Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.
John Muir, Letter to wife Louie, July 1888.

This year, between Christmas and New Year’s, I decided to head down to the Southern part of the Sierra Nevada to go camping for three nights and explore the last two big national parks I hadn’t seen in California: Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Park.

Kings Canyon & the Grant Grove

Kings Canyon was originally called General Grant National Park. It was established to protect a small area of giant sequoias from logging. It was expanded and renamed Kings Canyon in 1940. It has been the setting of constant legal battles until 1965 as there were development interests which wanted to build some giant hydroelectric dams in the very deep canyon. Thankfully, the area has been preserved to its natural beauty for everyone to be able to enjoy it. During the winter, a significant part of the park is inaccessible by car due to road closures. I mainly explored the area around Grant Grove and Hume Lake. There, you can see the widest sequoia in the world, the General Grant tree, with a circumference of 32.8 meters (107.5 feet).

Both Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Park sit above the central valley, and on a clear winter day, you can see a dense layer of fog, called Tule fog, from above (as seen on some of the pictures).

The Giant Forest of Sequoias

After exploring Kings Canyon, I head to Sequoia National Park which is only about 30 minutes away via the “Generals Highway”. The park protects another set of groves of giant trees and magnificent mountains including the western slope of Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the Sierra Nevada and the US excluding Alaska.

One of the attractions is an area called the “Giant Forest” which has 5 of the largest trees in the world, including the largest, the General Sherman Tree (at the end of this set of pictures). It is an incredibly peaceful experience to walk through this forest at dawn, during the winter, as it is completely empty but full of life.

The Lakes Trail

For my final adventure on this particular trip, I go backpacking on the Lakes Trail, a twenty-kilometer hike to go see three lakes: Heather, Emerald and Pear Lakes. I pack a good sleeping back that can go to -18C (0F) and head up the mountain. The final part of the trail is covered in snow and ice but all things considered, it wasn’t too difficult as temperatures have been unusually high.

Once I arrive at Pear Lake, I set up camp while I see the last hikers head down the mountain and just settle down to enjoy the spectacle. The experience of being alone at the lake from dusk till dawn was absolutely incredible. One thing I learned from sleeping next to a frozen lake is that it makes some crazy sounds at night. I suspect that as the temperature goes down, the ice starts to move and it makes these very strange wobbly sounds (almost like whales!).

I even see a few tracks from what looks like a bear and possibly a mountain lion. But thankfully I don’t make any unpleasant encounters.

That’s all for now! Thank you for your interest.