Tag Archives: Nature

Kings Canyon and Giant Trees

One of our other goals (along with getting to Yosemite) while we were at Sugar Pine Camp was to get back to the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park which was only about 100 miles away (which in the overall scheme of our life is pretty darn close!). We had visited the “Sequoia” part of the park back in February of 2009, but since it was, after all February, the Kings Canyon part was closed. Too. Much. Snow. Here’s the Sequoia Visitor Center on the day we visited in 2009-
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so you can see why snow might have been an issue. So this time, while there was a bit of overlap, we were focused on Kings Canyon (northern and higher altitude) section of the park.
Once we started east from Fresno, the drive started to climb.
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and the views became expansive.
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Our first stop in the park was the Grant Grove area – home to the General Grant Tree and a beautiful walk through some giant sequoias.
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The General Grant Tree is also known as America’s Christmas Tree (designated by President Calvin Coolidge in 1926).
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(It looked a little more “Christmas-y where we were here last time -)
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Those giant sequoias are amazing
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but we really wanted to make our way to Kings Canyon. So on we went!
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We did check out a couple of stops along the way – one was a short hike into Grizzly Falls, which unlike Yosemite Falls, actually had some water falling.
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And such beautiful clear water it was!
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Once we made it to the bottom of the canyon, we followed the path of the Kings River.
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We also took a hike through Zumwalt Meadow, which was part meadow
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and part not-so-much-meadow.
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It was a beautiful hike and after we continued on to the end of the road, we turned around and just un-wound the trip down. I confess that somehow, the trip back seemed much more dramatic. Might have been because now we were in the outside lane!

From the steep canyon walls
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to the realization of just how far down DOWN was once we started to climb out of the canyon.
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(Still not sure you can get the real feel for how steep it was – but it was pretty impressive, believe me!)
One last stop on the way home was to drive by Hume Lake –
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Sure would’ve liked to set a spell in those chairs!

Soon we were headed back to Sugar Pines –
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and a nap!

Thanks for coming along on our Kings Canyon excursion. If you’d like to see some additional photos (you knew that was coming, right?), you can check them out (in reasonable order of the day) HERE!

[Since this is also a Monday (as in Mondays are for Memories), if you’d like to check out the photos from our 2009 trip to the Sequoias, just click HERE!]

Yosemite

There are lots of things we look at when we ask to serve at different ministries. We usually try to go to a project where we’ve never worked before. We sometimes look for specific needs (though we’ve also learned that the needs that are published are often different by the time we get there). We try to choose a ‘less-served’ ministry – one that doesn’t get many SOWERS. But I must confess that the reason we chose Sugar Pine Christian Camp had a little less to do with a specific need, but more to do with this little notation in our listing. “6 miles from the S entrance to Yosemite Park”. It did meet all of the other criteria, but that Yosemite thing was really what tipped the scale. This is only our second swing out to the West Coast (the first one before and after we did our Alaska Adventure), and since we never know what tomorrow will bring, I really wanted to make sure we made it to Yosemite.
So it was pretty much a win-win all around! We were blessed to serve at Sugar Pine Camp – and we were certainly WOWED at Yosemite.
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We spent two beautiful days exploring Yosemite, and although we barely scratched the surface of hiking and back country activities, I do think we covered most anything you could get to by car – plus a couple spots that required our feet!
Here are some highlights –
Glacier Point
This is pretty much everyone’s first recommendation. They even recommended seeing it at sunrise. That did not happen. But we did get there early-ish, so we missed some of the crowds while we enjoyed the magnificent views.
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Sentinel Dome
Since we knew that Half Dome was way beyond our hiking capabilities, we decided to give Sentinel Dome a shot. The Yosemite experts back at the camp felt it would be a good hike for us – a little challenging, but certainly do-able. For us out of shape oldsters.
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We were a bit intimidated by the fact that we were headed to the top of that dome
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but still, we pressed on!
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OK – if young couple wearing a toddler can do it,

so can we.
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Just a little bit slower. And with a slightly faster heart rate!
But Oh.The.Views.
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As we were headed back down, Gary’s sharp eyes spotted a bit of wildlife.
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Can you see it? Up in the tree….
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Happy hunting, big guy!
This was a great hike – good cardio workout on the way up, and a bit hard on the joints on the way back, but we did it!

