias are the largest living things on earth, based on volume , not height. Some of these tree trunks pictured are easily 20 feet or more in diameter.

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

The weather forecast looks pretty spotty going forward as I hope to move a little north and at least get to drive into Yosemite National Park. Even with road closures there, snow still falling, and temps still dropping below freezing, all open campsites in the park are reserved and there is no place to camp within a 40 mile drive of the park. This is becoming the new normal, either make reservations a year in advance or forget about getting into the national parks.

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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 portionĀ 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 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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