Friday, 4 May 2012

Death Valley and Sequoia National Park

Heading away from Vegas and climbing at Red Rocks, we drove west with the plan to do a multi-day hike. An employee at REI had raved about Cottonwood Canyon on the eastern side of Sequoia Park. He had no doubt the road and trails would be open as they’d had such a small amount of snow this year. So away we went.

Our path took us through Death Valley, which was really stark but beautiful.

Unfortunately when we got to the Visitor Center/Parks Office at eastern Sequoia, they told us the road up to Cottonwood wouldn’t open for another week. But they would also highly recommend the hiking if the road weren’t closed! We stayed at Onion Valley and did a day hike into Golden Trout Lakes, gaining a fair bit of elevation (11,000 ft+).

One of the Golden Trout Lakes
Lone Pine (the film site of many Western movies, including Maverick) was a good base for coffee and ice cream.

Over the next couple days we drove south to get around to the west side of the park and then back north via the Western Divide Highway (#190) and through some of the most scenic and winding roads I have seen in a long, long time. It’s slow going (there’s hardly a straight stretch of road in sight!) but I would highly recommend it for anyone in the south California area.  When it’s Andrew’s turn to drive I usually get out my book and read for a bit but the sights around each corner were enough to hold my attention all day.

We put in a lot of miles on foot, hiking various trails along our way through the park. The sequoia trees, and the abundance of all the other trees, were absolutely amazing. One of the really interesting things we learned was that starting in the early 1900’s the area around the Giant Forest (where most of the sequoias are located) was rapidly being developed with cabins, campgrounds, restaurants, stores, etc. for all the tourist industry. At one point they cut down a sequoia because they were afraid it was going to fall on a bunch of cabins. A very forward thinking parks superintendent at the time pushed for less development and eventually all the infrastructure was moved away from the Giant Forest area. Quite amazing! We didn’t know this until after we’d been there and were pleasantly surprised that we didn’t see any evidence of buildings ever having been there! As Andrew pointed out, can you imagine today if someone suggested that the Chateau Lake Louise, for example, be torn down for the betterment of the park and environment!

Andrew trapped inside a sequoia tree!  :-)

A "tunnel" in the road.

Andrew on a fallen sequoia tree. 

A McKinlay at the McKinley Tree (note different spelling)

Look up. Look waaaay up!
The places we’ve stayed the past few nights included some nice campgrounds (especially Buckeye Campground within the park) and the Wuksachi Lodge. Even Andrew and I couldn’t finish the Lodge's triple chocolate ganache cake with chocolate sauce and chocolate ice cream!

Andrew is the photographer in the family. His great photos are here. 

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