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11-31 October 2002

Part 6:  Kings Canyon National Park

Beat the construction crew into Kings Canyon the next morning, but just barely: they were sure getting ready to roll!  For that reason I bypassed all those big tree trails (maybe next time I'll get to do the tourist thing) and started stopping every mile just past the construction, which turned out to be just as delightful as Mineral King!  More Varied Thrushes tuned up, and I thought I heard a Pygmy Owl, but took it off later after hearing Solitaires whistling and realizing that I could have been hearing a distant Townsend's.  Had more White-headed Woodies in the woods, but you quickly descend into Wrentit and towhee country with plenty of chaparral (I made up a less-than-scientific-theory: if the thook comes from low in the chaparral, it's a Hermit, and if it comes from high in the conifers, it's a Varied...).  Mountain Quail were all over the place (in fact, I almost smushed one that seemed determined to run under Jip), while Californias were lower in the canyon.  Down level with Kings River I finally found a couple of Dippers chasing one another, and I guess you must gain some kind of elevation again, because at Cedar Grove you're getting more White-headed Woodpeckers, and even had Nutcrackers on the Copper Creek Trail, but I sure don't remember seeing any increasing elevation signs past 3000 feet (and the map doesn't give the elevation at Roads End).  But having the whole place virtually to myself was wonderful, and I saved any hiking till the afternoon, when things along the road would quiet down anyway (except for jays).  Did add what I'm sure must have been a Cassin's Finch flying over, as it was doing its supposedly diagnostic WHEEooo! call, but it was a clear whistle, without the harshness I've heard in the recordings; I was hoping that someone more familiar with winter finch calls would comment on that, but haven‘t heard anything, unfortunately.  (I heard several of these finches wheeooing as they flew over during the course of the high mountain birding...)

     

Heading in on the Kings Canyon Highway, with a view of the windy highway from on high

        

Down at the bottom, along the Kings River and Cedar Grove

      

Incense Cedar along the Copper Creek Trail 

Copper Creek was mostly uphill, so I scratched that off as a trail to hike in the future, although I did get a nice Hairy Woodpecker out of it.  An access to the River Trail was pretty nice, but had some inclines, whereas the Mist Falls Trail was completely flat, so that got my vote of the three!  The Zumwalt Meadow Nature Trail loop would have been a shoe-in with its spectacular scenery and easy walking (including a great view of North Dome), were it not for the fact that part of the trail becomes a non-trail over tricky rocks, so that's where I turned back (a couple I ran into going the opposite direction said it wasn't really all that bad; you just had to be careful).  That same rock area is just gorgeous, though, as the trees growing in there are absolutely golden right now (had a funny Pine Squirrel checking me out at the resting spot here)!  With the little boardwalk into the meadow it still made a nice in-and-out hike.

      

Along the River and Zumwalt Meadow Nature Trails

            

More scenes along the nature trail with a Steller's Jay and the Kings River

          

Perky Pine Squirrel where the trail gets dicey!

      

Zumwalt Meadow and view of North Dome   

My feet were really shot after that, so I made a couple of stops along the gorge going back (all the pullouts were on the other side of the road going down, naturally), dutifully gawking at the scenery, then headed up to face the traffic; was shocked that the flagman remembered me from yesterday!  (He thinks it was my stuffed kookaburra on the dashboard that tipped him off...)  Since I knew the holdup was coming I had started back a little early and made it into Sanger in good time, adding two new trip birds on the way (Harrier, and--incongruously--Great-tailed Grackle!). 

   

Views of the highway on the way out

       

(Notice the little curve where the road curls around!)       

   

Looking down on the Kings River 

Continue to High Sierra Rec Area

Go back to Sequoia NP

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