Spring has arrived early in the southern Sierra, which means some beloved Park facilities are already open or will open earlier than usual. Highlights:
A detailed description of these openings (and other facility changes, due to budget cuts) can be found in this news release from the Park Service.
You can't help but enjoy a trip if you are prepared, so a little online research will help make the most of your visit to Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park. Here are links to sites that give basic, accurate information for getting around and what you'll see here. Stay tuned: in my next post I'll share sites with detailed trail descriptions.
A wonderful site by National Geographic highlighting events, natural and cultural sites, and local business (including fivespot!) in the Sierra Nevada:
Very good overview of the Sequoia Kings Canyon region from Wikitravel:
I've always loved Sunset magazine. When we lived in New York City, we read it cover-to-cover, as if we were expats!
Lonely Planest correctly suggests Kings Canyon as a quiet alternative to Yosemite:
A monster list of organizations in and websites of the Sequoia Kings Canyon area:
Finally, the National Park Service's home page for SeKi (Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park):
Bachrun's work is featured throughout fivespot cabin, which he primarily designed and decorated. This piece, Abraham, is part of a series of images developed for Punch Table, an installation for Memphis Social, a city-wide art event in Memphis, Tennessee, taking place in May 2013. See more of his work on his website, www.bachrunlomele.com.
"Lions, Tigers.... but no Bears" reads the sign as you climb into the mountains on Highway 180. You are approaching Cat Haven, a conservation organization aimed at preserving the world's big cats. Based in the foothills in Dunlap (about 20 minutes from fivespot), Cat Haven is home to jaguars (including Salsa and Jazz, born late last year), native bobcats, endangered Clouded Leopards, and the marvelous Serval shown in the photo. Tours are available year-round. I suggest a visit in the spring or fall when the sun isn't so intense, to better enjoy your outing to one of the area's most engaging, and surprising, attractions.
The route we suggest you take from the south from Visalia and Lemon Cove to fivespot includes Dry Creek Drive, in Tulare County. I'm no world traveler (yet), but I think this is one of California's most beautiful—and undiscovered—roads.
On a practical level, Dry Creek is a less wind-y alternative to California Highway 245, which comes up from Woodlake to fivespot, but it is, above all, a gorgeous 40-minute drive from the San Joaquin Valley floor to 4000' in Pinehurst. One of the most surprising aspects of this road is that you can truly experience the shifting seasons as you climb.
February is already springtime in the Valley; its famous fruit trees flower in spectacular gridded patterns. Starting up Dry Creek, you'll see early spring flowers: fiddlehead and nievitas (little snow). By the time you reach fivespot, you will have returned to winter, and deeper winter further up in the mountain in the sequoia groves.
Dry Creek's most spectacular months are from mid- to late-February through April, when the progress of spring is visible as you drive up, masses of blooming poppies painting the hillsides.
Some of Dry Creek is rangeland. John Dofflemyer runs a cattle operation there; he is also a well-regarded poet who blogs at Dry Crik Journal.
I discovered photographer Brent Paull's work online. See his post on California sycamores on Dry Creek in December; and see what sequoias in April look like when winter begins to fray at the higher elevations.
Fine artists find this landscape irresistable. Our friend Matthew Rangel is a printmaker, painter, and founder of the Kaweah Land and Arts Festival in Visalia. He walked from his hometown of Dinuba in the San Joaquin Valley to the peak of Black Kaweah a few years back. Artists of the Great Western Divide, a documentary film about Matthew, writer John Spivey, and painter/organic farmer Paul Buxman, demonstrates their creative responses to the Sierra mountain, foothill, and valley environments.
Winter in the Sierra doesn't just mean snow. Clouds of all kinds appear in the skies. They can be overhead, completely enveloping us as fog, down in the San Joaquin Valley as Tule fog (see my previous post http://www.fivespotcabin.com/fivespotcabin/2010/01/above-the-fog.html), or over the far horizon mingled with the sunset.
Here's a spectacular effect: overhead the clouds cap the mountains like a dome, it's snowing, and another set of clouds hover at the horizon, with space in between for the sunset. That's what happened on Dec. 29:
These unaltered photos show the view from our house (next to fivespot) looking towards the sunset. It was an eerie effect, amplified by the reflection of the setting sun on snow (on the ground and in the air) and on the wet road. Across the road (Highway 245) the light produced alpenglow, which accounts for the pink-ish tone in this photo of the cabin:
So snow is not the only reason to visit the Sierra Nevada in the winter. Light and the effects produced by the moist atmosphere are a great inspiration, at least to this photographer.
We are fortunate to host the most interesting people at fivespot. One of our recent guests was the singer/songwriter/activist Fereshta. Born in Afghanistan, her love of rock-n-roll began when she was a young girl growing up in the United States. Fereshta now lives in Los Angeles, writing music and promoting peace and justice causes around the world. Indie rock on!
Listen to her debut album: http://www.fereshta.com/music.html
A portion of sales of her CD will benefit the Central Asia Institute, which improves the lives of girls and women throughout Central Asia.
Giant Sequoias are featured in an astounding poster in this month's National Geographic magazine. These are the world's largest trees, thousands of years old. And they continue to persist century after century in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, just 15 minutes from fivespot.
Don't miss the fold-out poster inside the print version of the magazine. You will be inspired to see these incredible trees for yourself!
I took these pictures, and they sure don't compare with National Geographic's. But hey, it's hard to capture such huge trees on a point-and-shoot!