Kings Canyon National Park – End of Season November 2019

Well here it is November 4, 2019, and my 6 month season at Kings Canyon National Park has come to an end. Today was the day I was pulling out and heading to Washington State. I had spent the week packing things up in my motorhome for traveling and today I was up early to do last minute things and get my tow dolly connected to the motorhome. I thought I had it all figured out and I pretty much did, but there always seems to be a hang-up here and there. A few days prior I had managed to pull by hand my tow dolly out of the brush where it had been sitting since arriving here back in April. A few of the rental trailers had been picked up by the rental company so the two spaces next to me were empty and made it easier to pull the dolly out and place it in the empty spot next to me. My plan then was that I could just pull my motorhome out of my spot and then back up to the dolly and hook it up. Well, my motorhome is 34 feet long and for some reason, after several attempts, I just could not seem to get it backed into the position I needed. I was close but just not where I really wanted to be, so I decided that maybe I could just pull it by hand to line up with the hitch on the motorhome. Well, I just did not have the psychical strength to get it moved and pulled by hand to line up correctly and in fact, it ended up rolling kind of sideways into the backside of the motorhome. No worries no damage. Knowing I was not going to be able to do this by myself I called up a couple of my guy co-workers, but they were working and involved with a year-end audit so they could not leave. I called my co-worker Andrew, who is the restaurant manager. Things were slow so he was able to help me out. He had the muscles to get the dolly moved to where we needed it and between us, we managed to get it hooked up on the hitch. My next obstacle was since I had been there one of the power lines was lower than it had been before due to some work that had been done over the summer, so Andrew kept a watch as I pulled out and up the hill that I was not going to catch the top of my motorhome on the wires…..Yea!, I cleared the lines. The next obstacle was just getting down the rutted out dirt road that was always a mess to drive even our cars on. I just took it really slow and easy so that I didn’t rattle and shake everything out of the cupboards in the motorhome. I made it down to the flat area of the parking lot where I had parked my car the night before. I knew Andrew had to be getting back to work and I thought I could load my car myself. So I proceeded and was able to get the car pretty much loaded by myself…..this was really the first time I was doing it by myself as the previous few times since I have been towing the car I have had help. I was doing good till I was at the part where I had to place the tire webs over the front tires and just wasn’t sure about if I was placing them correctly. About that time two of our girl co-workers came by in the company truck and asked if I needed help…..I was debating whether they could be of any help when I saw Rick our housing manager. I told the girls thank you but I thought Rick would proably be able to help me, so I got Rick and YES, he was so much help, he actually gave me good tips and got me all setup and the car secured for travel.

I made my last rounds stopping off at the Market, the Trading Post, and the Restaurant to say my last goodbyes to everyone. It was bitter-sweet. My time at Kings Canyon was amazing but also had its frustrations. I was ready for a change and ready to get back to Washington to spend time with my family. I made so many good friends at Kings Canyon and I knew I was also going to miss them a lot.

I was finally pulling out about 12:30 P.M. made my way down the mountain which is all downhill for 57 miles from Grant Grove Village to Fresno, CA. I made it to Stockton, CA by late afternoon where I was meeting up with a friend who lived there to have dinner, visit and stay overnight. It was great to catch up with my friend and take a good break from the day of just trying to get loaded up, on the road and driving. I stayed overnight at the Walmart parking lot.

November 5th – This morning I was back on the road knowing I needed to get the air checked in my motorhome tires before I went to much further. After sitting for 6 months at Kings Canyon I knew they were a bit low and you just can’t get air in your tires anywhere. The tires are much bigger than car tires so I needed a truck place. In Lodi just off the freeway about 12 miles from where I had stayed at the Walmart, there are several truck services, so I got off at the exit and spotted a truck tire and wash place that was an easy pull in and out. Pulling a tow car I can not back up so I always have to be thinking ahead about getting in and out of places pretty easily.  I parked alongside the road and walked into the place of business to make sure they would be able to help me out and sure enough, they could. There were no other trucks being serviced so I was able to pull right in and get taken care of. My tires were a bit low just as I thought…..all tires were checked including the tow dolly tires. I was not charged at all, but gave him a tip for the service and helping me out. So off I went, hopping easily right back on the freeway. I drove this day till I stopped at a rest stop about 4 PM just outside of Weed, CA as it was getting later in the day, I don’t like to drive in the dark and did not want to be driving over the Siskiyous in the dark.

November 6th – I made it through the night just fine although it was cold. One of the things I have going against me right now is my propane heater and my generator does not work, so I have no heat when I am on the road and its November…..Brrrr! I bundle up a bit more, put on my gloves, turn on the front dash heater but it’s not really made to heat up all the space in the motorhome, but it does a good enough job after a while that I am fairly comfortable. Today I drove a few hours and stopped at a rest stop at about noon for some lunch and to get a shower while the temperatures were warmer. I proceeded on my way and stopped again for the night around 4 PM just a couple hours before Portland. OR.

November 7th – Today I drive the rest of the way to Washington close to my destination of Gig Harbor arriving about 7 PM. I drive to Port Orchard, a small town about 15 miles outside of Gig Harbor where I can park at Walmart for the night. My son lives about a half-hour away so he and his girlfriend come to see me and welcome me home. I stay the night in Port Orchard but the temperatures really drop during the night and it’s very cold without any heat.

