Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Portugal - California 2004

Wildlife encounter at Sequoia NP

Another good night's sleep and another perfectly adequate light breakfast courtesy of Holiday Inn Express. Not only that, but it was clear that it was going to be another fine day, weather-wise. My original plan was to spend the day driving fairly directly to Three Rivers, ready to explore Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks the following day. In other words, today was just meant to be a re-positioning job. When I thought about it, it sounded terribly boring. I consulted my map and decided that, although it would mean quite a lot of driving, I could get to Three Rivers AND do the parks as well. That would leave the following day for exploring the parks a little more thoroughly. This sounded much more satisfactory.

After checking out, I easily found my way to the freeway and was soon hurtling south towards Fresno. I picked my way through that city without mishap and by early afternoon, was driving east on Highway 180 towards the delightfully named Big Stump entrance to Kings Canyon NP. I paid my USD10 fee, having established that there was no great saving to be made by purchasing some kind of pass. I made a short stop at the Grant Grove visitor centre to orientate myself. Although it was still a long way to Three Rivers on what looked like a tortuous road, I decided that I could nevertheless spend a little time exploring some interesting by-ways before resuming the main part of the journey. The first was easy enough : a very short drive to General Grant Grove, where I took a stroll among the awesome giant redwoods. After that, I took the hair-raising drive along a challenging single track road to the Crystal Springs panoramic viewpoint. The view was certainly worth it, but I did begin to wonder whether this full-size luxury car was, after all, such a good idea!

By then, it was time to make my way along the so-called General's Highway into neighbouring Sequoia National Park and in the direction of Three Rivers, my overnight stop. Of course, it is one of those roads where you drive a mile or two and then feel compelled to stop at one of the many viewpoints to admire the breathtaking vistas. It was at one such stop that I had my close encounter - a heart-stopping few seconds that was surely to be one of the highlights of the trip. I had pulled the car into a turnout and walked back a little to take a photo of the view. I was briefly examining the resulting image on the camera's little screen when I heard a rustle in the bushes and, a few yards in front of the car, a bear appeared and proceeded to cross the road! I thought quickly but without panicking. Was he alone? Yes. Could I make it to the car door before he could? Yes. Was he actually paying me any attention at all? No. I decided to risk a photo and it worked. Not exactly a work of art, yet a possible candidate for shot of the trip! (Incidentally, I was using full zoom for the photo, so I wasn't nearly as close to the car as it looks!) I could hardly believe my luck. I have been in bear country many times before and I remember learning that they tend to stay away from people, provided that they can hear the human presence. This is obviously one of the perils of travelling alone!

After that little adventure, I continued on my way, but was not discouraged from making a few further stops, especially with the setting sun causing some amazing colour effects on the landscape. The southern section of the General's Highway proved to be the most spectacular descent, with seemingly never-ending hairpin bends and steep gradients. I even had to change down to first gear a few times. I did not want to spend half an hour with my foot on the brake pedal.

Eventually I made it safe and sound to the Holiday Inn Express at Three Rivers, which was another of its brand to have a motel-type layout. On the recommendation of the hotel receptionist, I had dinner at an unassuming little Mexican place across the road, which turned out to be an excellent choice. The food was delicious, and such good value!

Another highly successful day, but a tiring one with all that driving, first on the freeway and then on those tortuous mountain passes.   

Wed 22 Sep

Next Day

Previous Day