Monday, July 18, 2016

Delayed Catching Up

Most often there was no cell phone service in the evenings.  During the days I drove and spent time with the grandkids.  Other evenings were late and dark so there was no writing on the blog.  While it's reasonable to suspect that while at the hotel in Salt Lake City, or at Keeners in Boise or at home last evening I could write on the blog but the space in time wasn't there.  So let's try to catch up with a summary.

After twisting through more narrow roads in Yosemite, which the kids playfully pronounced yo-se-mite with a long o and long i, we drove down to Kings Canyon.  Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park have a common border and common Junior Ranger badge which the boys were striving for in each park.  This required that they acquire a workbook for the specific park, do the activities in the book and return it to the ranger at the visitor center to submit the completed workbook and take the oath to support the preservation of the park and its contents.  Dominic and Riley received the badges for five parks and completed the books for several others which they may mail in for the badges.  On the last two days they were scheming about starting a national park club.  They became were involved in the parks.  They love the animals first of all, the touching and feeling of everything, the jumping from rock to rock and the scenery.

Kings Canyon is less known than many of the parks we visited.  It's claim to fame is not animals or trees but the deep canyon with trees and its wilderness characteristic.  It leaves road-bound visitor standing on the edge of a view point in awe but without much interrelationship with its features.  It's also unique in that there is a major contiguous but also a separated finger near Sequoia NP.  After some research we learned that the highest mountain in the contiguous US, named Mt Whitney, at 14,505 feet, is in Kings Canyon National Park but on the east side and we never saw it.

After only a brief view of the Canyon we drove to Sequoia to see the giants.  After seeing the redwoods, the average sequoia was not extraordinary.  Now the General Sherman, the world's most massive and largest tree in the world, about 2000 years old, 119 feet around at the base, 264 feet tall and still growing, that was impressive.  There's a trail to and around the tree which is paved, fenced and quite long and steep so only some of us went all the way down.  For the young athletic types there are branches to the trail in just about every direction.

Back in the van we wound around and among more big trees.  It's always a thrill when one drives between two monster trees that hardly give one the space to get through.  This evening's drive from the Sequoia NP would take us toward the Grand Canyon.  The drive is long with a side stop at my sister's home outside of Flagstaff, so we drove until dark and grabbed a motel for the overnight.  The shower did feel good.

Breakfast was in the motel.  Lunch landed while in Needles, California.  We fueled up, bought several drinks for lunches and decided to fix and eat our sandwiches in the car because there was no shade and even if there had been shade, the temperature of 105˚ was more than comfortable.  That was the hot spot of the trip although our car thermometer registered temperatures in the 90's and 100's several times in Arizona and Utah.

Ruth met us at the side of the road and led us into her home.  The trail wound among grazing cattle and mature but short, about 12-foot, juniper and pinion pine trees.  The house is perched in the hillside overlooking her 40 acres.  I marvel at the house and its self-sufficiency as she has solar cell electricity, gathered rain for her water, solar panels for heating the water, portable propane for additional heat, a waterless toilet and natural temperature control because it's built into the hillside.

The grandkids loved the barren ground between the trees where they could run unrestricted.  They also loved native Americans had lived here hundreds of years ago and pieces of pottery lie everywhere.  Also near the lower edge of her property, where piles of stones, the ruins of structures and home of these earlier inhabitants.  It motivated them to play a "survivor's game" until dusk.  They choose to sleep under the stars on Ruth's stone slab deck that evening.  The adults sat and watched the stars appear as dusk transitioned from civil dusk, to nautical dusk and finally to astronomical dusk and total darkness.

Ruth had provided an awesome supper of spaghetti and salad in the evening and oatmeal with a broad collection of condiments for breakfast.  She joined us for our day at the Grand Canyon and graciously us led us on a hour and a half drive to the park.  The kids thought this would be the highlight of the trip because the Grand Canyon is known by people throughout the world.  Some of the other parks are not even known by Americans.

Certainly the view is not disappointing because it's impossible to imagine anything so grand and massive, 277 miles long, up to 10 miles across at points and about a mile deep.  Those numbers don't come close to describing the grandeur of color and shape.  Pinnacles, gorges, layers, tables, rivers, all create a masterpiece that artist can only attempt to copy and certainly not create.  The first stop on the east end was the Desert View with a stone watchtower and viewing platform.  For the next 25 miles headed west, the road follows the rim with several turnouts for viewing.  We experienced several of them and passed others.  Lunch was at a small museum which housed pottery similar to that which we found at Ruth's.  The museum also led to ruins of earlier native Americans.

After some purchases at the general store we set up camp in Mather Campground.  Campsites were reserved at all narrational parks except the Arches NP which gave us the convenience of knowing that we had a place to stay but also dictated our schedule.  In the end that worked out well.  Our senior passes to the national parks not only gave us access to all the parks free, including the one California state park, but also gave a 50% discounts on the campsites.  Truly in America this is one of the greatest benefits of age.

Next: Bryce, Arches, Canyonland and home

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