November 8th – This morning I called my son and talked to him about how cold it had gotten during the night. My son talks to the homeowners where he lives to see if I can bring my motorhome to their place to park and hook up to electricity for the night….I am so grateful as they say that it is fine. I have an Airbnb reserved in Port Orchard on the 9th for a month, so I just needed to get through one more night in my motorhome. I drive out to the Key Peninsula and my son helps me get parked and all settled in. I am happy to be warmer.

November 9th – It rained during the night and I awake to some drizzling rain. I spend a few hours getting some things packed up and loaded into the car that I will take with me to the Airbnb that I think I might need and some of my scraping book stuff to work on while I am staying there. I borrow a car from my son’s girlfriend since mine needs to be worked on. I head out about 1:30 and pick my grandson up from high school at 2 PM. He is going with me to the Port Orchard Airbnb to help me unload the car and get set up. Check-in time is 3 PM…..We get to the Airbnb, meet up with Shannon the host who was very nice. The cottage is just as awesome and cute as I thought it would be from the pictures that were posted on the website. The cottage sits at the front of the property near the road with a circular driveway between the cottage and the main house which is on the waterfront. The cottage is blocked from street noise and view by a row of very tall Juniper trees….its a lovely place.

 

 

Kings Canyon – Last Trip to Cedar Grove October 2019

October I took my last drive to Cedar Grove. This post will mostly be pictures, as I have shared most of the information about the area in my other posts. As much as the Sequoias trees are amazing and beautiful, Cedar Grove in Kings Canyon was my favorite. I love rivers and waterfalls and I loved seeing the changes that took place over the season of the landscape and water flows. The heavy spring runoff that made the rivers and waterfalls swell so high in Spring was beautiful and amazing…..but I loved just as much coming back over the Summer and Fall as the river and waterfall levels receded and I was able to see what laid beneath all that roaring water. So take a ride with me on my last trip and I hope you enjoy this beautiful landscape as much as  I did.

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Roaming Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Park with my daughter – September 2019

My daughter, Erika came and spent 5 days with me in September……It had been years since she and I had been able to have one on one time, so it was a really special time for us.

Our first day of exploring was to Sequoia National Park General Sherman Tree. The General Sherman Tree is the largest in the world at 52,508 cubic feet.

I never saw a Big Tree that had died a natural death,” John Muir wrote of the giant sequoia. “Barring accidents they seem to be immortal, being exempt from all diseases that afflict and kill other trees. Unless destroyed by man, they live on indefinitely until burned, smashed by lightning, or cast down by storms, or by the giving way of the ground on which they stand.”

Muir’s observation remains generally accurate. Giant sequoias can live for over 3,000 years, outlasting all of their mixed conifer forest neighbors. What is it about giant sequoias that allow them to persist through millennia? Surprisingly, a major factor in the longevity of giant sequoias is a chemical called tannin. The tannin, present in high concentrations in sequoia bark, gives the sequoia resistance to rot, boring insects, and fire.

It is difficult to appreciate the size of the giant sequoias because neighboring trees are so large. The largest of the sequoias are as tall as an average 26-story building, and their diameters at the base exceed the width of many city streets. As they continue to grow, they produce about 40 cubic feet (one cubic meter) of wood each year, approximately equal to the volume of a tree that’s 50 feet tall and one foot in diameter.

To avoid toppling over, sequoias lose branches, weak branches make for long-lived trees when they are attached to a stout central trunk and has the ability to grow new branches in its old age.  What this means is that during extreme storms, branches will fail but the tree itself is likely to survive.

This is what happened to the General Sherman Tree during the New Year’s storm of 1978. Powerful winds howled through the tree-tops, threatening the very existence of this ancient organism, but before the tree could be uprooted, one of its huge branches failed and crashed to the ground.

With a diameter of over six feet and a length in excess of 100 feet, this branch formed a huge “sail” during the storm, catching the wind like the sails on a square-rigged ship.

General Sherman - we think this is the branch that broke offGeneral Sherman - Broke tree branchGeneral Sherman BranchGeneral Sherman - The tree branch broke the fence when it fell and broke

German Sherman Loop

Our next stop was Big Tree Loop……This1.5 mile paved trail was great! A beautiful meadow, large trees, and boulders.

On our trail walk we ran across this beautiful Golden Marmont living in the base of one of the fallen Sequoia trees. He was so awesome!

Another day we took a ride to Hume Lake and to one of the look-outs on the Generals’ highway.

Then a trip to Cedar Grove

10-Mile Creek

 

Kings Canyon River

Grizzly Falls – By this late in the season the river and falls were pretty low, but it had a different kind of beauty from earlier in the spring when they were gushing with water.

On the banks of the Kings Canyon River at Cedar Grove

John Muir Rock and Kings River

Roaring Falls at Cedar Grove

River walk to Zumwalt Meadows – We did not get to walk the meadow loop due to the wooden walk bridge was washed out.

Knapps Cabin

Long before Kings Canyon became a National Park in 1940, George Owen Knapp, a successful businessman from Santa Barbara, built a small hunting and fishing cabin along the banks of the Kings River. The cabin was subsequently used and preserved by the Park Service with the incorporation of the land into the park, and it has since been added to the National Register of Historic Places. The cabin sits about a100 yards off the main road between Cedar Grove and Roads End.

