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General Grant in Snow

January 25, 2017
Written January 26+
Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,

Fresnans are proud that we are near a number of National Parks and, even in winter, we can take day trips to at least four.  We had been hearing how dramatic the recent snowfall has been in the Sierra Nevada parks so, as soon as the roads were reliably cleared, I wanted to make a photo excursion.  Our easiest National Park is Kings Canyon. Most of it is already snowed in until Spring, but the trees at Grant Grove were accessible. 
Driving east, we passed miles of citrus and stone fruit orchards.  Some of them were new trees, still in their Christmas wrapping.  Or, so it seemed.  I take it that this is a sign of a harsh winter locally, because we have never seen this type of orchard protection.  This is another reminder that farming, even in as benign a climate as Fresno County, can be dependent on events that are hard to control.  Too complex for me.

Those fields are under 1,000 feet in elevation and seldom see snow, but, by the time we had climbed to about 4,000 feet, the hills were becoming white-speckled and the road showed signs of having been recently plowed.  The not-needed-today chain pull-off areas gave us a place to park and enjoy the view.

d170125_24_gate.jpgd170125_26_inside.jpgd170125_27_easyparking.jpgNearer the entrance to Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, snow was more dramatic and we were even more grateful for the work of the plows. There had been reports of seven to ten feet of snow over the previous weekend and, as we got higher, we could see this was no exaggeration.  Even on a nice day like today, chains or four-wheel-drive were required to go beyond the park entrance  - just in case.

d170125_30_grantgrove.jpgOur first stop was Grant Grove, a Kings Canyon destination that we always take our visitors to because it is relatively easy to reach and shows off the majesty of the sequoia trees.  We had never been here in real winter, so I was looking forward to seeing the difference the snow cover had made.

I found that the snow had improved an already-spectacular setting.  I could not stop clicking away, trying to capture the feel of this winter wonderland.  Big trees.  Small trees.  Seasonal streams where paths normally are.  Graceful mounds of snow piled on fence posts, stream beds, paths, and trees.  Too many pictures again, but that's what I do.  Here is the story in pictures.

The walkway had been cleared enough to pass the giant tree landmarks.  It was easy to imagine the hollow tree serving as shelter, a role it played a hundred years ago.

The big trees, especially the General Grant tree, stand far above the snow, no matter how deep.  The volunteer docent told the story of the giant trees to an interested audience.  These were three of the half-dozen people in all of Grant Grove, in stark contrast to bus loads crawling around in sunnier weather.
Even the Grant Tree fire burn looked dramatic with snow all around.  Gamlin Cabin, built in 1872, looked almost romantic, although I can not imagine spending the entire winter in such isolation.
The path up around General Grant offered its own winter challenge.  Much was not shoveled or plowed and parts of the paths had become streams.  I was glad I had worn serious winter boots.
I loved the snow piled on the path fences.  The hooded posts repeated the shapes we had seen covering young orchard trees just a couple of hours before.
In some places, snow almost covered the fence and in others, lumps hide newly-formed streams.
Smaller trees wore heavy winter coats as well.
Close examination showed ice everywhere.

After Grant Grove, we headed to our only other goal: John Muir Lodge.  We wanted to investigate to see if this might be a place worth staying.  Next week we will stay in Yosemite and I had considered an overnight visit here instead.  However, we'd never seen the place and their website warned that food service is not currently up to standards because a new dining facility is being built.

In fact, the snow-covered lodge was just charming.  Andrew, one of only two staff we saw around the lobby, was more than happy to show us an example room that was large, clean, and, by all appearances, fine for us. He said this time of year is great, because there is space just about any day, whereas the lodge is already fully-booked for June through August.
d170125_92_inside.jpgAnd that food problem?  Andrew showed us the "temporary" lunch and dinner menus, so we took a break and ordered "Sierra Hamburgers".   The setting was cozy and the burgers were simple but tasty.  We came away convinced that we must return for a break from our hectic Fresno winter schedule.
By now, it was time to head home, so we left the park and started the downhill ride.  I made a stop to try a picture of a seasonal waterfall and to try to capture the late afternoon valley silhouettes.  The pictures are not as good as the memories, but that is often the case.

So now we have another National Park destination and another reason to believe in Fresno.  Not that we NEED one, of course.  Just sayin'.

Next week we have a few days at Yosemite and later in February we will head over to Death Valley.   Stay tuned.

John and Marianne


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