El Capitan
We caught a couple of glimpses of El Capitan as we headed up to Tioga Road (in the northern section of the park)
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but it pretty much dominated the horizon once we ventured into Yosemite Valley the next day!
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But first – Tioga Road, Omsted Point, and other views from that road! (There is lots more park to the north of Tioga Road, but it’s all ‘back country’.) Here are just a few of the our stops –
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Olmstead Point
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Olmstead Point (the other way!)
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Tenaya Lake
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We stopped at a little cafe near the north entrance (Tioga Pass) for a bite to eat and struck up a conversation with a couple of back-country hikers who were sharing our table. Now mind you, we were feeling pretty smug having hiked the Sentinel Dome (all 2.2 miles of it), so we asked one fellow how his hike was going. It turns out he was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and he shared his good news that he only had 1000 miles to go. A Thousand Miles. So much for the our Sentinel Dome experience! He was very interesting and since he was looking quite longingly at Gary’s fish and chips, we funded him for a couple of meals. (I wonder if he made it to Mexico yet?)

We finished that first day with a stop at the “Tunnel View Overlook” which offers spectacular views of the park.
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And just as we were getting ready to leave, we ran into some friends from Trinity, TX!!! How crazy was that????
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Now that was a ‘God Wink’ to be sure!!!!
We returned the next day and took one more shot of the “Tunnel View”.
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Love the morning light!

But we were headed to explore Yosemite Valley, which is a much busier area. Kinda like the ‘downtown’ of Yosemite.
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We took a little meadow hike
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and checked out the historic Ahwahnee hotel.
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Lunch was a bit pricey, but oh, so elegant and yummy. It was a fun treat!
The famous Yosemite Falls (Upper and Lower) were dry this late in the season
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but you can certainly see how magnificent they must be in the spring with the snow run-off!
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Once again we were very glad we started early in the day –
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because this is how it looked when we were ready to leave!
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Yikes!

From start to finish – Yosemite was magnificent!
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We are so thankful to be able to mark that off our ‘bucket list’
If you’d like to see more of the beauty of Yosemite, there are more pictures HERE! (I did my best to whittle down the number, but it’s still just shy of 100! Just wanted to give you a warning!)

A bit of randomness

1. Not so random, but certainly late – I wanted to thank you all for the sweet anniversary wishes! We had a fun day, driving to Boise with friends and checking out the downtown Farmers’ Market and doing a quick walk-through of the Capitol Building (that’s two down and 48 to go!). It was a lovely, lovely day!

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2. Although we didn’t have a huge celebration on our anniversary DAY (though we were delighted to Facetime with all the kiddos), we did just finalize plans to take our very first cruise!!! It’s not until early April, but we are pretty excited about it! We’ll be going with good SOWER friends, sailing from Galveston and checking out the Western Caribbean ports of Cozumel (MX), Belize City (Belize), and Roatan (Honduras). Now if I could just figure out what Gary will be wearing on those two ‘formal nights’. Thrift shops, here we come!

3. We said good-bye to an old friend yesterday.
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This little piece of Pampered Chef stoneware has been with us since the beginning. It’s outlived three toaster ovens, and heated up countless pizza slices and hotdogs. It’s roasted vegetables, cooked many dinners-for-two (from fish to pork to chicken), and even baked a cookie or two in its day. As you can tell – it’s very well seasoned! (It’s supposed to look like that, right?). When I noticed that significant crack a couple of weeks ago I became quite concerned. I wasn’t sure we could continue without it. Thanks to eBay, I found a replacement and was delighted to start breaking it in.
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But I wasn’t quite ready to give up on our old friend. Until last night.
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It broke apart in my hand as I was lifting it out of the sink. And not even at the crack I was worried about! Thanks for all the (yummy) memories, my old friend.

4. We’re parked just a bit away from the RV parking area this month.
Main parking –
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Our spot….
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It’s nice a quiet here in the ‘backyard’ and we also have the bonus of beautiful sunrises,
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and some equally beautiful end-of-day skies!
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So even though we might not be parked in the ‘thick of things’, we are very content.

5. Both Gary and I are terrible lonesome for our kids and grands these days. Although I saw them all in early May, Gary hasn’t been able to hug any of them since Christmas. So when I realized that I had a Picaboo coupon that was about to expire, it only seemed proper that I make up a couple of posters of the Grands and the Cabin (another thing we’re missin’ these days.)

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OK, it’s not quite a hug (or morning coffee in front of the fireplace), but it helps!

6. For reasons unknown to us, our window awning straps seem to have become the local hangout for the neighborhood yellow jackets.
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When I noticed a similar (and a bit more intense) gathering on the bedroom strap
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it seemed time to take action, and out came the hornet spray. Sorry guys, but we really didn’t want to take you with us when we left town next week.

7. There are some great sunflowers here!
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Hope you’re having a great weekend! Thanks for stopping by!
Steph

Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam…..

