Sunday, May 1, 2011

Porterville, California, Kings Canyon and The Great Sequoias

From Los Angeles we traveled north through Bakersfield into Porterville where we had chosen an Army Corp of Engineers Campground as base for visiting the Sierra Nevada mountains.

The COA Tule Campground at Lake Success is just east of Porterville, California. It has 50 amp service but has no sewer. The sites are large and the rural area gives us a much-needed break from the rush of southern California civilization. Most of the visitors to this park come to fish. The mountains we're in these days look like they're draped in green carpet -- smooth and grassy.

That's us on the left and the lake is just ahead of us.
The day we arrived the campground was more than half empty.
With Good Friday and Easter coming this weekend, we expect it will fill with families.
Lake Success seems to be a good boating and fishing location.

The COE campground has tiny sharp stone roadways which are troublesome for Lexie but she walks slowly and carefully... picking her way. Our walks are really enjoyable these days. 

Our initial plan had been to go right up the coast but we wanted badly to see the national park and those beautiful old Sequoias. Using much-too-much diesel fuel criss-crossing the state, we just couldn't help ourselves and faced the expense like adults. The area we're talking about here boasts the largest tree on the earth -- the General Sherman Sequoia. Also the highest mountain peak in the contiguous United States -- Mount Whitney, at 14, 494 feet. Sequoia National Park is the second oldest national park and was created in 1890.

Our day-trip drive from the campground into Sequoia National Park was a long one but scenic. We drove through Lemon Grove (yes, lots of lemons growing here) and then Three Rivers before entering the National Park's Ash Mountain Headquarter entrance.

Now let me say here that the terms "Park", "Forest" and "Monument" seemed to be used interchangeably so I found the real scoop.  It's like this: We have Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park.  Then there's Sequoia National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument.  All are federal lands but they have different histories and purposes. National Parks keep landscapes unimpaired for the future. Park Rangers work for the National Park Service and that's part of the Department of the Interior.

National Forests have multiple uses and provide services and commodities that might include lumber and livestock, minerals. Forest Rangers work for the US Forest Service, an agency of the Department of Agriculture.

Then there's the National Monument thing.  Both National Parks and the Forest Service protect natural resources like the Giant Sequoias. The Sequoia National Forest has been designated Giant Sequoia National Monument to emphasize protection of the sequoias. 

Got that?  Good. Here are some pictures...

This is a view of Lake Kaweah.

This picture needs no caption.
Retirement is looking good on us, eh? 

Snow capped mountains ahead; makes that roadway look real tiny.
This area encompasses the most rugged portions of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. The elevations change from 1,500 feet to 14,44 feet, creating a huge variety of habitats for plants and animals. Desert succulents, giant mountain peaks, deep canyons, tall evergreens, blooming bushes and more can be seen.
That's Moro Rock in the background. It's 6,725 feet high.

Wayne's girls.

The snowy, sawtoothed Sierra Nevada mountain range is over 400 miles long and 60-80 miles wide.
That exceeds the entire Alps area -- French, Swiss and Italian. 

We stopped to eat our picnic lunch at a nice little area alongside Hospital Rock, just past Tunnel Rock.

Yes, that's Moro Rock again in the background.
No, we will not eat our sandwich outside at the picnic table.

Looking down into Hospital Rock.

This is Moro Rock much closer.

Road work was ongoing in the park.  The road is narrowed down to one lane. To get this picture, I'm hanging myself out the passenger side of the car looking down where we've just traveled.  Getting a little nauseous here...

This is the kind of road work we're driving on a we incline upward from 5,500 to 6,000 feet elevation.
Most of the time there were NO GUARDRAILS and rocks DO FALL onto the roadway. 
Redwood and Sequoia Compared
Sequoias grow naturally only on the western slope of California's Sierra Nevada range.
Redwoods grow naturally only in a narrow strip along the northern Pacific Coast.

Redwood Facts:                                   Sequoia Facts:
Height: to 357.8 feet                               Height: to 311 feet
Age: to 2,000 years                                Age: to 3,200 years
Weight: to 1.6 million lbs.                        Weight: to 2.7 million lbs.
Bark: to 12 inches thick                           Bark: to 31 inches thick
Branches: to 5 feet diameter                    Branches: to 8 feet in diameter
Base: to 22 feet diameter                        Base: to 40 feet in diameter

Cars are dwarfed and look like toys alongside the great Sequoia

Does this tree make my but look big?

You don't have to worry about me.

Deep snow, but it's fairly warm and the snow is melting... ever so slowly.

Sequoias don't die of old age and they are resistant to fire and insect damage. Most die by simply falling over.  A pine cone can hang onto a Sequoia for up to 20 years!

We drove all the way through the Giant Forest and up to Lodgepole Visitors Center. Here the road closed due to the remaining snow on the road.

The following day we took a short ride into Giant Sequoia National Monument in the national Forest and to the road's end at Camp Nelson.  Along this route, we saw still more beautiful mountains and deep canyon rivers.

Our final destination was Camp Nelson where we turned around and travel back down the mountain. 

The road coming into Camp Nelson.

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