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Kings Canyon National Park
|Sunday, 1 June 2003|
|written by Teresa|
The flowers continue their stunning display in colourful brush strokes across the hills and mountainsides. Broad areas of slope are enlivened in the pink-purple of Farewell to Spring, shadier areas giving way to gardens of profuse purples and blues. In Kings Canyon National Park the higher altitudes are home to blankets of wild Lupine set against the backdrop of the snow clad mountains of the High Sierras.
The National Park has two geographical locations each with a distinct character. Cedar Grove is tucked down on the floor of the Canyon alongside the wild, fast Kings River, itís white waters fed and swollen by snowmelt, frothing, spewing and swirling over the rock-strewn bed or rushing headlong through the deeper channels, churning all the way. Silence is hard come by, requiring a steep arduous climb out of the canyon, the roar of the passing gallons gradually reducing until a blissful quiet is eventually reached, peppered only by the rustle of trees and occasional bird song.
The Hotel Creek Trail zigzags back and forth across the canyon wall rising twelve hundred feet in the first couple of miles. The river becomes a white ribbon twisting along the bottom, the tree covered slopes a deep luxurious green carpet and the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains stretch out along the horizon. From a vantage point on the edge, large boulders provide the ideal stopping place for rest, food and quiet contemplation of the wild beauty. Refreshed, we follow the path across the relatively flat terrain of gentle slopes connecting the canyon top with the base of the Monarch Range. The sun is bright and warm, the sky a perfect blue, the open forest scents the breeze and a feeling of freedom floats on the clean air. These are the first serious mountains we have been in since leaving Colorado and the experience of walking here, along with the expansive views, is energizing.
Large black Carpenter Bees were everywhere, attracted by the lupines and by the blue clad Teresa. Now for people who know me well and are acquainted with my neuroses, this will probably conjure up images of one of my various contortions or dances comprising nifty footsteps and flailing arms, in an attempt to avoid the visiting beasties. While I initially regretted my choice of wardrobe it soon became clear that even though I might look an inviting colour my fragrance was less than perfumed, especially the higher we climbed, resulting in the bees swooning by the wayside as I passed or flying quickly in the opposite direction if given sufficient warning of the advancing odour.
The other face of Kings Canyon is epitomized by Grant Grove where the Giant Sequoias hold sway and it is here that the Parks connection to the adjacent Sequoia National Park becomes evident. These enormous trees have surprisingly shallow root systems, lacking the taproot usual in other species. They rarely die as a result of fire, protected by their immensely thick bark. The high tannin content, giving the wood its familiar red appearance also protects it from disease and acts as a deterrent to insects. Their demise is most often the result of toppling and the millions of tourist feet therefore need to be kept off the fragile covering of earth around the roots. To this end, the Park Service has created paved walkways around the grove and while this detracts from the experience it is understandable in terms of preserving the trees. In spite of this, it is still a magical place that stops us in our tracks and makes us feel small in the face of these quiet giants continuing their phenomenal rate of growth over thousands of years.
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