 

 

 

Grant Grove – Kings Canyon National Canyon

Grant Grove Village was my home from April 12th through November 4th 2019 and the hub of our community where we worked, lived and socialized. This post is to share some history of Grant Grove and life here.

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When the Grant National Park was created in 1916 there were already a few primitive cabins and tents around a swampy area known as Bradley Meadow that was being used for guest facilities. Around 1924 a gas station, photo studio, and market were built to serve the increasing number of mostly day visitors. The Park Service wanted to bring the existing businesses with multiple ownership under a single concessionaire who would agree to build new facilities and run everything which happened in 1925 under the direction of Howard Hayes. Rather than build large hotels the park service decided that the new guest facilities for both parks should be rustic complexes of individual guest cabins. Between 1927 and 1930 a new lodging complex consisting of a small lodge and lobby, a relocated cabin to be used as a reading room, 4 new duplex guest cabins with private baths, a new bathhouse, and lots of tent cabins were constructed. Nearby, a separate area known as Meadow Camp already existed and consisted of a group of tent cabins. These were remodeled into rustic housekeeping cabins by replacing the tent-tops with roofs, and a new bathhouse/office was constructed. So by the early 1930s, Grant Grove Village had two separate and distinct guest lodging areas. Cabins from both these areas still stand today.

In 1932 a new store and lunchroom were built along the main park road (Hwy 180). This building remains today and is now the gift shop which was remodeled in 2017. In 1936 the gas station was replaced with a new one which also still stands today but is closed. A restroom was built near the gas station around 1940, it also still exists. Little changed from then until the 1960s when the National Park launched a new program to modernize the National Parks.  Under this new program, a 1960’s style coffee shop was added to the rear of the existing store, and a new Visitor’s Center was constructed across the street from it. Many of the cabins were repaired and remodeled. In 1969 the old lodge was remodeled into a market and retained much of the original design including the fireplace, but in 1993 the Lodge/market burned to the ground and Grant Grove Village lost what was it’s most architecturally historic structure. A new store and post office were built between the gas station and gift shop buildings in 1994.

John Muir Lodge was built in 1998 and is a two-story building. When you enter the lodge you walk into a large lobby with a huge fireplace. Several porches with chairs and rockers make a comfortable place to hang out in the evenings.

The brand new Grant Grove restaurant opened in 2017….the old Grant Grove Coffee Shop was built in 1962 and was attached to the back of the current gift shop building, in the area where the patio for the new restaurant is located now. The historic gift shop, which still remains, was built in 1933 and originally housed both the gift shop and a small lunch counter.

Other buildings looking out from John Muir Lodge – Manager housing units on the left, maintenance and Human Resource buildings on the right.

Snow days in May

Panoramic Point. The narrow, winding, Panoramic Point Road leads 2.3 miles from Grant Grove Village to a parking lot just below the park ridge. There is a pit toilet and picnic tables at the Panoramic Point parking lot.  From the parking lot a short trail leads about one block up to Panoramic Point. From Panoramic Point you see a fantastic view of King’s Canyon and the snow-capped mountains as well as Hume Lake.

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 J1’s ,  Camp-fires and, Outings

The Exchange Visitor Program (EVP) was created as part of the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961 to allow foreign nationals to temporarily reside in the United States and participate in a variety of education or training programs and to promote cultural exchange between the United States and other countries.

We had about 12 young men from Turkey, Russia and, Jordan who came and worked for us for three months over the summer. I became pretty good friends with a few of them and it was pretty awesome to learn about their home, families and, life in their country. Most of them were all students at the university as that is one of the requirements to be in the program and most were studying engineering. A few were studying for business and management degrees. Several of them worked in the restaurant and a few in the market and gift store. Since I was the cash room auditor I had connections with them all as they came on board to get their cash banks and drop their daily deposits with me.

A few times over the summer those who worked in the market and gift shop would get together at the market manager (Jill) cabin after work for a camp-fire and roasting hot dogs and Smores. They were always a lot of fun with time to visit, laugh, share stores, listen to music and just bond with each other.

Pictures:  #1  Arse from Russia, #2 Egc, Ahmet & Khan from Turkey #3 Brooke from New York, Oktay and Berk from Turkey, #4 Berk, Oktay from Turkey, Jonthan from San Jose, #5 Diedre from Arizona and Gina from Fresno, #6 Jonthan and Khan

Fire building 101

Took a drive with Ahmet, Oktay and Arse one day in July to Cedar Grove. By this time the river and waterfalls were still pretty full, but less than it was May.

Employee Appreciation Week

Each year for one week in the summer our concessionaire, Delaware North puts on a week of showing their employees how much they are appreciated. Some of the things they did was giving staff names to managers to write us thank you notes, we were fed a lunch out on the court yard, we had daily drawings to win gifts, etc.

Wine Tastings

This summer was the first time that wine tastings took place…..Our restaurant manager, Andrew is a young, new manager that was in his third season at Grant Grove. The tastings were very successful, fun and enjoyed meeting some awesome guests as well as spending time with co-workers. Although I am not a wine drinker I was curious to know more about wines and to try some samples. I found that I definitely do not like red wines. I like the whites and ones that are sweet….but found that wines are not something I see myself sitting down and drinking.

