As I drove further east and out of the Fresno, I came upon miles of tree groves and grapes being grown in a flat valley area. There were farm stands off the side of the road advertising fruits and nuts to be purchased. There would be old beaten up trucks parked on the side of the road with crews of workers out in the grove or field area. There was a beauty to all of it and also a vibrancy of life and growing. A big contrast to what I had found in Fresno.
|Photo- Orchard trees and farm stand along the highway heading east out of Fresno.|
As I continued east the landscape changed becoming more dry and arid. There were cows grazing in fields of tall dry yellowed grass. You could see the mountains in the background. The road started to climb. I was at 1000 feet and still climbing. I stopped and filled up with gas at Squaw Valley which was a small community with 2 restaurants, a bar, a gas station/trading post, and an automotive repair shop. I was concerned about it being my last chance for gas for a while. But there was a Valero station a few miles down the road. But after that there really wasn’t any gas stops.
|Photo- The landscape turned more arid as you got further east along Hwy 180.|
The road kept on climbing and climbing; 2000 feet and 3000 feet. The views were becoming wonderful with fall colors of the mountains. Still the road continued to climb to 4000 feet. Shortly after this I pulled over to take some pictures of the view. I had entered Sequoia National Forrest. The road still climbed more and there were signs about turning off your air conditioning in your car so that your car wouldn’t over heat. It was cool enough this time of year that I didn’t have to worry about that.
Now I was at 5000 feet and the landscape started to get rocky. I pulled over, climbed some rocks and checked out the view. Wow! You could see for miles and miles. The road still climbed more and hair pin turns were in abundance. RV’s were pulling into lane turnout areas to take breaks on their vehicles. There were few vehicles on the road. It was like I had the road to myself as I continued to climb. I felt like I was in the nose bleed sections of the mountains. The road still continued to climb a bit and then I came around a turn.
|Photo- The amazing views near Kings Canyon National Park.|
I had arrived at the Big Stump entrance of the Kings Canyon National Park. The gal eyed my National Park Pass closely; almost like she didn’t see many of these but she eventually let me pass through. I headed over to the visitor’s center at Grant Grove’s Village. I went through the center watching a quick movie about the park and how the area had been saved from us, humans, who are the TOTAL enemy of nature. I walked through the displays and did a quick visit to the gift shop area.
Next I drove down the road to where a National Parks employee told about a nice hiking trail near the General Grant Tree. It was nice. I hiked under a fallen tree that had been used as housing for early settlers during the summer. It was propped up on sticks and I could see where it made a nice roof area. Next, I walked further up the trail and came to a cabin that had been used by early settlers and the first park ranger as shelter. I also saw a stump where the tree had been cut down and taken back to the northeastern US by Mark Twain. It was put on display. A lot of people in that time did not believe that a tree could be THAT big and it was referred to as the California Hoax. All along this trail there were tons of giant Sequoia trees and also people speaking French. I’ve had my fair share of other languages in National Parks but when I got back to this parking lot there were buses all of them. All of them French; it was the French invasion! I drove around the park some more.
|Photo- The "Fallen Monarch" along the Grant Tree trail which had been used for shelter|
during the summers for early workers that lived in the area.
Then, I headed over to Sequoia National Park which is right next door to Kings Canyon. I drove along a section of road called the General’s Highway. It goes through Sequoia National Park. As I went, I stopped here and there to take pictures. I took the turn off for Lake Hulme. The road went out about 10 miles till you came to the trail head of a wonderful little lake with a boardwalk bridge on one side, a sandy beach on another and a dirt trail along the other side. As you continue down on the road, there’s a large Christian camp. There are cabins, a rec center, a store, a boat ramp, and an area where canoes were setting out. Then there was a line of chairs set up along near the edge of the lake. It was a wonderful view as I turned the car around.
|Photo- The wonderful view from the Christian Camp at Lake Hulme.|
I got to the General Sherman Tree parking lot. This was a definite stop. Come on, the world’s biggest tree; that’s a must see! The trail was steep and had some stairs along the way but nothing that wasn’t manageable. I saw the General Sherman from an upper point of view with a sign stating that it was the world’s largest tree. It wasn’t the largest in diameter or necessarily the tallest but in cubic space of wood, it was the largest.
|Photo- The General Sherman Tree the world's largest tree.|
I walked over to near the base of the General Sherman Tree. There were a lot of people taking pictures of one another at the base of the tree. I just wanted one with the sign because I had already had my picture taken at the base of a HUGE Redwood tree earlier on my trip. I didn’t need another one of “those” type of photos. So while I’m waiting for a German speaking guy to stop bending over to take a photo at a special angle of his friends I end up talking with another American retired guy. I state that it’s a good thing that the guy doesn’t have plumber’s crack; to which the retired guy was cracking up at and the French and German tourists had no clue what I was meaning. This of course, made it even funnier. What can I say but I crack myself up sometimes!
Next it was the Crystal Caves but the sign said closed for the winter. I continued on and ran into road construction. I took a picture of the construction guy holding the sign as I waited and he even posed for me. As he signaled me on I yelled out that I had been visiting other parks this year and there had seemed to be a great deal of construction. He yelled back that there was more to come. I really thought it had said it to be a funny comeback but that was not the case. As I continued on the General’s Highway, I saw a warning just before the Giant Forest Museum that this was the last restroom stop before on- coming construction zone. I stopped and used the facilities just to cover my bases. The actual Museum was closed for the winter.
About 7 miles down the twisting and turning road, everything came to a stop. People were getting out of their cars while they waited. It was at least a good 30 minutes and a line up 20 or more cars. We sat there while other cars were brought through on the one lane construction from the other direction. But eventually it was our turn to enjoy this “lovely” portion of Hwy 198.
Off we went slowly through a gravel dirt road through a
construction zone which was essentially perched on the side of the mountain on
one side. There was quite the drop off
on one side. It was a bit unnerving because
there were areas where you were just driving over metal plates that had been
place on the road way to cover sections that were open down below. AND the whole time you are practically riding
your brakes and driving in a low gear to be easy on your car; as you are
driving through hair pin turns. There
were signs that said 8% grades for the next 3 miles and the road just kept on
turning one way then the other. My ears
were popping. Yeah, it was a bit
unnerving to say the least.
|Photo- Construction on Hwy 198.|
|Photo- A brown bear in a tree.|
It was about ¾ of the way down that cars ahead of me were really coming to a stop and soon I discovered why. There were brown bears climbing in the trees as we were going down. Brown bears; I thought how cool is that. People were stopping and taking pictures while in their cars. I took two quick ones. We were finally out of the construction zone but it was still a curving road going down. More signs would say 8% or 7% grades for the next “x” amount of miles. Finally the road started being not as curvy. I pulled over about 2 miles later into a local park area and gave my brakes, the car, and my nerves a bit of a rest. Another 3 miles down the road, I was finally on an actual highway area where 55 mph could be attained with no problems.
I was now on my way to Visalia for the night to stay at the Lamp Liter Inn. But on the way to Visalia, I passed lemon and orange groves. There were fruit stands along the side of the road; one of them was in the shape of a huge orange. The speed picked up more as the highway turned into an interstate. I followed the directions for the hotel I had gotten off of Google; which ended up being off by just enough that I went around in circles twice before I was finally able to turn into the hotel parking lot with a right hand turn. All of the frontage roads were one way but Google evidently didn’t quite get that concept in their directions.