Day 5 – 13. october 2016
Yosemite delivered yet another cold morning. I made a fire, and as we packed away the tent, every now and then I would go to it to heat my fingers up. They would burn for a moment, so cold that the fire felt alien to them. It was a relief to get into the car. We have added another layer every night, and I was wearing a t-shirt, a wool layer, a fleece layer, a cotton layer and eventually my shell jacket. I felt big and bulky and clumsy as I began to take them off in the car. But at least we stayed somewhat warm during the night.
On the little drive from the campsite to the road (3 miles/5km) we saw a deer, stopped for some car pictures, and I took a time-lapse of the drive there. It is such a beautiful drive, with the big, green trees spaced out to let the sunlight through. It’s such a chaos with the fallen trunks and the dry twigs, but it looks so warm and open and lovely. A cayote watches us for a second from a little boulder by the road, but just as we see it it flees. I never saw a cayote before, and it was gone so quickly I hardly remember what it looked like. I remember it was small, and looked almost like a fox-sized woolf.
Then we drove, down to the valley, out of the valley. It was strange how quickly the landscape went from impressive mountains walls to desertlike flats. We stopped for pizza and gas at Costco, and Target for food. We arrived in King’s Canyon a few hours before sunset, which gave us time to set up camp and do a little bit of hiking before dark. The campsite was nice and big; each site had a picnic table and a fire pit; each campsite had a large area for themselves. We found one next to the edge of the site, and we could sit and watch down a little hill of trees much taller than pine trees should be. The grown was covered in needles and it smelled faintly of pines until the odor of campfires took over.
We walked along road with occational views to the canyon and the Sierra on one side, and the descending mountains on the other side. The trail was called the panoramic trail, but most of it went through trees and we didn’t see much. But it was quiet, and looked like it could be the site of a fairytale. The whole park, both King’s and Sequoia, looked like fairytales. The High Sierra took my breath away. It was so unexpected to see them there in the distance, and they were so rugged and sharp. Like the type of rocks the Indians used for their spearheads, that sort of rugged edge. And they are all so tall, so much taller than is possible to comprehend from such a distance.
After the walk we went to see the General Grant tree, which is the 3rd largest tree in the world, and I saw my first Sequoias. Now that is a tree. It is impossible to understand just how small you are, or maybe how big they are, because you cannot see it all in one glance. First you have to take in the width of the trunk, which is also a little hard since you only see it from one side. You can walk around it and count how many steps it will take you to circle it, and then think about how long that would be if you walked in a straight line. Then you must bend your neck and look up, and it hurts a little while you stare at the crown of it because it takes a while to really, really look. We learned about how the Sequoias are dependent on fire; how they are fire resistant due to chemicals in their bark; how the fires open up little pockets of seed to let the saplings begin to grown; how the fires clean the undergrowth so the saplings have space to grow; how it takes hundreds of years for a Sequoia to become one of the biggest trees in the world. General Grant was around 1.700 years old.
Day 6 – 14. october 2016
I woke up and realised that I had been warm the whole night. That I had had a good night’s sleep. It is easy to take warmth and comfort for granted, and it is something precious to find when camping. I still love to camp, there is something about the fire going late into night, about eating canned soup and about waking up to the bird chatter (or squirrel chatter) and smell the forest. But it is easy to forget all of that when your toes fell like they’re falling off and the air freezes in your nose.
We were hiking to Mist Falls, an easy but moderately long hike that would give us the faintest of tastes of the High Sierra. We drove to where the road ended, and it was like we had suddenly ended up in a different planet. As we drove down into the canyon the land went dry and yellow, and small shrubbery dotted the hills like polkas. The mountains were all smooth curves and triangular shapes, but it was so dry and the backdrop was the rugged Sierra. It looked menacing, like the landscape was daring the car to fail us and we’d have to walk to Mordor and destroy the ring before we would be able to return to our homes. And as suddenly it changed again, and we entered a flourished valley filled with green and a river running parallel to the road. As our hike began it looked more and more like Yosemite, with granite grey mountains on each side – yet they were more rugged.
The canyon floor turned into a lush landscape that bustled with squirrels and chipmunks. I spent five minutes jumping at all sounds, expecting bears and mountain lions and rattlesnakes to plunge for us. But it was always a chipmunk; always a squirrel. The forest closed around us, but always it felt open, always it felt warming, always it felt like taken out of a book about faeries. We met no bears, no mountain lions, no snakes. No faeries either. We returned to the campsite before dark and cooked smores on the fire as the last light shone golden rays on the tree crowns.