Hume Lake Outings

 End of Season – Saying Goodbye

Visitors

I was blessed to have family and friends come and spend some time with me while I was here this season. Two of my friends from Vacaville and Grass Valley CA came for my birthday in June which I wrote a separate blog post on. My cousin and her grandson came from Sacramento…..Their visit was short and I had to work so I did not get to do as much as I would have liked, but it was great to see them. My daughter came from Washington for 5 days…..We had so much fun as it was the first time in about 20 years I have been able to have just one on one time with her. It was a very special time but I am going to write about that in a separate blog.

My cousin Tammy and her grandson, Hayden

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Turned 60 years…… June 19th!

Well, a couple of weeks have gone by since my birthday and turning the big 60! Wow, where have the years gone? I remember in my younger years thinking 60 was so old and so far away and before you know it here I am 60, but do I feel old? Oh, there are some days I do especially when the body has its aches and pains…….but in my head, I still feel young at heart and I just want to keep on going and going. Turning 60 this year meant that I was not near family and friends to celebrate as I am working and living in Kings Canyon National Park an hour and a half outside of Fresno, CA. Two good friends, Colleen and Teri who live about 5 hours away had been talking about coming up here to visit me, so I suggested they come for my birthday! So the planning started a couple months ago…..they were able to get reservations at the John Muir Lodge which worked out really great because it is right near where I live and work. They were easily able to get a room for the night of June 18th, but there were no openings for June 19th so we kept checking to see if there were any cancellations and looking into other options just in case. The time was getting closer and still, nothing was coming up…..but Teri persisted and called the lodge and low and behold there was a cancellation for June 19th and she snagged it up. We were all so excited and happy about that.

So June 18th finally arrives……Colleen and Teri start out early so they can get here by 11/11:30 so we will have several hours to go exploring on Tuesday. Well, due to traffic, potty, gas stops, and a little site seeing they arrived about 2:30 P.M. I, of course, was on pins and needles as I waited for them to get here…..it was too hard to stay home at the RV waiting so I spent a couple hours at Grant Grove Village near the meadow on a bench taking in nature and texted there where I would be when they arrived.

As I was sitting on the bench I heard a voice ” Were here” I jumped up, gave them both big hugs…..so happy to see them! We got them checked into their room at John Muir Lodge, chatted and let them unwind a bit from the long drive. I first took them to where I lived with my RV in the woods so they could check out my neighborhood.

Our next stop was the General Grant Tree Trail, a 1/4 mile walking loop that is a nice, easy stroll and lots of fun as we checked out the “Fallen Monarch” which was home for 2 years in the late 1800s to the Gamlin brothers who were loggers while they built their cabin just up a ways from the Fallen Monarch. The Fallen Monarch was also used by the US Calvary for a time as a stable for their horses. 

Next on the path was the  General Grant Tree, which is the nation’s only living national shrine. In 1956, President Eisenhower gave the Grant Tree this designation in memory of Americans who gave their lives in wartime. Named after Civil War General and our 18th president Ulysses S. Grant, this tree has a volume estimated at 46,608 cubic feet, weighs over 1,250 tons, is 267 feet tall (the height of a 24-story building), and has a diameter at base height of 29 feet. The General Grant Tree is the world’s third-largest tree. Then it was off to dinner at the Grant Grove restaurant and the end of Day 1.

 

   

 

 

Kings Canyon National Park/Grant Grove Village – General Grant Tree Walking Loop

The first stop on the .08 mile loop is the “Fallen Monarch, ” a thousand-year-old Sequoia Tree that is more than just a big old log lying on the ground. The Fallen Monarch has lived through different periods of history with a unique past. No one knows when this giant fell but is was hallowed by wildfires so that when it fell, it became a tunnel that you can walk through. We do know that a couple brothers who were loggers….the Gamlin brothers found shelter in this tree. It served as temporary housing for them from 1870-1872 while they were constructing their cabin not far from the Fallen Monarch. Soon after the Gamlin brothers moved into their new cabin the tree became a gathering place and soon became the local saloon and hotel with table, chairs and even a homemade chimney that extended out the tree’s bark. Later in 1876, the chimney was used as a cookstove and the trunk of the tree as the stables for 32 horses of the US Cavalry.

The General Grant Tree has a volume estimated at 46,608 cubic feet, weighs over 1,250 tons, is 267 feet tall (the height of a 24-story building), and has a diameter at a base height of 29 feet. The General Grant Tree is young by sequoia standards at around 1,700 years old and is still growing thicker. The General Grant Tree is the world’s third-largest tree (General Sherman Tree is the largest) with the broadest base diameter of any sequoia at 40.3 feet. The General Grant Tree is a significant tree for all of America. In addition, to being “The Nation’s Christmas Tree,” The General Grant Tree is a national shrine in memory of the men and women of the Armed Forces who have served and fought and died to keep America free. The General Grant Tree is America’s only living shrine. The tree is of course named after Ulysses S. Grant, the victorious Civil War General, and America’s 18th president”.

As you continue up the trail you come to the Gamlin Cabin. The cabin is over 140 years old and has been reconstructed and relocated three times. “The cabin was built in 1872 by Israel Gamlin, who with his brother Thomas filed a timber claim to 160 acres within the Grant Grove. They lived here until 1878 while grazing cattle in the mountains. After General Grant National Park was established in 1890 the cabin was used as a storehouse by the U.S. Cavalry who patrolled the park until 1913. Later it became the quarters of the first park ranger station”.

