We headed back to SNP and at the park gate we were met by the same super chipper park ranger we had yesterday. That is one happy lady. Considering her work surroundings, it's not that hard to understand why though. Nearly all the National Park Service folks we run into are happy people....but she is particularly so. Anyway, she informed us that 1/2 the park roads were closed because they were snowed in overnight. It never occured to me that the hard rain I heard all night in our hotel at 1500 feet would be snow up in the park at 7000+ feet. We were a bit bummed because we had planned on driving all the way through the park to Kings Canyon National Park just to the north. We decided to go ahead anyway because we wanted to do some more exploring in the areas we had seen yesterday.
We headed for the Lodgepole visitor center because yesterday we noticed they had a nice laundromat onsite and a little grill. We needed to get some clothes washed and we were a bit tired of eating the same cold cuts/cheese/fruit lunch out of our cooler day after day that our budget usually dictates, so we thought we'd treat ourselves to lunch while our clothes were washing/drying (don't fret about those poor neglected cold cuts/cheeses/fruits, we had them for dinner in our hotel room tonight! :) ). Those of you who know us well, know we are a pretty healthy eating family, but we must say, the chili cheese fries at the Lodgepoll Grill were absolutely divine. :-) After lunch, Bella and I had another snowball fight while we waited for the cloths to dry. The snow up there was the softest lightest snow I've ever felt and it was made up of the same small popcorn like balls of snow we saw at the Grand Canyon. I assume that has something to do with the elevation and dryness of the air compared to the snow back east. In a head to head battle of snow types, it's a knockout win for the west at this point. They just have cooler snow (no pun intended), I don't know what else to say.
After the laundry was done we decided to head up road that had a sign indicating it led to a "Snow Play Area," just because I was curious what a such a place was like. As luck would have it, it started to snow as we drove the mile or so up (and I do mean up, as the higher we went, the deeper the surrounding snowfall was) it started to snow. We arrived at the "Snow Play Area" and it was just turned out to be an area conducive to sledding and cross-country skiing. Had we been dressed for it and had a sled, it would have been alot of fun. Instead we headed back down to lower areas where the sequoias were to go and check out the onsite SNP sequoia museum. I had actually seen it yesterday so I sent Michelle and Bella in to see it while I drove a napping Aldie around. I just happened to see a sign to "Moro Rock" and followed it up a road deeper into the "Giant Forest." I didn't realize it at the time, but this actually turned out to be the best road to view the greatest number of mammoth sequoias (that's what they call the really big ones) and it's also the road that takes you to the "Tunnel Log" (see #5) but it was closed for the winter. I finally worked my way around to Moro Rock and just as soon as I pulled up I noticed a bunch of people looking up the stairs that ascend the rock. On a ledge about 50 feet up were three bears, a mama and two cubs. I quickly took a few pics then got in the car to go get Michelle and Bella hopefully to show them. I hurried back to the museum and they walked out as soon as I pulled up. They jumped in and we drove back to Moro Rock, but the bears had left the ledge. Bella and I then climbed the staircase of Moro Rock nearly all the way to the top. Normally I'm the type of person who would climb as high as I'm physically able to on things like this, but it had snowed earlier, the very narrow rock staircase was covered in ice and it was rather windy up there. Even though there was a small guard rail, it would have been quite easy to slip in such a way that you cold fall through or over the guardrail and fall a couple thousand feet to your death. Personally, I would have risked it if it was just me, It's no great if I have a little slip... :-) but I had Bella with me and so I was happy to let the last 10% of the steps remain unconquered by us. If you are ever in SNP make sure you do the climb up Moro Rock though....even if you go up only 25% of the steps, it's an easy, very safe climb to that point and the 180 degree view you have to the west and east of the Sierra Nevada mountains rivals anything we've seen on this trip. It's even up there with some of the Grand Canyon views. Ok, maybe it's not quite Grand Canyon good as far as the view, but the viewing point itself, on top of this HUGE granite rock poking off the top of this mountain was actually more impressive than any of the viewing points for the Grand Canyon we came across.
Bella and I made our way back down the Moro Rock staircase to the car and when we got there people said the bears had returned, only this time they were over near the staircase on the side of the mountain. I ran up there with the camera and got few more pics from about 20 feet away. Mama and her two cubs were munching away on vegetation and couldn't care less about the 10 or so people watching them. I then ran down and brought Bella back up to where she could see them. We made our way back to the car and I convinced Michelle to hike up 25% of the Moro Rock staircase to see the view I told her about and I think she's glad she did. After that we called it a day, headed back down the mountain and found a hotel in Tulare, CA for the evening. I think we are planning on heading over to the coast tomorrow, probably around San Luis Obispo and slowly work our way up to Big Sur, then the bay area. We'll see....our plans never quite seem to materialize the way we envision them. :-)
Here are a few more pics...
|Winter (er, late Spring?) Wonderland.|
|Can you spot the lonely snowman?|
|It's hard to make out, but it's three bears, mama and two cubs up there.|
|Mama all by herself.|
|I never could get them all to look at the camera at the same time.|
|This is Moro Rock as seen from the road climbing up into Sequoia National Park. To get an idea of just how big that rock is, do you see all those tiny snow covered trees along the left side of the picture...they are NOT tiny up close. They are very large trees, 50-60+ feet.|
|I was thirsty and there was a delicious looking little waterfall on the side of the road. It was the best water I ever tasted, no joking.|
|Cubbies rooting for food.|
|Bella on Moro Rock.|
|Frozen tree growing near the base of Moro Rock.|
|Taken from about 25% up Moro Rock.|
|The drop off from this point is enough to get your heart racing when you are standing there.|
|Just stunning views to the west.|
|Frost tipped Sequoias.|
|On our way down the mountain.|