Friday, October 9, 2009

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

Had been craving one last motorcycle touring trip in the Sierra Mountains before they get snowed in, I picked Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon because I had never been there and Autumn is a great time to visit the Parks with most of the maddening swarms of people back to work or school.

Day 1: Oct 9th, 2009

Here is a pic of the bike all prepped and ready to go in the morning. I had rigged up the Garmin Nuvi 780 GPS to my bike (powered by a relay and mounted with a RAM handlebar mount) for this trip.
The GPS has a built-in MP3 player and voice guidance. I was able to import the routes and way points from MotoDan's paper maps into Mapsource and then into the GPS for turn by turn voice directions through the forest roads, the GPS actually interrupts your music to alert you of upcoming way points or turns and then starts playing again- sweet!!

Here is the route for Day 1. I wanted to stay away from the congested (boring) highways as much as possible, so it was mostly mountain country roads with a few hops on an off the mountain highways along the way.

First photo shoot of the trip was a panaromic shot from the Pardee dam lookout, a little over an hour from the start:

Rolled onwards through some great twisty country roads till I reached the "little dragon" portion of Hwy 49, for lack of a better term - this is what I call "Road Porn":

Lunch stop in Mariposa at the Butterfly Cafe. Mariposa actually means Butterfly in Spanish. Turkey Sandwich with Brie cheese - Yummy!

Quaint little place!

Marched onwards on this fantastic motorcycle road leading to the little hamlet of Auberry - passed a powerhouse and what appears to be a nice swimming hole (for the summer).

Rode to Trimmer Springs Road - superb, it reminded me of a local favorite called Wentworth Springs Road, but this one is far longer and much more fun, I would trade in an instant, unfortunately no pictures of the road itself, never could find a good spot to capture the beauty of it snaking around the hill sides...

Caught Elwood Road (thank heavens for GPS voice directions, I would absolutely not have found the turn without a GPS). BTW - I hope that guy has flood insurance...

Finally home to my base camp at the Sequoia River Dance B&B. Lovely little place, I had a quiet room and I got to meet some great people. There was another couple there from Thousand Oaks, who had ridden up on their Gold Wing. We went and hung out at the local Three Rivers watering hole, the River View Bar/Restaurant and shared some good laughs and motorcycle stories.

My room:

Day 2:

Day 2 is pic heavy, so please bear with me! :)

I wanted an early start since Fall is here and the days are getting shorter, however, the B&B served breakfast at 8:30AM, so there went my plans of getting an early start and being on the road at or before 8AM in the morning. I was downstairs in the Breakfast area early and I could smell the aroma and see breakfast being prepared, damned if I was going to miss that scrumptious Quiche, Turkey Sausages, English Muffins, and lots of fresh fruit and freshly squeezed Orange Juice!

By the time I left it was already 9:30AM, a quick gas stop and waiting to buy a ticket at the Park gates and it was 10AM by the time I got into the park! This was the route for the day, if I wanted to get in the sights and the short hikes I wanted to do - then I better pick up the pace (and not get a ticket)!

The riding day started with the scenic climb up the mountains on 10mph switchbacks, fortunately for me the cars were courteous and would pull to the side to let me pass...

You can see Moro Rock - I will be there soon, I plan on hiking to the top for some top of the world views...we will come to that :)

I catch the Moro Rock/Crescent Meadows Trail - first stop is "Auto Log", this is a Giant Sequoia which fell a few decades ago and is so wide (base diameter is 21 feet) that you can actually drive a vehicle along its length. However, over the years the dead wood has rotten and it is no longer safe to drive over it...

Here you can see the base of the Auto Log tree:

Next stop and ride through is the Tunnel Log. Once again demonstrates the sheer size of these Giant Sequoia's - the tunnel is 17 feet wide and 8 feet high.

At the end of the Crescent Meadows/Moro Rock trail, you reach the parking lot at the base of Moro Rock climb. This is a steep but relatively easy climb, which takes you from the base of the Moro Rock, 300 feet up to the top along a steep very narrow trail, with vertigo inducing sheer drop off's along its side and the guard rails only go the first 50 feet or so.

You can see part of the switchbacks leading up to Moro Rock:

Top of the World views:

I climb down the Rock and find my bike surrounded by cars, when I had arrived I was sharing this parking space with 2 other bikes, those are now gone and the cagers are crawling all over my little bike...

Moro Rock just ate up my time, I spent a little too much time sitting on top of that rock :) I still have one more hike to do - along the Sherman Trail to go see the General Sherman Tree, the largest known tree in the world. Remember, I said the largest, not the tallest, that honor belongs to a Redwood in the Redwood National Forest (that is another trip). The Sherman tree is all about volume! Pictures do not do it justice, plus this is the one time that I forgot about the panorama stitcher...

You can see how little the person standing near the tree is - I am sure you can spot him/her...

I am not General Sherman....

Is that a fookin' tree behind me?

It's already 2:30PM, when I leave the Giant Forest, I haven't had lunch yet, just a couple of protein bars I had snacked on during my hikes, I was planning on a quick lunch stop in Grant Grove Village, where Hwy 198 meets with Hwy 180 leading into Kings Canyon National Park, my research on the internet showed they had a restaurant there, however what my research did not show was that they close for lunch at 2PM, I arrive at 3PM and of course they have locked their doors, I forage at the store selling mementos, to see if they had something to eat - Nope! Crap! Oh well! I dig into my luggage and find 2 other protein bars - guess that is lunch! :(

Daylight is running out, as I plan to be back at the B&B before nightfall, its 3:30PM when I start my descent into Kings Canyon, its 35 miles each way in and out, but it is 35 miles of some really fun twisties, but there are no guard-rails and a steep drop if you blow a corner. I have to keep a good pace and pics will suffer but I was still hoping to get a few good shots of the cliff faces..

Just starting the descent you get panoramic view on both sides.

View on the left:

View on the right:

You can almost see part of the twisty road going down to the canyon:

I stopped at various locations to take pictures of the canyon walls..

Once I get out of the canyon, I head out on Hwy 180 to get some gas and then catch Hwy 245 south back to Three Rivers just as it is starting to get dark. The next morning I enjoy another delicious breakfast, say bye to the new friends I have made over the weekend. The couple on the Gold Wing offer me a place to stay and explore the Malibu Canyons in Southern California next riding season, which is very kind of them and I might take them up on the offer :)

On the ride home I only stop for gas and lunch, it has already been 2 long days and the ride home is a long one as well returning on the same route I came and I just want to get home, I get lost along the way a couple of times (despite the GPS, hmmph!), but at least it quickly puts me back on the right path and I get home safe and sound. :)

Thank you for reading! :)

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