Friday, August 10, 2012

The Giant Rattlesnake of Kings Canyon

Now there's a more attention-grabbing title for a blog post, right?
Our last day of camping and it seemed like we'd exhausted the relatively child-friendly options for hiking in least the options on our side of this year's nasty piece of road construction. Instead of braving the wait to get through to the south, we drove north and opted for a hike in Kings Canyon National Park instead. It mystifies me as to why Kings Canyon and Sequoia are considered separate national parks, but that brings my national park count up to five for the year, so I'm not complaining.

It was just one big hike for our third day. We packed lunch..which we left in the car, due to poor judgement rather than forgetfulness. And we set out towards the General Grant grove. For one of the very first times, Smunch actually expressed a desire to do something in particular...and it so happened that he really wanted to see the General Grant tree. No matter that we'd seen plenty of giant sequoias already. Some of those had names too. He wanted to see this one. And I was game because I'm just so psyched to get any sort of guidance about what he wants to do.

Although the throngs of tourists and inescapable cigarette smoke were driving me crazy, we had a pretty nice little detour through the trees and then set off toward the trailhead we'd intended to take. No sooner had we hit the trail than we were on our own again. And we soon came across a really distressed ground squirrel chirping up a storm from a branch on the bank next to the trail. It took me more than a minute. How long does it take you?
If you've been following my blog lately, you've seen a couple pictures of the little tiny rattlesnakes I've run across in my Bay Area adventures. This one was nothing like them. It was easily the biggest rattlesnake I've ever seen. Of course, I don't spend a lot of time in the desert, so perhaps I'm easily impressed. But this thing had 13 segments to its rattle. It was easily over five feet long and as thick as one of Mam's scrawny little arms. And it was clearly after something...which I have to guess was this squirrel's nest.
It was a full-on nature documentary playing out in real time. The snake coiled to strike at the squirrel and struck once. It wasn't clear how successful it had been. The squirrel kept on chirping, but moved a little deliberately after that. The snake was not-so-mysteriously distracted by a flying object or two and the squirrel got away as the snake rattled and coiled. I know, of course, that predators have pretty tough lives. And ground squirrels are about a dime a dozen. We almost certainly shouldn't have interfered. And I suspect that once we left, the squirrel nest was fair game regardless.This was easily the highlight of the trip for the kids. They're still talking about the giant rattlesnake they saw on their summer vacation. It's too bad it came so early in this hike because we still had a long way to go and there was nothing nearly so dramatic for the rest of the trip!
We hiked to an overlook of Sequoia Lake.
We stopped at Ella Falls for a snack and tried out some wild thimbleberries...seedy and not altogether worth the effort.
We took a little detour to Viola Falls, which looked like it would've been nice for a swim, had I only worn my swimsuit. The trail was a little busy for skinny dipping and I wasn't entirely up for a real fully-clothed swim.
And then we walked up and up and up and up...
until we were back at the King's Canyon visitor's center, where we ate our hot sandwiches (which had been in a cooler, but it didn't make much difference), got cold drinks...and I bought Smunch a killer rattlesnake T-shirt...and headed back for Sequoia. It was already dinnertime, but having had a super late lunch, we opted to go watch the sunset from Beetle Rock and have a super late dinner as well. Hard to regret that decision. There may have been better places from which to watch the sunset, but I can't imagine a sunset any prettier than this. As sunsets go, it was pretty awesome.

I've seen more impressive photos of sunsets, but I don't know that I've experienced many to rival this one. And despite wrapping up with s'mores sometime around 11 o'clock (and likely filling the role of the noisy campground neighbors for our new, very quiet neighbors nextdoor), I don't think I could have come up with a more perfect end to a great camping trip.

1 comment:

Barrett, Melinda, & Angel Trinity Adams said...

I love your photography skills...can I pick your brain with it sometime?