Day 3: Monday 8th
Awoke early today, although after a decent sleep. After lying in my sleeping bag for a while, I decided to go down to the lakeside for a walk. The lake is man-made, and obviously sometimes the lake level rises quite a lot. Pat came too, and we saw two pairs of herons - a grey and black and a white, both about the same size. they were fishing in the borders of the lake, and around some bushes which had been flooded out by the lake. I also saw a lot of splashing by fish at the lake edge. I think that the fish were spawning - certainly they were making enough fuss about it! It was lovely and peaceful out there, sitting on a rock by the lake at 5.30 in the pre-dawn of an American morning.
Breakfast, courtesy Bruno, was French toast (warm), cereal and coffee, just right! Just a pity he made it an hour early and used all the eggs in the toast :-( We set off at about 8am, and passed through the very elongated town of Three Rivers, crossing two of them at their confluence. By 8.30am we were at the Sequoia Park visitor centre, where postcards and maps were bought and plans laid.
Travelling up through the valley was amazing. It was, unfortunately, rather cloudy, but that meant we drove right up into the clouds. For the most part, the valleys were covered in low-ish trees - American Oak, Maple, Buckeye and long grasses. As we got higher, the conifers started, and the air got damper. Larches and pines at first, then a smattering of Redwoods. The lower Redwoods weren't that big by later standards but tall and quite impressive nonetheless. First stop was Morro rock, which is a very large, exposed lump of granite. In the morning, it was covered in cloud, so at the top we had a grand view of white mist, but later on we did get the chance to see it properly, even if from its base. The smooth granite has been drilled to fix metal fence posts, and concrete steps laid, but it was still quite scary at times - the drop of several hundred feet was rarely more than a few feet away.
We left Morro and went on into the park, soon finding the sequoia's known as the Parkers. These trees were named after General Parker, who was warden of the park from 1883-1885. They were BIG. We stood beside the trunks of some for photos, but it was almost impossible to make a photograph give any idea of the scale of these trees. A few hundred yards further on was a tree which had fallen across the road. Someone had made a tunnel through it which was 8 foot high, and still only cut through 2/3 of the trunk's diameter. You can safely drive quite a big car through the tunnel, although our van was a little too high.
Turning round, we headed for Crystal Cave, a formed in a bed of marble amidst the general gneiss and schist beds of the north-western side of the park. The road to the cave was quite long and winding, passing by many waterfalls on the way. One was very spectacular, crashing down between the rocks in a torrent. The path from the car park to the cave itself was quite steep, and had been cut into the side of a slope which could easily be 1 in 1. I dread to think how hard these roads and paths must have been to create when the park was first opened in the 1880's. The cave guide was a woman in her 30's who was very enthusiastic indeed about the cave and it's upkeep. She led us round for an hour with the time seeming to fly by, although the public part of the cave is not very big. The system is about 3 miles long although the rock bed is quite small -only 600 yards wide.
The trip back to the car park was as bad as the slope had promised, but at least there was a good picnic afterwards to keep us going. The road to the General Sherman tree was quite long and winding, and after entering the next valley the clouds cleared up a lot. The majesty of whole groves of Sequoia's is indescribable, and to make things better there was a lot of snow on the ground - several feet in places. We "did" the Sherman and decided to take a wander down the "Congress trail", which ends at the group of trees known as the Senate. Pat, Julienne, Janette, Bruno, Mayumi and I all tried to make a ring around one of the larger Senate trees, but even with arms at full stretch we got just over half way round. Cordi did the photos of us, a bit of a cheat as of course they wont show we didn't go all the way round!
After that, we decided we had done enough trees for one day and headed off to the coffee shop at Lodgepole. Getting diverted into a slide show of the creation of the reserve wasn't quite in the plan, but it was a good show. Richard St. Barbe Baker wasn't mentioned.
The evening camp was pleasant. Bruno made a pasta and cheese sauce with boiled chicken breasts, which was good. Later on we cooked marshmallow on the fire, and Dean showed us how to make Smores, a sandwich of biscuit, chocolate and baked marshmalow. Dean outlined the next couple of days trip and at one point I asked about a massage in LV. Janette offered to do me herself, which was nice. We planned to do it in the evening, but it got too late and there was no proper oil.