Gamlin Cabin

Next on the trail loops is the Centennial Stump. The Centennial stump has a diameter of 24 feet and an interesting history.  “This tree was cut in 1875, and a 16-foot section was sent to the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876. Only the outer shell was exhibited, the parts being reassembled after shipment. Eastern people refused to accept the exhibit as part of a single tree and called in a “California Hoax”. It took two men nine days to chop down the tree. Its upper trunk is the scarred log downslope from the Grant Tree. Ladies from a nearby logging camp used to conduct Sunday school services for their children upon the stump”. The “California Hoax” was a sad finish for the 1,800-year-old tree, it would be 14 more years before the grove received permanent federal preservation as a national park”.

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Rocket Man – June 4, 2019

Today was my day off from work so Jill (the market and gift manager here at Grants Grove) had decided to go see the movie about Elton John called Rocket Man in Clovis. In the meantime, we had two new J1 young men who had arrived to work here from Turkey……Cim and Demir. Nhmet who is also from Turkey had already arrived and has been working in the lodge for a couple of weeks. They are between the ages of 18 and 21 and are living in one of the cabins where I had first lived when I got here. They also have no transportation to get around, so we took them with us to town so see the movie, go grocery shopping and had dinner.

Rocket Man was a great movie……anyone who grew up listening to Elton John music through the ’70s, and ’80s will appreciate this movie. Elton John was an amazing, talented musician and singer, he was very eccentric and flamboyant, but when you see this movie and grasp an understanding of his childhood, the craziness of being a star and those who took advantage of his weaknesses and his fame brings the music he sang to a whole different level of understanding about music and his life. So if you get a chance to see it, you should. I do not think you will be disappointed.

So what is a J1 and why are they here? In essence, the J1 is the J1 Summer Work and Travel (J1 SWT) visa which allows 3rd level full-time students completing degree level courses work in the USA for 4 months between May 15th and September 15th. Participants can opt to travel for a further month (up to October 15th) depending on the reopening date of their college and SEVIS compliance. The J1 SWT is also a cultural visa and all participants are required to undertake as many cultural activities as possible during the summer. J1s are hired to work in many of our National Parks to help fill the staffing needs over the busy summer/tourist season.

As I mentioned Nhmet, Cim and Demir are all from Turkey and attend the University in Istanbul and are majoring in Engineering. Nhmet and Cim are pretty quiet and they do not speak English well. Demir is 21, speaks English very well, is very social, very educated and knowledgeable. It was very interesting to talk with him as we went about our day and the differences in our cultures. Shopping was overwhelming for them and us…..so many choices of foods and the fact that in Turkey they do not have much processed food, they don’t have the big shopping centers and grocery stores as we do, they have small markets everywhere. Most people in Turkey do not have cars as they are very expensive…..Demir said most girls won’t date you if you do not have a car, because having a car means you have wealth. He lives in a high rise flat, they have mass transportation…..bus, train, etc he said. After two hours of shopping, we were exhausted but we all wanted to relax and get a bite to eat before heading back to Kings Canyon so we opted for Apple bees where we could sit down and where a variety of food options were available. Demur really liked the place, thought it was very nice. Nhmet and Cim ended up not eating….they do not eat Pork and so there was a discussion with the waitress whether various foods were all cooked on the same grill, which they were so they choose not to eat as they were concerned that whatever they ordered would have come in contact with Pork. Demur chose to try a hamburger which he liked……he had a very candid discussion with Nhmet and Cim about trying new foods. After making the hour and a half drive we finally arrived home at 10:30 PM. I quickly put away the few groceries I had and went to bed. It was a fun day.

Catching Up – April 2019

Hey everyone,

Gosh it has been forever since I have blogged and I have really missed it, and now I am just that much farther behind in catching up on everything. Well after spending a year and three and a half months in Phoenix, AZ I finally left. After I got back from my six-week road trip at the end of September 2018 it was just a really rough time for me. While I was on the trip I had some car issues that I was able to temporarily fix so I could get back to Phoenix. Once I got back I had the shop I was working for do some major fixes and repairs to my car which took three weeks and $2,800.00….I have had mixed emotions about this job as time has gone on…..I’ll try and share the frustrations as well as the blessings as I do some catching up in my blogging. So for starters with my car things could have been a lot worse…..I had access to the company truck if I needed to run to the grocery store, not having the money upfront to put into my car I was able to make payments on the repairs and have my car back on the road to use. The reason it took three weeks to fix is that it took over a week to just get the right bracket I needed that helps hold your transmission to the frame, along with the motor mounts which I had to have replaced, the arms and an oil leak. Having to drop the transmission while the car is sitting on the ground on jacks and putting it back in is a pain in the butt for the mechanic and time-consuming……so frustration number one is our shop not having a lift…..even though one was purchased at the Richie Brothers auction but was never put in so, therefore, more labor went into the job which cost me more money even though I also got a 10% employee discount.

