The forgotten national parks. Living in the shadow of Yosemite. The second class citizens of our national park system. Who has heard of King’s Canyon? I might selfishly desire to maintain the status quo, to keep the tourists away, the more trails I can wander without running into another person. I have to tell you, though, that you should go here too.
King’s Canyon is deeper than the Grand Canyon, and just as striking. There is one road leading into the canyon, with hiking trails darting off in every direction. King’s Canyon was almost slated for damming, but political backlash from Hetch Hetchy saved the area from a watery grave.
Sequoia National Park is the better known of the two adjoining parks. Here you get all of the splendor of Mariposa Grove (in Yosemite) without the crowds. Despite the lower number of people, within the span of five minutes I still heard no less than three people each ask a park ranger if there was a shuttle to take them down the half mile paved trail to one of the more famous sequoias, the incongruously and unfortunately named General Sherman. There are many things I don’t understand.
I don’t need to write about the scale of the trees, but I will say that their bulk and age magnifies the sense of grace that I feel walking through any forest. They stand as sentinels and guardians of the meadows, and they make me feel small and lacking wisdom. It’s good to feel that way from time to time.
Spiderwebs on a Sequoia
It’s spring, so we saw black bear cubs. The first two were accompanying the mother up a hill and one was struggling to climb over a fallen tree. Toward the end of our hike, we happened upon a bear cub in the trail, and stopped, knowing momma was somewhere close by. The cub looked at us for a moment, then climbed a few feet up the nearest tree. It seemed to be thinking, “What was it that I was supposed to do when there’s danger? Oh yeah….” After about a minute, it decided that we weren’t enough of a threat and climbed back down to join it’s mother in a meadow. We made a lot of noise and proceeded on our way, stopping to watch the little cub attack it’s mother a few times in an attempt to get her to play.
The bears were neat, and we saw a marmot on that hike as well, but the encounter that I was most struck by was one we had with a mule deer. In the countryside of Illinois, where I was raised, white-tailed deer are a dime a dozen, and I’ve seen a number of mule deer along my journey as well. Only once before have I had an experience with deer worth writing about (that story another time, perhaps).
This deer was standing at the root of a sequoia about 20 feet from me when I noticed it. I’m sure the deer noticed my family earlier, but it made no move to leave. We stopped and watched it for a minute, it’s own eyes reflecting back at us, and after a while it decided to lie down. This beautiful deer, in the shadow of the sequoia, was so comfortable in our presence that it lie down and extended it’s legs, resting. And it remained that way, watching us, until we finally decided to keep moving.