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11-31 October 2002

Part 5:  Sequoia National Park

    Since my feet were still smarting, I decided to do the drive-a-mile-and-stop bit on Mineral King Road starting at the actual park entrance.  (I did cheat and stop once just as twilight was breaking to see if I could hear any owls, and picked up a Great Horned for real that way...)  This turned out to be a delightful road with very little traffic (just the fire guys going in to do their thing with the controlled burns), starting in chaparral and gradually making your way up to pines.  (It turned out to be oak woodland before the park, which I couldn't see at the time because I left while it was still pitch, so I'm tempted to include the whole road next time, not just the park's part.)  Wrentits and Mountain Quail seemed to be all over, and actually got to see the quail!  One little turnoff was particularly productive with chickadees and both kinglets, plus four types of woodpeckers, including a Downy (which surprised me at this elevation) and a very cooperative White-headed!  Higher up there were bunches of Solitaires singing all over, and Varied Thrushes turned out to be much more common (in my estimation) than the checklist's designation of "rare", as they were singing their strange two-toned songs along several stops, and I actually got to see one fly from the top of a pine!  Similar-sounding (in the call-note department) Hermit Thrushes thooked as well, but they were lower down in the chaparral.  Had several Fox Sparrows, and one that I was convinced was a "Fat-billed" cuz of the towhee-like call note turned out to be a Golden-crowned Sparrow...  Other new birds heard along this road included Hairy Woodpecker, Nutcracker, and a Brown Creeper over by the only Giant Sequoia along the whole road!


Scenes along Mineral King Road: At the entrance station


Heading towards Mineral King and looking back along the road we just came in on (the haze is due to controlled burns)


Aqueduct along the road at the Kaweah River, and a view of the river...

The view at the end of the road was to die for!!  Open, hilly meadows with scattered trees and boulders--it was awesome!!  I took a little bit of the Sawtooth Trail just to get a view (and some exercise).  A backpacker started the trail just after I did, and I was shocked that he never did pass me by (my uphill speed is about one inch per hour...)!  The other trail was called Eagle Crest and was much easier with more stupendous views: at the resting spot a Sharp-shinned Hawk came zooming in, and two Mule Deer passed below, then got on the trail I was just on; oh, the look on his (her?) face when he peeked around the bush and saw me sitting there about four feet away!  Judging from the map, I was enjoying Mt. Eilen, and saw where an energetic patriot had planted an American flag on top!


Scenes from the Sawtooth Trail (at the end of the road) along with a young White-crowned Sparrow



Looking back towards the parking lot   


Eagle Crest Trail with Mule Deer hightailing it away


Look hard for the flag atop the mountain (with a blow-up in case you can't find it...), along with a view on the way out

Rolled back down the hill and enjoyed more views, but realized that I wasn't gonna be able to hike any more trails if I was gonna get to Sanger at a decent hour (next time I'll definitely stay in the park) so I pulled over every mile or so on 198 through the main part of the park, just to see what I could hear.  At one curve I ran into a log jam of cars and humans with cameras; turns out there was a bear in the tree just over the road!  So I parked and joined the idiots walking right up to him with the camera--but most of us did retreat to the safety of our cars when he came down the tree (one or two bozos still insisted on getting in his face for pictures...).  The other neat mammal sighting was a Marten scrambling across the road in the National Monument portion!  No exciting birds that I can recall (except an excited flock of Red-breasted Nuthatches, and I did search the river fervently for Dippers), but the views were wonderful (got some giant tree shots on the fly), and even with the traffic delays (due to major road construction going into Kings Canyon) I made it into Sanger fine for dinner with my friend Shar! 


 Kaweah River again along the main drag (highway 198) with oak savannah habitat


Moro Rock (I think...) with a Black Bear and another scene heading up the canyon


What the tourists come to see (Giant Sequoias); higher up, the trees grow out of the rocks! 

Continue to Kings Canyon NP

Go back to Success Lake

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