By this time the holidays were approaching and the holidays are always hard for me. I was invited by a couple of friends to spend Christmas with them, but I just did not want to. Christmas is for families and I just felt I would be the third wheel and feel out of place. I did have a Thanksgiving dinner with my friend Susanna and Endel which was nice. For Christmas, the shop was going to be closed for a few days so I made plans and reservations to go to Las Vegas, but at the last minute I caught a terrible cold and my head was hurting so badly I just could not even make the 4-hour drive, so I stayed home and nursed my cold through Christmas and New Years and then I was all well. The weird thing was I had not been sick in the last couple of years and out of the blue I catch this crud which took two weeks to get over and now here I am 5 months later and have not been sick again. There was a reason, I will never know that I was not to make that trip.

So I got through the holidays and the new year 2019 started…..I was feeling really down and depressed. I just was not happy working at the shop, things were going downhill and very frustrating. I no longer knew really what my job was any more or even what I would be doing each day. There were weeks I was working 25-30 hours a week. I needed to be working 40 hours a week, I was barely making my bills and my debt to the shop was getting paid very, very slowly. I was on an active search for a new job…..nothing was really popping out at me that seemed like a good match. I went on one job interview that I thought would be good, but that was a joke. I had to take some random, abstract test and if I passed it then I got an interview….well I did not pass it. So as February rolled around things were gearing up in Phoenix for the Spring Training games that would start the end of February. I got on the Delaware North job website and was looking at jobs (this is the same company I worked for at the Grand Canyon), well lo and behold there was a cash room position at the Maryvale Sports Complex for the Milwaukee Brewers just 10 minutes down the road. I applied for it and in just a couple of days, I was called in for an interview and hired on the spot. I was so excited because I would be making a few dollars more an hour than I was at the shop, it was part-time so it would fill in the empty holes that had sprung up working at the shop and it would get me away from the heavy depression and unhappiness that was going on at the shop. Those 5 weeks working at the ballpark was just what I needed and I had an awesome time. I will write more about my time and experience there on a separate blog post. In the meantime, I  was still looking for something long term after the spring training season ended and with only one week left I was on the Delaware North job website again and ran across a position for a Cash Auditor at Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park. I right away applied and within two weeks I received a phone call and had a phone interview with the HR department and then the General Manager. I was hired on the spot and was asked to get to Kings Canyon as soon as I could. So within 5 days, I had my motor home ready to go, new tires on my car dolly, my car loaded up and left Phoenix behind. I took three days to travel, stopping the last night at the KOA in Visalia to see and visit my friend Chris who had been living in her travel trailer for several months helping out family in the area and it happened that she was pulling out the next morning to head for Southern California, then Arizona and on to South Dakota. I was really glad I got to see her. The next morning I made the last leg of my journey up to Kings Canyon on April 10th.

Me and Chris April 10, 2019

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

The Early Years  

On September 25, 1890, President Benjamin Harrison signed legislation establishing America’s second national park.  Sequoia National Park was created to protect the giant sequoia trees from logging and was the first national park formed to protect a living organism. One week later, General Grant National Park was created and Sequoia was enlarged. To protect these new parks, U.S. Army Cavalry troops were assigned from the Presidio of San Francisco from 1891 through 1913 when the first civilian administrator of the park, Walter Fry, was appointed. The National Park Service was established three years later in 1916.

Early access to the Giant Forest to see the Sequoia trees were limited with no more than a pack road. Under the leadership of Captain Charles Young, the only African American commissioned officer in the U.S. Army at the time built the road into the Giant Forest which was completed in August 1903. For the first time, the “big trees” were accessible by wagon. The growing popularity of the automobile led to the building of the Generals Highway in 1926 opening up the Giant Forest to increased visitation.

Better access to the Giant Forest led to building amenities for the increasing number of visitors. One of the first projects by the National Park Service was the construction of the first steps to the summit of Moro Rock, a favorite destination. Backcountry trail construction also became a priority. In 1932, the new High Sierra Trail was completed connecting the Giant Forest and Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous U.S. During the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps worked in the parks to build and improve campgrounds, trails, buildings, and other facilities.

In 1940, Congress and President Franklin D. Roosevelt created a new national Park to include the glacially-formed Kings Canyon. The newly established Kings Canyon encompassed the previous Grant National Park into it. Ever since WWII, Kings Canyon and Sequoia have been administered jointly. These two parks have grown to encompass 1,353 square miles of which 97% is designated and managed as wilderness.

Kings Canyon National park is the place that John Muir once called “a rival to Yosemite.” By some measures, it is home to the deepest canyon in America. Kings Canyon National Park is composed of two distinct areas……Grant Grove, home to the General Grant tree, also known as “the Nation’s Christmas Tree” and Cedar Grove.

So on May 8, 2020, I made my first drive to Cedar Grove which is located at the bottom of Kings Canyon and features terrain similar to Yosemite Valley. It is also one of the least crowded areas of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. A 35-mile drive east of Grant Grove, Cedar Grove features a wide range of stunning natural wonders with its towering cliffs, massive trees, cascading waters, and the powerful Kings River.

Come along the ride with me through pictures and narration:

The Kings Canyon Scenic Byway (Highway 180) is carved into granite and winds down into Kings Canyon with the walls closing in at some junctions and bends. This scenic two-lane road has numerous pullouts with an amazing variety of geographical terrain and stunning views of Kings Canyon and Kings Canyon River.

