By archmiles, 27-Nov-2013 23:18:00
Having rolled back up Route 1, negotiated the San Francisco rush hour/s (successfully - even if it is little disguised funfair dodgem territory), we finally headed down the home straight - the wiggly, windy mountain road to Point Reyes & the home of our good chums Janet & Burr. After an evening R&R we were up and at it the following morning.
This time up into the hills of Tomales Bay State Park, on Inverness Ridge, to check out the rugged Bishop pine forest - great trees (again) and some heavy infestations of old man's beard lichen. Had always wondered how this pine acquired its name. Apparently it was first identified at a place called San Luis Obispo, and 'obispo' is Spanish for 'bishop'.
Further on we explored some of the near deserted coastline of Point Reyes. While Jan took some rays I investigated some unusual rock formations along the base of the cliffs, steering a wide birth around six absorbed souls practising martial arts moves with what looked like Samurai swords.
By archmiles, 25-Nov-2013 18:44:00
We left Three Rivers and thrashed westwards across the flatlands south of Fresno, reaching the coast near Cambria by mid afternoon. The drive north, punctuated by a brief stop to stare in amazement at a beach full of snorting, grunting elephant seals, was all I'd ever hoped. Drama at almost every turn.
A slightly desperate end to the day with nowhere sorted to stay, led to an aimless wander through the lowlights of Salinas. Hightailed out of there & found safe haven in Marina, near Monterey.
Following morning we did the touristic number driving the 17 Mile Drive around the Monterey & Carmel. First sight of the Monterey cypresses on their native turf, but the affluence of the place was a little cloying.
By evening we found ourselves at Point Lobos State Reserve - this is The Place for Monterey cypresses. Fantastic rugged coastline with ancient cypresses almost tumbling down the cliffs. Many were covered in green algae, which, perversely are bright orange! It's the carotene that does it. This becomes a fairytale forest at the end of the day with the low sunlight.
By archmiles, 24-Nov-2013 17:04:00
Fortunately the bears had found Jan not to their liking & left her in the forest for me to find.
After an entrancing spell in Grant Grove we drove on and down into Kings Canyon, at one point missing a black-tailed deer by inches when it sprang out of the woods on the roadside. It's very hard to focus on driving the hairpin bends, enjoying the fantastic scenery and expecting the unexpected such as this. Thankfully, deer bounced away to safety.
Kings Canyon is a cracker, but the endless rolling mountainscapes in every direction stirred the desire to boot up and go. Sadly, no time.
After a long day enjoying Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks we headed back for Three Rivers, down along a back road beneath the western slopes of the Sierras. Absolutely nobody about & no other traffic for mile after mile - it was like ghost country - as night fell not a light to be seen. Kind of relieved to make it back to base.
By archmiles, 23-Nov-2013 20:15:00
Wrenched myself away from the bristlecones, vowing to return again one day - perhaps in springtime to see the end of the snows. Driving all the way back down the White Mountains the distant blue peaks of the Sierra Nevada beckoned.
We drove south out of Bishop, through Big Pine, through Lone Pine (there are a lot of pines hereabouts), through the brilliantly named Dunmovin (shades of a bungalow on Acacia Avenue, somewhere in a middle England retirement belt), until we neared Pearsonville. A very minor road, the J41, struck off to the west over Sherman Pass, through the aptly named South Sierra Wilderness Area. Not a lot of folks here, except those few we bumped into at a very rustic watering hole called Grumpy Bear's Retreat in Kennedy Meadows, far up in the hills. A grand cup of coffee and a very entertaining hour's worth with the locals. Motored on, avoiding frequent rock falls and large pine cones strewn across the road - could one of those give you a puncture? Best not to tempt fate out there.
After a long day we rolled down into Three Rivers - perfectly placed for a foray into Sequoia National Park the following day.
Up early, for we knew we had something of a marathon day ahead of us. The first couple of hours were spent driving the tortuous bends of The Generals Highway. Jannie had been wittering on about seeing bears since we set off days ago, so it was immensely gratifying when one chose to linger briefly on the roadside before quickly melting into the undergrowth. A few very pretty black-tailed deer with fawns also posing nicely for passing tourists.... but well away from bears.
First goal had to be General Sherman - the very biggest of the giant sequoias - and what a monster this is, amid many others in the Giant Forest that seem virtually as big. Trees like this really do make you feel very puny and insignificant on the face of the earth. This tree is about 275' high, has a ground circumference of almost 103' and has been estimated to contain 52,500 cubic feet of timber - it is the biggest tree in the world. Jannie, on the other hand, was far more excited by another black bear roaming through the trees, seemingly untroubled by the presence of tree tourists. It is a bit of a shame that the tracks down to these trees are often metalled, as it takes away a bit of the wild forest atmosphere, but there again it does mean these phenomenal trees are accessible to everyone.
Next stop was Grant Grove, to see sequoia cousin General Grant, the second largest giant sequoia, and again it was surrounded by numerous other trees which can't be much smaller. At Grant Grove there is also a remarkable hollow, fallen tree that you can walk right through. It's strange how everyone talks in hushed tones and treads softly around these giants, but I, like everyone else I guess, was totally overawed in their presence. Lost Jannie here for half an hour......eaten by bears?
By archmiles, 21-Nov-2013 10:53:00
I was determined to make my way back to the bristlecones for sunrise the following morning, so I crawled out of bed a little before 5.30 a.m. and was soon stealing through the deserted Main Street of Bishop. Pulling away from the lights of the sleeping town I was soon heading up on to the mountains, a faint glimmer in the eastern sky signalling the coming day.
By 6.45 I was walking the trail through Schulman Grove (named after Edmund Schulman - the dendrologist who discovered the extreme age of these trees and did much research here back in the 1950s). All on my own I was very conscious of not wanting to surprise a bear or mountain lion, so made a bit of noise as I explored. "Methuselah" - the oldest tree in the grove at around 4,600 years - is here, but it's exact location is a closely guarded secret. The park authorities don't want to risk the same fate for this tree as one that was cut down on Wheeler Peak in 1964. When the idiot who felled it counted the rings he discovered it really was the oldest bristlecone at around 4,900 years old....but, oh, he'd just cut it down!
The 4.5 mile trail entranced me for three or four hours, like a child let loose in a sweet shop I pinged from one amazing tree to another. The soft light in the shadows offered a whole new palette. The incredible convolutions of root and bole left me desperate to know how they've formed - I'd love to see 50 or 100 year incremental images going back over the centuries.
Enjoy a few shots of this very special place.
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