We got a super early start on Friday as we headed to the National Bison Refuge about 30 miles away.
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OK, it wasn’t pre-dawn or anything, but for what normally is a no-alarm day, I think we did pretty good. The plan was to get to the refuge early enough that the critters wouldn’t all be taking their mid-day nap! And while we weren’t overwhelmed with the amount of wildlife we saw, we still counted it a good day!
Even without the wildlife sightings, the views were spectacular –
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The drive through the refuge was also delightful!
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To say it was a bit windy might be an understatement!
And as for wildlife sightings, we really did just fine –
There were Mule Deer –
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Pronghorn
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Bison (of course!)
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Some Pronghorn and Bison –
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Some Bison rolling in the dirt
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And then some up close and personal Bison –
Pretty good morning at the bison refuge! #reachoutandtouchme #idareyou #bison #buffalo
And a Bison or two who just seemed to want to pose for the camera –
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So it was a pretty good day for the Bison sightings!
We also saw some Bighorn Sheep, though they were doing their best to hide in the tall grass –
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Can you see them where the grass meets the trees?
Here it is with a bit of zoom –
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and then a bit more –
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Can you sense just how excited they were to have company?
It was a delight when a large family of Ruffled Grouse crossed the road in front of us –
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and even the White Tailed Deer managed to come into our range –
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Or maybe we came into their range. Or maybe they’re mule deer. But they were there, and we got a picture!
We also saw, but did not document a Coyote (with a Pronghorn watching him very carefully) and a Golden Eagle looking for lunch.
And of course, I had to stop and take a couple pictures the beautiful late summer thistles and grasses.
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We finished off our excursion with a run into Missoula (and a Costco stop, or course) and then back to camp. As you can see, it was a beautiful day to be out and about. And we were glad to be able to take it all in! There are some additional pictures of the Bison Refuge HERE if you’re so inclined!

Hope you had a good weekend! We had a couple more adventures, but I figured I’d better get this one ‘on the books’ before too much time went by!
Thanks for stopping by-
Steph

Wenatchee to St. Regis – Getting here!

When last we ‘spoke’ we were headed to see friends in East Wenatchee for dinner, after getting those new tires for the truck. They had room for our RV, so we moved from Costco to the other side of the river. What a delightful time we had – the dinner, the friends, the parking spot. Their home sits on the ridge above the Columbia River, and commands a wonderful view.
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And produces a pretty good sunset too!
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We’re so glad we stopped – and certainly hope we can make that connection again sometime!
We did get an early start on Tuesday since we wanted to get all the way to St. Regis, MT where we had reservations for a couple of nights at a campground. And after all, we were about to lose an hour as we moved from Pacific Time to Mountain Time. But we also didn’t want to do the whole trip on interstate, so we went just a bit north, right along the Columbia River and past beautiful orchards
Orchards, mountains, river and sunshine. Yes, we're on the road again! #ontheroadagain #washington #solovely
and then headed east on Rte 2. It was a long and windy uphill start
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(sorry about the dirty windshield – you’ll be seeing that again, I promise!)
and usually after a long climb up, there’s a corresponding climb down. Not so in this neck of the woods. Once we got out of the pass, we were greeted with miles and miles of wheat!
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I personally found great beauty in these rolling hills
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so please bear with me as I share a couple more from that beautiful drive –
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Don’t you want to know the story behind this solitary house?
Or maybe this one?
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We watched a daring crop duster making pass after pass over the fields –
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until finally we caught up and passed him (or maybe he passed us?).
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There were a couple of random splashes of green
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and still an occasional hill to climb
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(Do you see that lone walker at the bottom? We were quite in the middle of nowhere, and really puzzled at where he was headed! But he did not seem in any distress, so we figured he knew what he was doing.)
but mostly it was wheat field after wheat field as we traversed this plateau.
Amber waves of grain. Washington? Yes, Washington. #ontheroadagain #washington
And then there was Spokane.
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We picked up the interstate (I90) and were soon crossing the Idaho panhandle.
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Idaho was beautiful. Back to the tall trees and wilderness – and the beautiful Lake Coeur d’Alene.
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There were also a few more ‘long pulls’, as we call those steep climbs. One (Lookout Pass, just before the Montana border)was especially stressful. Due to construction, we were not only going up the hill single file, but there were solid concrete barriers on either side of us.
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We were watching our engine temps climb, and were very, very happy when we finally saw the crest of the hill.
Yes, we stopped to let the temps (and maybe my pulse) return to normal. Here’s another shot looking back from where we had stopped.
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We did the downhill slow and steady, and soon we were settled in our camping site, where we’ll be hanging out for just a day until we head into our August SOWER project, Camp Bighorn, just up the road a piece in Plains, MT.
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Gary is intent on keeping our little campfire going all day and just enjoying the day. And I intend to join him in that noble endeavor right after I hit the “Publish” button for this post!
Not quite a cabin morning, but still a lovely way to start the day! #morningfire #sittingstillforaday