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Ten Mile Creek

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First Waterfall sighting

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Terrain, Flowers

Kings River

Kings Canyon Lodge/Rough Fire

 

On July 31, 2015, a lightning strike started a fire 5 miles north of Hume Lake. Over the period of the next 3 months, the fire which came to be known as the “Rough Fire” burned 151,623 acres of land over Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The Historic Kings Canyon Lodge was all but destroyed except for the two red and white working gasoline dispensers-not pumps with a sign that read “America’s oldest double gravity pumps 1928” and the Kings Canyon Lodge Sign. The lodge and 10 cabins were originally built in 1937. The store had an old-fashioned cash register that would sound “cha-ching!” when transactions were made. Burgers, fries, sandwiches, and salads were standard meals in the restaurant. The lodge had many items there were antiques, too old to even try and replace. The owner had lived there since he was 3 years old, his father passing the land and business down to him, but sadly the buildings were not insured.

Here are a few pictures I pulled off of google of the lodge before the fire:

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In the summer of 2019, 4 years after the fire the lodge has never been rebuilt….a A small wooden concession stand had been built to serve water, soda and ice cream for visitors. The original Kings Canyon Lodge sign and the gas pumps still stand and actually work.

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Grizzly Falls

Grizzly Falls and picnic area is located on the Generals Highway to Cedar Grove. The 80-foot waterfall is just a short super short and easy 0.1-mile round trip stroll just off the highway. The waterfall is impossible to miss and is a thrill to watch the water plunge down a granite wall. As you step closer you will be greeted by a refreshing mist. At this time that I visited the falls were very full from the spring runoff from a very good winter of snow. It was amazing!

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Cedar Grove

Cedar Grove sits at the bottom of the glacial Kings Canyon at 4000 feet in elevation. Cedar Grove tends to be more peaceful and quiet, especially before Memorial Day and after Labor Day.  Four campgrounds along the Kings River offer views of the deep, granite-walled canyon. Trails from here lead to meadows, waterfalls and some of the best access to the high sierra wilderness.

Cedar Grove is a modest, low-key lodge in the middle of a remote, pristine mountain wilderness that sits on the edge of the Kings River and is a good base for exploring so much that this area has to offer. A very peaceful experience to sit in the chairs by the river and watch the wildlife and listen to the river.

My co-worker Mike is the manager at Cedar Grove during the summer to fall season. During the winter he is the Cash Auditor and it is this position that I was filling in for during my season in 2019 while he managed Cedar Grove. Mike was kind enough to take me to a couple of site seeing stops in the area.

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Roaring Falls

Our first stop was a short 5-minute walk from the parking lot to the falls which is beautiful and full of scenic stops along the riverside. The waterfall is beautiful and magnificent as it roars down the canyon wall and drops down into a pool in the river. Even before Mike and I arrived at the end of the trail you could hear the roaring of the falls.

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Roads End/John Muir Rock

It really is what it sounds like…..the end of the road in the beautiful Kings Canyon. This is the jumping-off point for many of the National Parks backcountry trails. Mike and I parked in the parking lot here and took a short walk to the edge of the Kings River and the famous John Muir Rock. On excursions to Kings Canyon, John Muir would give talks on this large, flat river boulder. The massive boulder sits at the base of a granite face that rises hundreds of feet out of the river. Nowadays for those who have the nerve, Muir Rock is the site of a 15-foot jump into a beautiful swimming hole.

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Moving to and living at Cedar Springs – Kings Canyon National Park

So after 2 1/2 weeks of living in the cabin, I was able to move my RV to “Cedar Springs”, the staff housing area for travel trailers and motorhomes. The winter snow had finally melted enough for us to get in there, but it was still pretty wet and muddy. I took a drive to Cedar Springs in my car so that I knew where I would be taking my RV so I could be prepared…….I was pretty shocked and baffled as to the condition of the road. Cedar Springs was only a mile from “Wormwood” but you first traveled up a single lane paved road, then you took a right onto a dirt road that had chuckholes that were full of water, a road that was so deteriorated that most of what had been a paved road was almost gone, with crevices and craters where winter melt runoff had been flowing. The road towards the end became a hill that you had to access to the left to get over. Once I reached the top of the hill I see three trailers that have permanent wooden snow shelters built over them. The third one had been not been built very well because it had collapsed on top of the travel trailer and damaged the trailer. Right after that in the middle was the “Bath House” which included a washer, dryer and 2 sets of bathrooms with showers. Right past the bathhouse was my RV space which was clearly very wet with watering run down through my space and the other 5 spaces beyond me. At the very end was the RV of Doug, one of our maintenance staff.  I was not impressed at all and actually a bit ticked off with what was apparently considered a suitable RV space for living. At this point, I am here and don’t have a lot of choice in the matter. I did like the fact that we were up in the woods where it was quiet and peaceful.

