This is another in Vittles' series on our national parks.
When visiting Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park think, big--big trees, big mountains, a magnificent glacier created valley and opportunities for almost every outdoor activity.
Sequoia is the nation's second oldest National Park and has continued to expand since hence the additional Kings Canyon to the name. Also a wonderful addition took place when Mineral King was added to the Park in 1978. In all the national parks visited by this writer Sequoia has offered some of the most rewarding outdoor experiences and adventures in every season of the year.
Probably most visitors come to the Park to view the Big Trees, those magnificent Redwoods that have stood for thousands of years. And while well worth a visit in themselves, the Park has much more to offer.
For many years one of this writer's favorite summer places was Mineral King. Actually we started camping and hiking in and around this beautiful glaciered valley before it became part of the Park. Getting to Mineral King involves a 25 mile narrow mountain road with 698 curves en route. Originally in the 19th century Mineral King was a mining town but the silver strike never really developed. A most fortunate circumstance for all those who can enjoy its natural beauty now and forever in the future.
Once at the head of the valley there are numerous trails leading to places like the Franklin Lakes, White Chief Mine or Farewell Gap, from which point one can view the Golden Trout Wilderness Area as well as much of the Kern Plateau.
The Park Service does not advise travel trailers or motor homes on the Mineral King road. And this road is closed in winter from November till May.
The Mineral King road branches off Highway 198 just east of Three Rivers.
In winter the Park is a snowy wonderland offering a challenge to winter sports enthusiaists and particularly cross country skiers. In an earlier era this Writer had a whole series of adventures on winter cross country backpacking trips to Pear Lake Ski Hut
Today Pear Lake Hut is so popular the Park Service conducts a lottery to decide who can make reservations for its use.
In the back country Sequoia contains some of the most dramatic mountain scenery that the Sierra Nevada range has to offer.
From Alta Peak that towers above Pear Lake and the Ski Hut one has a full view of the Keaweah Range, one dramatic peak after another.
Almost everyone who has visited Sequoia a number of times will have a 'Bear Story". And the Park Service goes through a good deal of trouble to warn visitors about the bears and how to avoid contact with them and their foraging.
This Writer has almost too many bear stories but one of our favorites does involve a trip to Sequoia.
This was on a trip to the Pear Lake Ski Hut. As my partner, Jim and I left the Hut on a sunny Spring morning the snow on the traverse across the hanging valley still maintained its overnight hard surface and Jim slipped taking the skin off one bare arm in the fall.
It wasn't serious but it did look nasty with blood oozing from a few particularly deep cuts and scratches. We decided the best treatment was to leave it as it was, open to the fresh air and mountain sunshine. The ski run from the first ridge back to the car was, as always, great fun.
However things were not looking good for Jim's Convertible which had its cloth top shredded in the back end. At first we thought there had been a break-in but there was nothing in the car to steal. We were required to check at the Ranger Station that we had returned from the Hut and took the opportunity to also report the damage to the automobile.
The Ranger quickly pointed to Park bears as the culprits. The only thing in the car was an empty thermos that had held coffee for the drive Friday night.
The Ranger explained that bears associated coffee smell with food when they ripped the convertible top. While this was taking place there were quite a few onlookers and hearing the words bear attack quickly looked with horror at Jim's bloody arm. No one said anything but the glances kept alternating between the shredded convertible top and Jim's arm.
Rather that spoil a good story when the onlookers returned home we did nothing to enlighten them as to the true facts of the matter.
For us these kind of adventures are a thing of the past. Our last visit to the area was much different and probably will sound much more appealing to most people.
It was a weekend spent at the Montecito-Sequoia Lodge and Winter Sports Resort located at 7,500 feet on the western slope of California's Sierra Nevada. Ideally situated adjacent to Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks the Lodge and Resort is a perfect getaway from contemporary urban living. Rustic in ambiance and decor and casual in life-style, this is a Resort that quickly places the visitor into another world. From the veranda of the Lodge there is a spectacular view of snow covered Sierra peaks.
On our weekend at Montecito-Sequoia we watched the start and finish of the annual Chimney Rock Challenge, a 15 kilometer Cross-Country Ski race. Besides this activity there was the fireplace and lounge chairs.
We somehow managed to say no to a class on Nordic skiing techniques; equally negative to trying the tubing and sledding on a steep, snow covered slope adjacent to the Lodge. Fun was watching the children in this activity with whoops of joy ringing through the forest.
As the reader can tell we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Montecito-Sequoia Lodge. Our only complaint was that we couldn't have stayed longer.
Information on the Resort's Plans, for any season of the year, can be obtained by mailing inquiries to Montecito-Sequoia Lodge, 1485 Redwood Drive, Los Altos, Ca. 94024 or call at 800 227-9900 or 415 967-8612. To call the Lodge direct 209 565-3388. Full information is available on the web at www.montecitosequoia.com.
To learn more about Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park check out the website at www.nps.gov/seki/ Generals Highway is open in winter subject to heavy snowfalls after storms. For road conditions call 559 565-3341 and press 4.