Kings Canyon National Park [#6]

by Kaspar Heinrici - posted from a friend's house in Bend, OR

[click HERE to see full gallery]

We drove East to escape the grip of the clouds and emerged in the heights of Kings Canyon where the sunset greeted us once again.  Many people know about Yellowstone and Yosemite, but Kings Canyon is of that caliber even if it doesn't have the name recognition.  I like to believe it was John Muir's favorite spot, possibly more so than Yosemite.  Morro Bay had been typical of the west coast this time of year with a thick damp fog in the morning giving you a chill to your bones even though its actually 60 degrees out and not that cold.  We were lucky in that we would be graced with extraordinary conditions in Kings Canyon and almost no people as we were entering the park before opening day in the back country and there would be some natural obstacles to keep people from the upper elevations.

After spending one night car camping we set out for the only back country camp that was accessible due to the high amounts of snow.  Paradise Valley was our destination, so named by John Muir himself.  While doing a hike with such a name and reputation one wonders if it is all just hyperbole, how can a mountain valley truly represent paradise?  There is a particular section of the trail when you emerge from the deep canyon trees after crossing avalanches and wading through waist deep glacial waters (due to the high winter snowfall) into an open meadow of grasses and aspen trees with water surging out of the granite cliffs all around.  The lizards dart under their rocks and after checking for rattle snakes you look up to have one of those moments when the reality of an event lives up to and even eclipses the anticipation so that faith is restored in the natural world (mostly undisturbed by people) being the most beautiful and significant thing in our lives.  Upon this profound moment I was thinking of the John Muir quote,

"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.  The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves." 

In that moment Ali declared,

"Nature's fuckin' awesome!"

Back country popcorn is a great snack after a long hike.  We were fortunate to be joined by only one other solo hiker who braved the flooded trail to get into the valley.  There was a family of deer that had made their home on the same stretch of the King River and they liked to look on from a safe distance as we exchanged backgammon wins.  The bridge at that top of the canyon was washed out and the trail below was totally flooded so we pretty much had paradise to our selves.  From the top of the valley one can scramble up on a rock pile (careful of those rattlesnakes hiding in the rocks) look into two other canyons and feel the immensity of the area.  The hike down brought us back to the clouds in our fall from paradise as we set out to get into Big Sur National Park for the next leg of the journey.