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Kings Canyon with Friends

May 16 &-17, 2015
Written May 18+

Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,
Sometimes unplanned events happen, even in our new Fresno life.  Last Thursday evening, we got an email from friends who were visiting nearby national parks.  We had last seen Pedro and Isabelle almost three years ago in their spectacular apartment in Lyon, France.  They had hosted us with wonderful meals and great wine -- and good stories.  They were now on their way to Kings Canyon and Yosemite National Parks and offered to stop by Fresno for a lunch.  That arrangement proved too complicated, so instead we volunteered to meet them in Kings Canyon for more leisurely dinner.  We had never been in Kings Canyon and , even if the lodge cafe seemed to offer only simple fare, we could bring decent wine.

After Saturday morning breakfast with Mamo, Marianne and I headed east.  The gate to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks is about an hour drive.
A standard stop on the way to the parks is the Centerville Fruit Stand.  The stone fruit season is just starting, and we filled bags just in case cafe offerings were too limited.
From website research, we had considered "Kings Canyon Lodge", but an in-person examination confirmed our decision to go a bit upscale.
Inside the park, our first stop was "Grant's Grove".  The Sequoias really are spectacular, even if accessible ones like this get a bit crowded.  We counted six buses in the parking lot, all with foreign visitors: French, Japanese, Chinese, and "other".
Farther into the parks and national forest, signs of the ongoing drought were easy to find.  Many of the evergreens had already been killed by the bark beetles, an invading pest that preys on trees whose sap has dried up for lack of water.  Other parts of the hills are covered in manzanita, the twisted, oil-filled, trees that are notorious for creating uncontrollable fires.  Summer will be long this year.

Kings Canyon vistas were almost completely free of snow. Normally, in mid May, these hills should be covered in snow.
Nearing the end of the road, we reached Cedar Grove Lodge and settled in.  The room was basic, but clean and the river-side setting was wonderful.  (Personally, I would repeat the stay, although Marianne would prefer a bit more luxury.)
The lodge kitchen prepared their first dinner for the season, so we joined Pedro and Isabelle and hoped for the best.  Well, the setting was nice, but the cook still needs to work on his BBQ technique. 
Fortunately, we had brought along plenty of picnic cheese, crackers, and fruit.  (and decent wine). No one went hungry and we enjoyed an hours-long meal while we caught up on histories and plans.

Along the road and at our lodge, I experimented with river pictures.  I'm never sure these are great art works, but they are reminders for us of the trip.
The shot I considered my "best":

d150517_02_breakfast.jpgSunday morning we had our breakfast and bid our friends bon voyage.  They were on their way to Yosemite, three or four hours away, but we would linger locally for our morning.

d150517_04_canyon.jpgThe Kings Canyon road ends about ten miles past Cedar Grove and we had that part of the road almost to ourselves.  Their were a few cars in the end-of-the-road parking lot, but that must have been for hardy hikers who were out in the wilds. For us, looking at the looming granite cliffs from the bottom was enough.

Along the way back, we paused at Zumwalt Meadow to allow Marianne some time for "zentangle" drawing in as inspiring a location as one could imagine.  I tried to capture the setting "on film", from the peaceful river across to the cliffs thousands of feet above us.
The rock walls here compare favorably with their more-famous cousins up at Yosemite, at least that was our impression.  

With that, we headed home, glad that it would be a short trip.  Thanks to Pedro and Isabelle for giving us the call and causing this spontaneous mini-vacation.

Now we look forward to another friend visit starting Tuesday, but that's another story.

John and Marianne


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