I then went and retrieved my RV and made my way up that awful road with my 34 foot RV. I took it really, really slow so that I did not fall into one of the ruts and get stuck, nor did I want to shake and rock my RV  so much to knock stuff out of my cupboards. I managed to make it and then I had JR and Doug the maintenance guys help me get backed in and somewhat level. I wasn’t really happy with where I was parked because I was literally sitting in a mud hole on the driver’s side. I stayed put for a couple of days and decided I had to do something different. I was not level enough which was causing my refrigerator not to work and I did not like being parked in the mud…..I really wanted to put some boards under my tires to get them up out of the mud and water. I sought out JR and Doug’s assistance again……I had to pull my RV forward but in doing so being in that mud and water and being on a bit of a slope my tires and RV were basically sliding and leaning…….I kept on the gas pulling myself out of it, but it scared the crap out of me the way my RV was leaning so far. We decided that I could not go back into that same spot, so we re-maneuvered where I backed in more to the left toward the bathhouse where the ground was a little higher up out of the mud and used a couple boards under the right driver side tires to get me more level. I still wanted to have boards under the other tires but I wasn’t able to deal with this whole situation on my own and JR and Doug were not willing to listen to me or help me address my concern, saying it was fine. So that is where my RV stayed for the next 6 months and things got better as it dried out. One other issue with moving the RV over was that my front door and step was right over some new root and leave growth from the tree I was parked near. About a week later I got the big hedge clippers from the maintenance shop and spent several hours clipping back all the roots and brush so I could access my front door easier and not trip or keep scratching my ankle on the brush.

Just a few days later the other RV spaces were occupied with 6 rental trailers out of Bakersfield, CA. As our season was ramping up these trailers would be additional housing space for staff, along with the two permanent trailers, my RV and Doug’s RV which was parked at the end of the campground.

A few weeks later in the middle of May, we had a couple of good snowstorms that left us with about 3 inches of snow. I grew up in snow country and loved it, but at my age now (60 years) I just am not interested in living or having to deal with snow. The snow we had leftover from the winter when I had arrived had pretty much all melted so I won’t lie about flipping out over these snowstorms. My car was not outfitted to be driving in the snow so the first storm we got I hopped a ride to work with maintenance and then walked the mile home after work. The day was sunny and nice, but I also did not have the proper shoes, and with my bad knees it was not fun. Over the next few days, I was pretty frazzled with trying to figure out how to get to and from work. I was feeling disappointed that I was being viewed as an inconvenience by a few coworkers who had the ability and the vehicles to pick me up for work and bring me home. I ended up getting a ride a couple mornings with Doug the maintenance guy who also lived at the staff trailer park, but I had to go in on his schedule and he usually gave me crap. My general manager gave me a ride home a couple times. I got to the point I hated feeling this way so two other co-workers were kind enough to put some cables on my car and shoveled me out so I could use my own car. I made it to work the next day in my car, but during the day another snow storm came in. So at the end of the workday, I was feeling confident about driving home because I had cables on my car. Well, I was doing just fine till I reached the top of the hill that you have to go over just before you reached the campground and I spun out and broke the cable. So there I was sitting at the top of that hill knowing I could not go forward and not sure I was going to even be able to back down the bill….plus this road is one lane, there is no room for another vehicle so I am now blocking the road for anyone else who may be becoming. I called Doug in maintenance and told him my situation and that I needed help. I got out of the car and saw the broken cable was wrapped around the tire. I managed to get it all untangled and removed. I then proceeded to see if I could back down which I was managing to do when Doug arrived. He shook his head at me and said: “why were you even trying to drive your car up here in this?” I said, “because you told me that if I just had cables for my car I would be just fine, so I got cables on and this is the result”. Between the two of us, we managed to get my car backed all the way down the hill and out to where there is a “Y” and a wide area where we could park my car. Doug said my car was staying there until all this went away, to get in his truck and he would get me to and from work. Within about 3 days the snow had all melted and I was able to drive my car again.  I was never so happy to have this week and a half of chaos over with.

Around June we had some tree cutters who were doing some contract work to cut down quite a few trees that had been damaged over the winter and trees that had become very damaged from bug infestation. The tree cutters camped in their tents for a couple weeks up where we lived in the trailer camp park at “Cedar Springs.” During this time we had bear encounters at the campground at least 3-4 times. It was a junior bear who I believe was lured in by the tree cutters camping…..there were the food smells from food storage and cooking. One of my co-workers living in one of the trailers just down from me saw him twice…..once when he was coming right out of his trailer and another time in the field behind his trailer. I saw him one day after work….. I was coming down close to my RV when I saw him walking across our little road to the tree cutters campsite. I stopped my car to get a picture of him through my window, but then at that same moment, I saw and heard one of the tree cutters truck come barreling down the road. I knew I had best get out of the way before he ran over me, he was going way to fast for this area. The bear continued to walk off to the side of the camp when the truck pulled into the area right where the bear was, while at that same time the bear took off running due to the rattling noise of the truck…….I really thought that the bear might get hit. I don’t think that guy driving the truck even saw him until after he had stopped and then saw the bear. Everything happened so fast…..I stepped out of my car as the guy was getting out of the truck and I asked him did you even see the bear? and I could see a look of surprise on his face and the way he said…..Wow, Yes!

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A bit earlier in the season, I had seen a black bear that looked like this one in our trailer campground. I had gotten up early to go into work and when I stepped outside my RV I saw him a bit of a distance off across the roadway near the woods where employees parked their cars. He was just slowing walking and then went in front of the cars. I thought he might come around and I could get his picture, but then I saw the back of him going towards the woods. I was a bit shocked seeing the bear, so I stayed right near my RV. I had not seen or been close to one in the wild before so I was taking precautions. I was bummed I did not get my own picture. The one I saw was about this size, no cub though and he had more blonde on his chest and more brown. This name, black bear can be misleading, as they may be black, brown, cinnamon, or even blonde in color.

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