|I suppose that counts.|
|I don't know what to call these tower-y features in the sandstone|
|They made good explorable nooks.|
|Inside a nook|
|Trees and some of the more interesting Mojave hills|
|Me looking pensive, like maybe I just recorded the definitive rock album of the 80s or something.|
Mountain views start to get old eventually. Geysers are cool, but they can't make up for bad park management. But for some reason, I never stopped being awed by giant trees. Every single grove of sequoias impressed me, and I never quit saying to myself, "Damn, tree, you big!" no matter how many damn big trees I saw.
And with few exceptions, you get absolutely no sense of scale from photographs.
|You can't tell from the photo, but THIS TREE IS HUGE.|
|The General Grant, which boasts the widest trunk, 40 feet across at 6 feet up. Which you can't tell from the photo.|
|In the photo, it looks like just any old tree. But trust me, it's really, really huge.|
I didn't see any big trees on my first day in the park--in fact, I didn't see anything. The fog was soup-thick through sunset, and solidified into a heavy frost after dark. The next morning, I woke up to a beautiful, if cold, forested mountain landscape. I went for a day hike to a series of alpine lakes. I'm not sure whether it was the laziness of four days in a city, the squishiness I picked up from Grand Canyon food, or weaning myself off unlimited coffee, but I was slow and tired for the first couple of days back on the trail. I actually took a quick nap beside the lake below.
|Not sure if sleepiness is the cause of that slant.|
|Many trees here had appealing Mountain Dew-colored lichens.|
This part of the trail kept to a relatively level elevation, given the terrain. As it passed through pines and oaks and granite boulders, it almost reminded me of Vermont.
At least, until I got a view.
|Granite domes, small cousins of Yosemite's up north|
Or entered a grove of Sequoias.
|A lot of them have fire scars and seem very precariously propped up.|
|You can't tell from the photo, etc.|
|These foot-long monster cones aren't actually sequoia cones; I never determined exactly which pine they came from. Sequoia cones are about the size of a kiwi fruit.|
|No matter their origin, the big cones burn awesome.|
|IM ME 4 MOAR ARTY PHOTOS!!!!|
The second night, I camped under the truly huge sequoia pictured at the top of the update. That and the hike heading out were uneventful, if quietly lovely. I still felt sort of slow and tired, especially with the required rental bear canister weighing down my backpack.
The third night's campsite was next to a stream that ran across a long, open granite hillside overlooking the smoggy San Joaquin valley to the west. The pollution made for a lovely sunset.
|A view from my tent site to the Sierras to the southeast|
|Waterfall near camp|
The next day was a short hike out. I spent the afternoon touring the Sherman Grove and visiting The General Sherman, world's largest tree and hero-slash-villain of the great war between the states. I didn't end up taking a single photo. It felt so much more special to sleep under a giant tree, even if it wasn't the most giant evar, rather than see one from a parking lot.
I did take this shot of Nonno and a sequoia root ball. The informational plaque described sequoias as occasionally "losing their balance," which I find quite amusing to imagine.
|YOU CAN'T TELL FROM THE PHOTO, BUT THESE TREES ARE HUGE.|
|A failed attempt at a self-timer flash shot where the trail runs through the entire length of a sequoia log. Then the battery died.|
When I got back, I had some news to account for. I'd wanted to do one more backpack, but the forecast called for a winter storm, with as much as 7" of snow, wind gusts over 75 miles an hour, and temperatures in the teens. It had been chilly my entire visit, and it seemed safest to retreat into the valley and spend a couple of life-maintenance days in Fresno until the weather cleared.
I mulled my options. I knew I didn't want to sleep in a tent in 75-mph snow. But I didn't really want to drive out so soon and spend a rainy day in Strip Mall City.
Then I thought, hey, I bought this car specifically so I could sleep in it. Normally, there's too much gear stuffed in the back to make it worthwhile, but since I'm required to stash all my food, toiletries, cooking utensils, and other scented items in a bear box anyway, why not? The car would be warm, wind- and snow- proof, and would fulfill a purpose I'd always intended but never gone through with.
|Cell phone photos from here on out.|
|Hot coffee in hand|
|The Grant Grove includes several logs you can climb inside or walk through.|
|The "twin sisters," whose tops catch the first flakes of an approaching flurry|