The 6th through the 9th of July 2006, the family went up into the Giant Sequoia National Monument in the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains of California for some camping and hiking. We were going to be camp at a campground called the Quaking Aspens Campground located right on the Great Western Divide at a little over 7,000 feet of elevation. The drive was expected to take about five hours but with some delays trying to get through Los Angeles it took a little over six hours. I had been here two weeks earlier on a mountain biking trip and like the area so much I had to bring the family up to take in the area.
We setup camp fairly quickly as we had only had about an hour of light left when we arrived due to our delays. Our tent is rather large and on our last two trips we have had an interesting time trying to find a level spot to fit. This trip was no different and of course there was some spirited discussion between Will and Jake as to how got to sleep in the best spot. All these matters got settled and before long we were in for the night.
The Freeman Creek Trail
The next morning Casey and I had some really strong camp coffee to get us going in the morning before we made some eggs grits and toast for breakfast. (Seems we forgot the bacon and sausage) Today we were going to do about a 4 mile hike on the Freeman Creek Trail down through the Freeman Grove of Giant Sequoias. There are 38 groves of Giant Sequoias outside of the Giant Sequoia National Park further to the north and this grove is the large grove in wilderness condition (never having been logged) outside of the park. Giant Sequoia's are amongst some of the oldest living things on the planet with the oldest being about 3,500 years old. The Freeman Creek Trail drops over 1500 feet from the Great Western Divide down into Lloyd Meadows just south of the Golden Trout Wilderness Area. I knew the family would not be able to handle hiking back up this trail, so I put my bike in the back of my truck and drove to the bottom of the trail. This was easier said than done, I had to drive 41 miles on paved roads to get to the bottom of this 4 mile trail. I basically had to drive south about 15 miles along the top of the divide, to get to a road that went down the divide and then take another road north along the eastern base of this ridge back 15 miles. Once at the bottom of the trail, I rode my bike up the trail back to camp. It took me an hour to get to the bottom of the trail in my truck and took me an hour to get back to camp on my bike.
Back at camp, I picked up the family and we started strolling off to the trailhead about a 1/2 miles away. Before long we were on the trail and boys keep asking if that was a Sequoia or not. The Sequoia's are interspersed among other types of the trees in the in the forest and this grove and some of the largest and most impressive Red Firs and Cedars you will see anywhere.
The sun at this elevation can be quite powerful and it was quite warm in full sun, but most of this trail was shaded and quite comfortable. It is not until you are about 1.5 miles down the trail, do the Giant Sequoias come into view. The boys were quite impressed with these giants.
There was a meadow about halfway down the trail where a Giant Sequoia had fallen, and had went complete across the meadow. We all had fun walking across the meadow on this one heck of a log.
Here are the boys at the President George Bush Tree (There is a plaque nearby that I did not take a picture of). The tree is in honor President George Bush actions here in 1992 where he signed a proclamation at the bottom of this grove that established the protection all sequoias in all National Forests in California. The truck was only a few hundred yards from this tree and before you know it we were on our back towards camp. The windy mountain roads made Jake car-sick so after about 8 miles and countless curvy turns we took a break along the side of the road for a while until Jake got to feeling better. Once back on the road, we took a chance on dirt road shortcut that looked a little suspect at first. Judging from forest service maps, it would save us at least 15 miles on the return trip. Since my truck is a 4x4 I figure we should be okay unless it turned really ugly. The thought did not escape us that this "scene" is th starting plot for many a cheesy horror or comedy flick. The road turned out to be pretty darn tame and we did indeed cut off lots of miles of the return trip. We stopped in the one mountain lodge for many many miles and had really nice dinner before heading back to camp.
That evening the boys got to do what all boys really like to do. Play with fire. Making Smores really just a good means for them to make medieval fireballs with molten marshmallows on the inside. These picture were taken in between moments when I was telling them to "Stop That" and "Don't you dare flick that burning marshmallow". We survived through Smores that night.
Dad's Trail Scouting Ride
I had another hike planned for the next day out to the Needles Lookout which has incredible views of the Kern River and King Canyon basin as well as views of Mt Whitney on clear days. Both the boys and Casey's legs were feeling a little flat today so we lounged around camp. With the free time Casey did not mind me sneaking off to investigate some trails that intrigued me on the map the last time I was up here so I spent about four hours riding up a mountain road and then returning downhill by series of skinny singletrack trails.
Here is the full story on that ride from a mountain biking perspective
The Camp Nelson Trail
Later on that day, the boys and I took a short hike from down on the Camp Nelson trail and snooped around on the creek that follows the trail.
Back at camp that evening we watched a slideshow at the campground amphitheatre where a member of the Backcountry Horsemen's group showed a slide show of a recent horseback trip he did with a his pack animals through some twp wilderness areas in Nevada. Once again that evening the boys enjoyed playing around the fire.
The next day I took the boys for a fairly early morning drive along some of the mountain roads, before breaking up camping and heading home.