As I was quickly browsing through my Facebook feed, I came across a post by Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. It was “National Parks Week” starting Saturday and only select Park would waive their entrance fees. That was not the important part though. Saturday was Junior Ranger Day too. Thus ever 2 hours there was either a hike, exhibit, or education program designed for children. This was enough motivation that we grabbed our gear for the day and out the door we went. We were going to make our way to Kings Canyon National Park.
The drive was very pleasant. The oak leaves were out in their lush green attire along with the grasses. A slight breeze let them dance as we drove by. We had a little over an hours drive to get to Grants Grove. The best part was it did not feel like an hour. The scenery changed frequently so there was plenty to show Jaden as we made our way through and up into the mountains.
We arrived at the Kings Canyon Visitor Center. Here we went inside to show Jaden a few of the exhibits before hitting the trail. I’d say we spent about 30 minutes in there before we drove a little further to the Grants Grove Trail. Here the trail was a very easy walk and completely paved. A perfect first trail for the Jaden this season. The temperature was perfect for hiking (50’s). Jaden enjoyed seeing little creeks, signs, and the tall trees.
There was a small sign on the fence at a “Y” stating if we went to the right, we could see Grant Tree’s Fire Scar. This was also the first steps, which Jaden quickly lead the way up a very short and steep trail. Diana took a photo of Jaden and I by the scar before we moved on to see where the trail would take us.
As we continued along the trail we saw a cabin in the distance. Knowing it was likely a historical cabin, we were looking forward to checking it out. Thankfully this is one cabin you can actually walk into and experience a little bit of what it was like. We made sure to grab a photo describing Gamlin Cabin and what it was used for. Very fascinating really. Next we set off to read about a stump.
The next stop was at Centennial Stump. When reading the info I recalled how the PBS National Parks documentary series mentioned the “California Hoax.” I knew it came from the SEKI area, but didn’t know we would see the stump of where this tree once stood. Basically nobody would believe trees were this big until Californian’s started shipping parts back. Now we were looking at remains of one of those giants to prove it was not a hoax. Though this was neat to see, I think Jaden’s most enjoyable part of the trail was going through a down Sequoia.
Jaden was nervous at first because of his worries with tunnels. His last experience at Disneyland did not go well, so he is now concerned when hearing the word “tunnel.” Anyway, we went through and he liked it. It was not loud or scary and we were soon on the other side. At this point the loop was done and it was time to head back to the parking area. We were getting hungry and it was time to eat.
Dinner was at the Kings Canyon Lodge. We decided to have a special treat this time around by eating out. The restaurant opened just 4 minutes prior to our arrival. We ordered and our meals about 15 minutes later. They were a vegetarian burrito with a house lemon vinaigrette salad, cheese pizza, and pecan and blue cheese salad. It was a little more pricey then say similar food back in the valley, but trucking it all the way up the mountain makes sense why the prices are higher. It was nevertheless delicious and time to see what Junior Ranger program was next.
Heading across the parking lot to the Kings Canyon Visitor Center, there was an information booth outside. It was a dry erase board with a 1 PM “Discovery Walk” at Big Stump Picnic Area. Looking at our watch, we had about 25 minutes till it began. A ranger came out a moment earlier and left in that direction. We decided to follow and just wait there.
Arriving at the Big Stump Picnic area, there were others eating their lunches. We happened to be the first ones ready for the hike and soon others follow. There was about 26 of us ready to hike when the Ranger began the walk. We went under the highway and through a culvert along the Big Stump Trail. Several kids were happy to keep up with her, the Ranger, as we made our way. Our first destination came shortly after going through the culvert. It was a large stump where the first logging of Sequoias began in the late 1800’s.
The hike continued and the kids, as well as the adults, were taught about the logging, sequoia pine cones ages, and listening for wildlife. Each child was given a small magnifying glass so they could get a “close look” at insects eating down trees or how waxy a manzanita leaf was. I think the kids walked more than the adults as they went back and forth up the trail as we discovered nature together. Eventually we found a sign pointing uphill to “Sawed Tree.”
It was the hardest part of the hike, but as the Ranger told all the kids who started mentioning the hard climb, “it is worth it.” The short climb continued and Jaden was leading the way to the tree. The tree was properly named as it was half way sawed through. Apparently, since there was no value in harvesting Sequoia trees, they stopped and left it. It is still alive today and the bark continues to grow over the “wound” left by men long ago. All the kids wrapped around the tree to see how many people it would take. Then it was back down to where the sign was for the Junior Ranger award.
Prior to receiving his Junior Ranger badge, he told me that he already had one from Red Rock Canyon. I told him well that was for the desert area in Red Rock. He didn’t have one for Kings Canyon. He thought about it and, as his expression showed on his face, he was excited to get one for the “mountains.” Thus all the kids were lined up and given a Junior Ranger badge. At this point the trail continued on, but the Ranger’s time was up and she was going to head back the way we came. Everyone followed her expect us. We wanted to continue onward as a family to see the rest of the trail, especially to see the stump where steps take you to the top.
The trail was not difficult to follow and nobody else was there. It was quiet and peaceful. We took advantage of some photo spots, played in the snow, crossed an old creek crossing, and eventually made our way across the highway behind the Park entrance. I had always seen this crossing but never walked on it until today.
We stopped for a quick snack break. Jaden and I explored puddles while Diana finished. It was only a few minutes break and we continued on our way. Going another 100 yards we found the Mark Twain Stump. Steps lead the way up onto the stump itself. We climbed up top, saw how big it was and then made are way down and back to the trail. It was here Jaden obtained a small splinter in his thumb. With no tweezers in hand, we put a band-aid on it and moved onward.
The trail crossed its first creek. Jaden was excited to cross a bridge too. Then we continued along the edge of a meadow for awhile. Stumps were seen along the way of where the Sequoia’s once stood. In fact we soon came upon another meadow with some historical significance.
There was a lot of old parts of Sequoia trees scattered throughout the meadow. I was thinking they must have cut some down to size and moved them to a mill. Low and behold as we walked further up a meadow we discovered a sign. The meadow was used as a milling site where they processed the giant trees. Remnants of what they could not use was left to decay. Talk about different times. I am glad they stopped logging them.
The last part of the trail was pretty quiet too. We trekked around the meadow, made a right at a “Y” in the trail, and started to climb hill. We saw one family out with their kids climbing on old stumps of a Sequoia tree near the end. Jaden found a stump he could crawl through, so we let him explore it just before completing our full circle back to the Big Stump Picnic Area.
The car was warm inside when we were loading up. The windows quickly went down as we drove back to the visitor center to use the bathrooms. It was here we saw the Ranger who guided us on the Discovery Trek not too long ago. She had a bunch of skulls out and fur so people could touch and feel. She let Jaden wear a Junior Ranger hat and then he requested a photo with her before we left the park.
It was a great day trip and worth the time to go. Jaden was ready to come back the next day so we could explore more. We told him maybe as soon as the road down to Cedar Village opens up we can try down there. Yosemite was on his mind too and knowing we would be heading there in the weeks to come made him smile.