Olympic National Park – Hoh Rain Forest (December 2019)

On my trip back home to visit my family in Washington, we (my daughter, her boyfriend, and his 3 children ) decided to visit the Hoh Rain Forest in the Olympic National Park as they live only a two-hour drive away. For the 30 plus years, I and my husband had lived with our kids in Washington we had made a few trips over the years to the Olympic National Park, but we had not been to the Rain Forest. I think with working, raising kids and the fact that we lived in Gig Harbor, WA another two hours further south made for a 4-hour drive just one way.

I was really excited that we were going to the rain forest, the weather forecast was for rain which is not surprising since the Hoh Rain Forest gets as much as 14 feet of rain a year, along with the fog and mist which adds another 30 inches of rain, making this one of the world’s lushest rain forests, and designated as one of the wonders of Washington State.  So we packed some lunch and off we headed about 9 AM this Saturday morning. As the morning progressed the rain held off and some sun actually started coming out.

Some of the most common trees that grow here are the Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock (Washington’s official state tree), which can reach heights of over 300 feet and seven feet in diameter. Most of them are covered with huge clumps of hanging moss and ferns. Moss is an epiphyte, which is a plant that grows on another plant without harming it as opposed to a parasite. Epiphytes get their moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, fog, and debris that accumulates around them.

We arrived at the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center at about 12:30 P.M. and took a look at our map as to the different trails we thought we wanted to do. We decided on the most popular trail….”The Hall of Mosses Trail” is a 0.8-mile loop. This trail proved to be just right for me since I have bad knees. Walking through this trail was absolutely awesome and beautiful, it’s like walking through a living, green cathedral.  The best time to visit the rain forest is when it is damp and raining because that is when the moss is the lushest and greenest. The rainy winter and spring seasons are also the best times to see the Roosevelt Elk that live in the area since they move to higher elevations in the summer. The best way to share our day is through my pictures, hope you enjoy them!

After our hike, we ate our lunch that we packed and started heading back home…..our timing was perfect as within about 10 minutes of leaving it started to rain. On our way out of the park we stopped and got some pictures of this beautiful herd of Roosevelt Elk…..Olympic National Park is home to the largest unmanaged herd of Roosevelt Elk in the Pacific Northwest. Named for President Theodore Roosevelt, they are the largest variety of elk in North America. The Hoh Rain Forest is one of the best places to see these amazing animals. They are non-migratory herds that stay in the Hoh Rain Forest area throughout the year as they feed mainly on ferns, shrubs, and lichens from the rain forest, as well as the meadow grasses.

Our drive back took us through Forks, WA  where the “Twilight” story took place. We stopped at the Visitor Center just outside of town where we got a “Twilight” map of Forks and saw “Bella’s Trucks.” Next, we stopped in town to check out the “Forever Twilight” collection at the Rainforest Arts Center. The space is small but it’s pretty cool, you can view the authentic on-screen costumes that were worn,  authentic movie props used by the actors, a backdrop for photos, fan quilt, and other interesting memorabilia.

And our last stop of the day was at Madison Falls. Madison Falls was a short paved walk through a lush forest from the parking lot. At the end of the paved trail is a viewing point where you are able to see the falls drop 40-50 ft into the creek below which runs into the Elwha River just across the paved road opposite the parking lot. The Elwah River is a 45-mile river on the Olympic Peninsula and runs into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.







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”.








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.


Ten Mile Creek


First Waterfall sighting


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:

kings-canyon-lodge-barOriginal KC lodge 1kings-canyon-lodgecabin-2

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.


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!


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.


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.


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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