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.
We stopped at Grizzly Falls, which is visible from the road on a wide dirt path and just a short walk to the base of the waterfall. Even though it was mid-June it was still flowing high with the winter snow runoff. It is an amazing sight to watch the waterfall plunge 80 feet down a granite wall. The closer you walk to the base of Grizzly Falls the more mist you will be greeted by. It was a beautiful summer day and so, of course, we ventured closer and got pretty wet, but oh so refreshing and so much fun! Grizzly Falls is on the road from Grant Grove Village about 3 miles from Cedar Grove and the only road in and out between the two locations. Grizzly Falls has a picnic area with a few tables and a bathroom, so it’s a great place to make a stop, enjoy the falls and have some lunch. The road to Cedar Grove is only open from early spring to late fall.
Our next stop was Cedar Grove Village for some lunch. Cedar Grove sits at the bottom of Kings Canyon with 4 main campgrounds to camp at. The village has a 21 room lodge located in the woods along the beautiful Kings River with a retail market, gift store and snack bar with burgers, sandwiches, and soups. You can enjoy your lunch inside, outside on the balcony or relaxing in the lounge chairs right on the river.
Our next stop was “Roaring Falls” a 15-minute walk on a paved path from the parking lot. The river flows down the mountainside through a two-tied rocky gap and then drops 20 feet into a pool of water, before continuing to flow down the river to join the Kings River. These falls also were overflowing and rushing mightly with the winter snowmelt that made them absolutely magnificent and beautiful. As we made our way back down the path we were met with the beautiful view of the mountains with their jagged cliffs on the opposite side of Kings Canyon and the fortune to see a deer quietly nibbling away among the trees not far off the path.
Our final stop was “Road’s End” to check out the famous “Muir Rock.” A short walk from the parking lot is a massive flat boulder that sits on the edge of the river at the base of a granite face that rises hundreds of feet out of the river. From this rock, John Muir gave speeches about the Sierra’s to promote the importance of preserving Kings Canyon National Park. Nowadays, for those who have the nerve, it is the site of an 8-10 foot jump (depending on water levels) into a beautiful swimming hole in the Kings River and a great spot to sit and dangle your feet in the river if the water is high enough. It is also here at Roads End that is the starting point for many day hikes and longer hikes into the backcountry. Here also are two prominent rock formations —North Dome at 8,717 feet and Grand Sentinel at 8,518 feet that rise above the canyon floor.
After a long, great day we made our back to Grant Grove Village and had an excellent birthday dinner at the restaurant.