Tag Archives: California

From Chicago to Lands End: Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Lands End, Golden Gate National Recreation Area

On Friday, September 6, Sean and I began what was our longest trip since our honeymoon in 2015. The night before, we had quietly toasted at home my final day as Director of Communications at Openlands. After our trip, I’d be starting a new adventure as the founder of Bold Bison Communications and Consulting. We had a lot of packing to do, so we celebrated with a couple drinks and some delivery Brazilian food for dinner. We were both behind on our packing since he’d had to spend a portion of the previous week in Philadelphia for work and I’d been wrapping things at my former employer.

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“Shasta,” a West Coast Adventure in Two Cities and Three National Parks: Planning

Banana Slugs on Redwood sapling, Redwood National Park

Ponderosa Pine stump near Butte Lake and Fantastic Lava Beds, Lassen Volcanic National Park

Wolf Lichen on Whitebark Pine snag with Wizard Island, Crater Lake National Park

For a long time, I’d known that I wanted to spend my 40th birthday at Guadalupe Mountains National Park. So I’d always be able to answer the question, “Which Parks are you going to do next?” with a nod to a distant trip to Guadalupe Mountains. Then it became the next Park, and then that trip came and went. Afterward, we weren’t sure where exactly we would focus for the next big trip, but a grand trip that had been percolating in my mind soon became the clear frontrunner. In early 2019 we began planning a trip with great bookend cities and some iconic Parks: flying into Portland, doing the three Parks that surround northern California’s Mount Shasta, and flying home from San Francisco. Redwood National Park just sounded magical. Crater Lake National Park is one of the iconic early Parks. And Lassen Volcanic has long been one of the Parks in the system I’ve been most excited about.

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Kings Canyon National Park: That Time When We Sang to the Bear, and After

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Paradise Valley

Just before 3pm on July 4, Sean and I departed Mist Falls and began the hike down Paradise Valley. The Falls marked the farthest into the heart of the Sierra Nevada that we would reach on this trip. The following day we would continue on to the third part of our California trip: three nights in San Diego and Andrew and Yesi’s wedding.

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Kings Canyon National Park: Mist Falls

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Mist Falls

For our Fourth of July day hike in Kings Canyon National Park, Sean and I chose the popular trail to Mist Falls on the South Fork of the Kings River. From the parking area at Roads End, the trail gains about 800 feet of elevation in just under four miles, with most of the elevation gain at the end.

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Kings Canyon National Park: A Parade

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Image: Sean M. Santos

General Grant National Park was established in 1890 to protect 154 acres of the General Grant Grove of Giant Sequoias. Then, fifty years later, General Grant National Park was transformed into Kings Canyon National Park, 461,901 acres of mostly wilderness. The push to protect a greater portion of the Sierra Nevada as a wilderness Park was led in large part by Franklin Roosevelt’s legendary Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes. The lands that would become Kings Canyon National Park were held by the Forest Service. In the 1930s, advocacy organizations like the Sierra Club and the National Parks Association were becoming increasingly concerned that development in the Parks was destroying their wilderness qualities. They felt that the lands in question may be better off managed as wilderness by the Forest Service rather than developed for visitors by the Park Service. This led to Ickes’ lobbying the organizations for support in the creation of a new National Park, the reverse of how these things usually happened. As the 1930s drew to a close, FDR’s enthusiasm for the new Park grew after Ickes shared with the president a book of images of the Kings Canyon region by famed photographer Ansel Adams. By early 1940, Ickes and Roosevelt had swayed Congress, and the president signed the establishing legislation for the Park on March 1. In 1965, Lyndon Johnson signed legislation that further expanded the Park to its present boundaries.

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Sequoia National Park: On the Edge of the Giant Forest

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Moro Rock

At a little after 1pm on July 3, Sean and I reached the southern edge of the plateau on which Sequoia National Park’s Giant Forest sits. We were at the junction of Trail of the Sequoias and High Sierra Trail. In front of us to the south was the gorge of the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River, some 3,700 feet below. Beyond were the ridges and peaks of the southern Sierra Nevada.

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Sequoia National Park: In the Giant Forest

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Between the heavy pine and silver fir zones towers the Big Tree (Sequoia[dendron] gigantea), the king of all the conifers in the world, “the noblest of the noble race” … It extends, a widely interrupted belt, from a very small grove on the middle fork of the American River to the head of Deer Creek, a distance of about 260 miles, its northern limit being near the thirty-ninth parallel, the southern a little below the thirty-sixth. The elevation of the belt above the sea varies from about 5000 to 8000 feet … Southward the giants become more and more irrepressibly jubilant, heaving their massive crowns into the sky from every ridge and slope, waving onward in graceful compliance with the complicated topography of the region. The finest of the Kaweah section of the belt is on the broad ridge between Marble Creek and the middle fork, and is called the Giant Forest. It extends from the granite headlands, overlooking the hot San Joaquin plains, to within a few miles of the cool glacial fountains of the summit peaks … and is included in the Sequoia National Park.

– John Muir, The Yosemite, 1912

It was not yet 10:30am as we turned from the throng at the base of the General Sherman Tree and started into the Giant Forest on the popular, paved Congress Trail. I had a general sense that we would ultimately end up at the Giant Forest Museum (where at 6:30pm, the shuttle would return us to Three Rivers) by way of Moro Rock. But our exact route through the grove was yet to be determined.

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