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The Canyon of Kings--Trip Report

We're just back from a memorable trip to Kings Canyon. We liked our hiking in Sequoia last month so much that we immediately came back and made reservations at the Sentinel Campground down in Cedar Grove. And it was wonderful.

DAY ONE: We left our cabin above Sonora by a little after 8, and drove south, passing a farm with camels, ostriches, bison, and other treats on the way. That was wildlife we didn't expect! Since it was on our way, we stopped to shop at the Rancho San Miguel Market in Madera for an excellent chicken salad sandwich, home made cookies, their own salsa, and a couple of packaged salads for dinner. We love this place...

And on our last trip we noticed that the cheapest gas on the way is in Squaw Valley, so that was another stop, and then into the park to eat that sandwich at the Columbine picnic area.

After all that we were at our campsite by 1:30, and had a nap before driving out to Roads End, where we hiked through the canyon back down to Roaring River Falls. We saw only a handful of people on this trail, but of course there were plenty at the falls, which are only 200 yards from the road. That hike was enough to get us feeling a bit acclimated, so we went back to camp for dinner, then took a leisurely walk through the campground before dark. It's a wonderful campground, with lots of space, lots of trees, and a real feeling of solitude. We can't remember another campground we like as much! If only the temperature had been a little cooler. It was over 90 every day.

DAY TWO. We were on the trail by a little after 8, joined by two neighboring campers from Oakland. The Hotel Creek Trail is one that leaves directly from Cedar Grove, and the first mile was steep and really hot, even this early in the morning. As we got higher a light breeze came up which helped, but at the junction to the overlook we were still very hot and sweaty. At this point the trail took a real turn for the worse. Lots of trees down to the overlook...(I cleared up a bit of one deadfall, but the rest were just large trees across the trail) and then the next mile towards Lewis Creek was even worse--a full body workout., up, over, and around trees every few yards. We learned later the the women hiking behind us got lost, gave up, and turned around because it was so bad. Since this is the only loop trail in the canyon, it's sad it isn't maintained better.

There was plenty of fire damage here, and that made it hotter, but the top of the ridge offered some nice views, including the Monarch Divide to the north. We made it to the Lewis Creek trailhead by noon, enjoying the views of the peaks to the North along the way. Once on the trail, we had seen only one other hiker.

After lunch we hiked the horse trail back towards our camp, but were interrupted when a mama bear and her cubs climbed up the slope below us and hit the trail between the two of us. We were delighted to watch them clamber over above me, then drop down into the trail ahead of me. We followed for about 100 yards until we could find a way down off the trail onto the service road below. Of course they did the same thing 50 yards ahead of us, and so we delicately picked our way past them as they explored down off the road towards the river. A lively treat at the end of our hike.

We rested, then walked down to the river to sooth our muscles and cool off. Wonderful.

DAY THREE: Off early again, this time to hike the Bubbs Creek Trail. I've always disliked that first sandy section from Roads End, so we took the trail on the far side if the river--a half mile longer, but much more pleasant. We had to wade one small creek just before the bridges at Bubbs Creek, and then we were off on the switchbacks, climbing up out of the valley.

The good news is that we were early enough that most of the trail was in shade, and we made it to Sphinx Creek by 11. We continued for another half hour, then looked around for a place to eat lunch. What a great trail...through a forest first of oaks, then of pines and cedars, with a creek roaring on one side, and towering granite all around.

Once above the switchbacks you can sense the high country opening up ahead. On the way back down the sun was now on the trail, and even though we were going downhill, it was hot. We drank every drop of four liters of water that we brought, and wished we'd had more.

Back at Roads End we filled up our water bottles and drank our fill, then took a nap in the van before driving back to camp.

There we discovered someone had helped themselves to the levelling blocks and step that we'd left to mark our campsite. I'm sure their parents are very proud. A$$holes.

We gave ourselves the luxury of washing up and had dinner, feeling as if we'd done a good days work...

DAY FOUR: This was a recovery day after two days of hiking more than ten miles each of the previous days. Today we hiked up the Don Cecil Trail, a relentless uphill, first to a cascade and then a viewpoint at mile two.

As we came back down we met a nice young trail crew named Amber who was on her way up to spend the rest of the day with a shovel, a MacLeod, and a saw. Off. We were happy to be hiking back down in time for lunch in camp. It was hot!

After a rest we drove down to see the west view of Roaring River Falls, then took the north side river road to a quiet turnout to relax, rinse off, and do a little fishing and reading. It was quiet, and delightful. I even got a few minutes to fish, although the river was so high that it was a bit futile. Back to camp for dinner--and by then the campground was filling up for the weekend. Time to move on!

DAY FIVE: Off at 7:30...frist driving through that amazing gorge of the Kings River, then up the the Grant Grove area to hike the North Grove Trail on the way home. What magnificent trees these are. And flowers were blooming everywhere. What a treat. The photo link below will show lots more of that...

The photo blog of the whole trip is here, complete with captions:

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