Sequoia and King's Canyon

I have had some wonderful experiences here in this stunning place. I know that it is a cliché, but the sheer scale of the mountains bewilders me. It is interesting to be in a place such as this, seeing how human activity has changed it over time. For one thing, I was surprised at how easy it is to see real beauty (from the road) and how difficult it is to access any real wilderness. I had to alter my plans for backcountry travel (given the distances involved!) to a more modest set of day walks, which turned out to be sufficient to satiate my thirst for nature. 
I first went to Mist Falls in Kings Canyon, which thankfully lived up to their name (given the heat of the day, the mist was most refreshing). It was a dusty, gentle amble along the canyon floor, through thickets of evergreens turned black and desolate by fire, then striking the river that flowed over the falls. Following its course up to the peaks was a little challenging, especially given people's warnings about rattlesnakes (!) but the flora was so intruiging and alien that any difficulties were hardly felt. It is hard to describe in words, but the aesthetic of the Sierra I find to be stirring to my soul: the great boulders of granite, the rich green of the trees, the cold clarity of the rivers - taken together, being surrounded by all of this wonderful nature, is quite overwhelming. 

On the trail I met a father and son who I walked with for a while, and I was again struck by the innate friendliness of many of the people here. It is a curious and heartwarming event, particularly to the single traveller, when you meet perfect strangers who wish to go beyond a simple 'Hello', who without any sense of loneliness or desperation (as may be assumed too often in Britain) want to talk to you, and want you to talk to them. 

On my second day I walked up to Heather Lake (in Sequoia), an altogether more vertical and more breathtaking (physically and spiritually) hike, as I was going up into higher elevations. About halfway up there was a choice of routes with a choice sign showing the way (see the picture) - so not wishing to be classed as one and not the other, I went up over The Hump and back along The Watchtower. 

The Hump lived up to its name, being a bit of a slog over the top, and The Watchtower was a hair-raising trail that hugged the side of the valley - an incredible walk, but not for the faint-hearted! Of course, I wanted to take photographs of the route, but found that I had to stop walking, take stock, get out my camera, take the photo and then re-orient myself with the scale of the view, and the path of the trail before moving. Suffice to say it was quite an experience...

At the lake (which was still surrounded by pockets of snow) I stopped to eat lunch. I also took the unique opportunity of going for a refreshing swim in the water, only to find that once I was in the lake the wind had dropped and there was a swarm of mosquitoes waiting for me to return to the land! Having already experienced the voracity of these buggers, I stayed in the water awaiting the return of the breeze, hoping that no-one would arrive at the lake to see me in all my glory and that I wouldn't freeze in the icy water! Thankfully people were just about spared that particular experience, as the wind blew, I jumped out and just as I wrapped my towel around me, hikers came into view. They didn't have there cameras out, so I assumed they hadn't seen anything untoward...

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