Kings Canyon Carpeted in Cones

The last time we wanted to hike the Redwood Mountain Sequoia Grove, the air was so thick and brown that it hurt our eyes and burned our noses. We were smoked out by an administrative burn, as sometimes happens in the land of the Giant Sequoia trees.  This trip was just before Memorial Day weekend and there was a wait in line at the entrance station to Kings Canyon NP.  We were visiting one of our three backyard National Parks (with a capital “N” and a capital “P”), so we could stand to wait a few minutes for the other visitors to enter.

The adventure for the day was going to be the loop trail, less than two hours drive from our house and only two miles off the highway.  The parking lot included license plates from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and of course, many from California. The weather was seasonably nice and the trail was in beautiful condition: clear, easy to follow and winding through the hundreds of beautiful ancient and second growth giant sequoia trees along the two ridges and the valley. The black char of previous burns intermingled among the huge red bases of the giants. Young sequoia seedlings and historic stumps were side by side. The dogwood trees were still in bloom. Fern fiddlenecks were unfurrling There was water in the streams and the grass was green. We were pleased to have a chance to walk among the giants, and also proud to be in ‘our’ backyard.

The area was with carpeted in cones, as if the ancient giant sequoia trees were concerned about their future. Trees can produce ‘stress cone crops’ whereby they create an unusually high number of cones. These additional seeds can increase the number of possibilities for future scenarios. Did they know something? Giant Sequoia have survived many serious California drought years, but can they continue? Are they prepared for the future? Will others be able to marvel at their size and beauty as we do?

Giant Sequoia cones, everwhere.

Giant Sequoia cones, everwhere.

Keith blew out the sole of his boot and we didn’t have any duct tape in our daypack. So, being friendly, I chatted up a couple of young Texans out for an overnight backpack trip. “Excuse me fellow hikers, I’m looking for a fix for a floppy sole.”

“Where are you from?” they asked casually.  With only a moderate level of modesty “We’re local. We live down in the valley and we’re just up for a daytrip. Just having a hike and a picnic today.” Keith and I were on walkabout in the British sense: a public stroll taken by an important person, such as a monarch, among a group of people for greeting and conversation.  We were polite, but I recall thinking “this is our backyard and we are so happy to be able to share it with you, what do you think? Isn’t it beautiful?”

Keith at the base of a giant sequoia tree.

Keith at the base of a giant sequoia tree.

Yet, despite our pride, we were humbled by our relationship with the giant redwood trees.  How can you be proud standing among lives that dwarf us in time and space? Our backyard neighbor is bigger than us, will outlive us, and may be wiser than us. It was an honor to make the acquaintance of such a grand place.

Our 5.8-mile round-trip fitness/photo/bird hike ended at Heart Redwood; not quite half the loop available on the map. Returning to the parking lot we were glad that we didn’t try the entire loop with Keith’s boot wrapped up in tape from our first aid kit. Next time… we can try the full loop, but we better buy some new boots and start training for our next back yard hike.

Kings Canyon Carpeted in Cones @cynthiaawhelan, http://www.cynthiawhelan.com 

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