2019 - West Coast USA - Day 16
This morning I woke up feeling as if my throat was closing on me and I kind of ached all over. Karen had suffered earlier this trip and so I had probably picked up a bug from her combined with not sleeping great for the last couple of nights.
Nevertheless we had a full day planned and I wasn’t feeling bad enough to put that in jeopardy. Breakfast was very busy and actually quite good. Karen was ninja like in grabbing us a table. She really liked the Yogurts on offer whilst I managed to get some fresh scrambled eggs that was just being put out. It was light and fluffy and the best of the trip so far.
On the itinerary for today was Kings Canyon which according to Google Maps was about 70 miles away. When I put it into the Sat Nav it reduced it 41 miles which surprised me. We got on the road and followed its instructions. It then got me to turn right onto Dry Creek Road which we could see was quite narrow. We assumed it was a short cut. Well it was of sorts. The road became more like a pathway for about 20 miles. We only passed one other car. There were no houses, no buildings just nothing but wilderness. For most of the drive I struggled to get above 20 mph. I have never encountered some blind hairpin bends with such steep turns. It was such hard work driving.
We were so isolated that the thought of breaking down or meeting someone going fast in the other direction didn’t bear thinking about. I got Karen to also try and track us on a map on my phone and it certainly looked as though it was taking in the right direction but we were not certain until we joined a slightly bigger road that led into the National Park. We both let out a big sigh of relief when we turned onto that road.
At the entrance we found that our Annual Pass saved us another $35 entrance fee meaning that we had used $77 worth out of the $80 cost. As it is valid for another 12 months we are reasonably confident we will more than cover the initial outlay.
If our shortcut to the park entrance wasn’t hairy enough the drive up was also quite challenging.
Our first stop was at the Visitors Centre where rather civilly they had not only free WiFi but also a nice coffee shop. Unsurprisingly we stopped and used both. Karen made me take some paracetamol for as much her benefit as mine as not feeling great was making me more grumpy than normal.
We then headed to the General Grant Tree Trail. This is the third largest tree in the world, and is thought to be over 3500 years old. It is mass-hosive! It has been degreed as a National Monument for all those lost in conflict. As if that wasn’t enough it is also known as the Nations Christmas Tree and a service is held in front of every Christmas Day Morning. The trail itself wasn’t too far and a lovely walk. The smell coming from the Pine Trees was Devine.
Then we thought we would drive all the way down to the bottom of the canyon It was like nothing I have ever encountered or driven before.
Kings Canyon is deeper than the Grand Canyon. Except with this one you drive up the mountains on the side to then drive down again to the bottom of the canyon itself. The sides of the canyon are over 8000ft high. It was over 20 miles to drive up and then down to the river at the bottom of the canyon, along some of the scariest roads I have ever known but with the views just out of this world.
The driving was hard work and Karen was a bit freaked at times with the enormity of the drops over the sides. Part way down we came across a garage in the middle of nowhere. As I was concerned how much further we might have to go and I was almost down to half a tank of fuel I though I would put another couple of gallons to be sure.
It was a gas station from the 1940’s where the gasoline had to be pumped by hand and it was measured by the fuel level on top of the pump going down. It was the most expensive 2 gallons in the America by my reckoning but worth it for the experience. It was owned and run by some young lad, so good on him for keeping it running.
Spectacular does not do the scenary justice. We came across the entrance to a cave next to the river and although we had no intention of doing a cave tour we stopped to sit on a picnic bench to have our lunch. It was a stunning setting with the water bounding over rocks next to us. Then we drove further to Grizzly Falls and got out to admire the view. With these falls you could get right up to them and feel the refreshing spray.
Eventually we reached our destination at the bottom which was Cedar Point Visitors Centre. This was a disappointment as there really wasn’t anything there to see and no viewpoints. It seemed to just exist for the campground next door. It had taken several hours to get to this point and I knew I had to do the same hard journey all the way back unless we could fund a helicopter to get us out of the canyon. So very slowly and carefully we made our way back up the 6000 feet we had to drive up to get back to the top.
Another thing we found worrying was the proximity of the road to the canyon as we went up (not surprising as the road had to cling to the side) and the number of very recent rockfalls I had to avoid in the road. We had read that just one rock the size of an egg could kill you and we were sure some them were not in the road when we were going in the other direction. At times I felt that I was filming an episode of Top Gear as the twisting and turning was just ridiculous.
Finally we got back to the first Visitors Centre where I needed a break and Karen needed more caffeine. In fact she needed so much after that journey and what roads lay ahead that she had a second as well.
We contemplated finding the longer route back but in the end I thought what the heck and just followed the Sat Nav again to take us back to the Hotel. It didn’t seem quite so scary on the way back but the journey did seem to take forever. My sore throat was long forgotten about with the stress of the route but I did note that we had passed the 2000 mile mark on our trip so far.
In an attempt to unwind after the drive we went and sat outside the Hotel under their gazebo for a while. Whilst there we decided to cancel our third night in this Hotel and rebook further elsewhere. This was down to three reasons 1; The Hotel we were currently in was very expensive (due to location, location, location) 2. The choice of places to eat was very very limiting 3. We figured our plans the next day would mean we would be able to book somewhere a further 40 miles down the road thus reducing the very long drive to Las Vegas on Friday by 10%. I sorted all that out whilst Karen caught up with all her messages and Social Media activities.
For our meal tonight we walked up the road (carefully stepping over the many dead ground squirrels) to a Pizza Factory restuarant. It was surprisingly good and unsurprisingly busy as there was very little other choice of where to get hot food. The staff were very friendly and there seemed to lots of locals in there as well. I was happy as they had a choice of White Pizzas on the menu. Karen couldn’t eat all hers so they boxed it up for us.
We made our way back (trying to remember where the dead squirrels were in the dark) and retired to bed for the night. It had been another great and memorable day.