Sequoia / Kings Canyon NP

I've barely brushed the surface of these adjacent large national parks which are mostly composed of vast stretches of alpine wilderness, some of the most isolated areas remaining in the lower 48.  

October 2003
The parks were filled with smoke from prescribed burns for most of the time so I didn't take many photos, but the sky was mostly clear for my quick hike up towards Sawtooth Peak.


Looking down the East Fork Kaweah on the way up from Mineral King, a defunct mining town.  
    
 
The complex contact metamorphism of this area exposed in the cliffs of Empire Mountain, and a watchful marmot.   

 
Metamorphosed sedimentary rock in the foreground with the intruded granite of Sawtooth Peak in the background.  There's a small grove of storm ravaged Foxtail Pine here on the slopes that lead up to Mineral Peak as seen in the second photo.


Looking back on the same lake with the contact zone of light granite very distinct against the red sedimentary rock. 

 
Almost back to the trailhead with the sun setting on the peaks over Mineral King and Farewell Canyon with Vandever Mountain the peak near center.


November 2007 
We spent several days in the parks exploring the Giant Forest Grove and General Grant Grove while also taking a day each to visit Kings River Canyon and hike up to Alta Peak.
 
 
These are some shots of the more notable Sequoias that we saw as we hiked several trails that cross through the Giant Forest Grove.  Though all the older Sequoia have amazing size in common, especially compared to the other species of trees in the forest, each has also developed a distinct appearance over time.  The two trees at left are leaning quite a bit away from each other since they should be pointing inwards at the top due to the photo perspective.  There are a handful of trees in various stages of being hollowed out by fires like the one at right.  In some ways this hollowing out accentuates the tree's scale by creating a more complex and sometimes precarious mass looming high up in the forest.   

  
Clouds set in and gave the forest a very eerie feel.  The burned out tree at right had an ominously vague form as we approached it.  It's amazing that this dead trunk is still standing, though who knows how many decades or centuries it has been like this.  


Two sides of three trees that are fused together at the base. 


The view across Redwood Canyon to the Redwood Mountain Grove.  The right half of this photo is almost pure Sequoia.  


Looking over the huge expanse of lower Kings Canyon with Spanish Mountain at center and the canyon bottom out of view about 8000' feet deep.  Mt Goddard is the large dark pyramid shaped peak at right of center with the lighter peaks of Mt Reinstein in front of Goddard's left flank and the pointy summit of Finger Peak farther to the right.  Mt McGee is the other large dark peak to the left of Goddard.  The dark broad peak to the right of Finger Peak is Black Giant and the other dark peaks of the Black Divide continue to the right until hidden behind the ridge of the Monarch Divide, which splits the Kings River into its middle and south forks.


Farther into the canyon with the low end of the Monarch Divide forming the left highpoint and the junction of the Kings River forks out of view to the left.  The right side of the photo looks straight through Kings Canyon to Mt Gardiner on the left and what I think is University Peak on the right, which is all the way on the crest of the Sierras almost 30 miles away. 


We took a short hike up to the junction of the South Fork Kings River and Bubbs Creek before the sun went down.  These deep glacial canyons feel similar to the junction of Tenaya and Merced Creeks in Yosemite. 


Taking a break on the way up to Alta Peak which is up to the right out of view along the same ridge as the cliffs. 


The amazing grove of Foxtail Pine on the last stretch of trail towards the summit.  These trees not only grow higher than all the others in this area but attain huge sizes for an alpine tree, and also live to old ages approaching their Bristlecone Pine relatives.   


Summit view south over the Middle Fork Kaweah about 6000' below with the Castle Rocks across the canyon obscured by haze flowing in from the central valley to the right.  

  
Some mountain lion tracks at the summit poking around a crevice and then trailing off down the ridge, possibly tracking the small animal that also left its tracks to the right of the mountain lion's, visible in the second photo.  


The huge views of a landscape filled with layers of alpine peaks and deep canyons.  This pan looks from northeast to south with the Middle Fork Kaweah filling the right half.  Kaweah Peaks Ridge in the center is about 10 miles away while Mt Whitney and Mt Barnard on the Sierra crest are about 20 miles away.  I couldn't find an identification key with most of the peaks labeled online so triangulated them myself using a topo map, alta_pan_labeled.jpg.    


Continuation of the previous pan and a bit more zoomed in looking from northwest to east.  This view extends far into the high country of Kings Canyon National Park with North Palisade about 35 miles away and Mt Darwin and Mendel about 40 miles away.  This is the identification key for peaks in this pan, alta_pan2_labeled.jpg.  Mt Silliman is the nearby peak on the left, just shy of Alta Peak's 11204' elevation.  The entire length of Glacier Ridge can be seen but is difficult to distinguish from the higher peaks behind it, from the point just left of Deerhorn Pk to its highpoint just below and left of Milestone Mtn.  Charybdis is the dark point below and in from of Mt Fiske, and Scylla is below the "68" in Mt Goddard's label, with some other prominent points left unlabelled and difficult to distinguish.    


The haze and moisture from the central valley made it's way into the mountains and started condensing into clouds around us as we headed back down.

 
Some more views from the trail as it switchbacks through the lower end of the Foxtail Pines. 


General Sherman Tree, largest tree on earth, and fairly tall too at around 270'.  The people in the photo are standing a good distance in front of the base, at 120' up the tree is still a little over 17' in diameter. 


One of the impressive Congress Groups of Sequoias.


Young Sequoia in a sunny clearing with a large old Sequoia and the other trees of the forest casting a deep shadow.

 
Tops of a group of Sequoia showing the difference in the conical younger trees and rounded tops of older trees.  Kathryn looking up the cavernous hollowed out trunk of another large tree.

 
Two tall mature and distinctive Seqouia canopies from across a meadow.  The very large Lincoln Tree in the second photo is almost as large as the General Sherman and stands in a fairly open area of the forest that increases its monumental appearance.  

 
Chief Sequoyah on the left which is one of the most rugged trees in the forest and The President on the right which is almost as large as the General Sherman.  This is a pretty cool spot on the trail with two amazing trees so close together.  View across Round Meadow with Sequoias dominating the canopy height by a wide margin.