Monday, January 19, 2015

Redwood Mountain Grove - Kings Canyon National Park, CA

MLK Day meant free park day, which meant an escape to Kings Canyon National Park for me.  Although the valley was fog-filled, up at elevation you found yourself literally above the clouds.

above the clouds
The hike selected for the day was the"Hart Tree & Fallen Goliath Loop" in the Redwood Mountain Grove.  I found a great step-by-step guide to the trail, which was really useful while hiking since the trail doesn't have many obvious trail markers on the route.  I'll not repeat it here, but this link will get you to it: 

***I highly recommend that you take along the list of landmarks (see the numbered list in the link above) and take a look at that blog's pictures as a means of a trail guide before you go.  It was very helpful for me and even includes some good directions for how to reach the trailhead.

According to what I've read (see references below), Redwood Mountain Grove is the largest grove of giant sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) in the world and also has the most old growth giant sequoias in the world - to it markets itself well for exploration.  It is less visited then the Giant Forest of Sequoia National Park (which has more of the larger giant sequoias as I hear), so you have a better chance of getting the trail to yourself, and MLK day was no exception.  I saw one hiking couple at the very start of the hike...and then no one else.  The "Hart Tree & Fallen Goliath Loop" is approximately 8.3 miles (up to an elevation of 6,425ft) , so be sure you start with plenty of daylight.  There is not much rigor to the inclines & declines, but I'd still advise hiking with boots over trainers, as the trail is not always clear of debris and sometimes the tread of the trail is a bit uneven (and if you go in winter - there might be some patches of snow like I encountered).

A few notable landmarks on the trail (in no particular order):
1. The "log" cabin - as in a cabin carved out of a fallen giant sequoia log (dream home? I think YES)

2. The Hart Tree - the 24th largest giant sequoia in the world, discovered in 1880 by Michael Hart.  It it has a DBH (diameter breast height) of 21.3 feet and is 277.9 feet tall.  It also has a large fire scar on one side, and you can walk through the tree via this scar.

3. Fallen Tunnel Tree - as in a fallen giant sequoia that a tunnel has been carved out of for you to walk through

4. 15 foot, mossy waterfall
5. a few creek crossings: Barton Creek and Redwood Creek

At the foot of a giant sequoia is a good place to gain perspective
The big take away from being in Redwood Mountain Grove is being dwarfed in thought and in person by the true giantness of the trees.  Giant sequoias are not is hard to gain proper perspective of just how large they are even when you are right next to them.  And in truth, there is something ancient in the air, you feel that you have jumped out of time and have gone back somewhere deep in the ages when you are hiking among them. 

 And the smell of the place is nothing short of intoxicating if you should be a nemophilist.

As a comic aside - the size of the tree is not the thing to be intimidated is their seemingly harmless pine cones.  Do not be deceived by their "cute" shape and size.  That is their great deception!  For, when they are form a cone gang and carpet the ground they make for a lethal minefield. 

...but, if a girl slips and falls on pine cones in the woods, and no one is around to see her, does she really fall?

Ponder that.

I got a great sunset on the drive down the mountain, a truly great "night cap."