Monday, May 30, 2011

Oranges and Giants

Two successive drives from Lake Mead reminded us why we don't like to drive two days in a row: we get really tired of being in the truck. Drove 1st to a dusty little desert town called Boron, home of the California's largest open pit mine - the Borax mine. Whoo-hoo! It was a dingy little RV park, mostly occupied by broken down relic trailers, scattered with derelict cars replete with duct tape & bailing wire, and owners staggering about, blinking in the sunlight, cigarettes a-dangling. The wind blew with unrelenting ferocity - it required two of us to get a dog through our door, one to hold the door, one to help the dog. We were glad to leave, but not glad to drive again. But after crossing some mountains we suddenly entered grove country, and the wind quieted down. Miles and miles of fruit trees, some already harvested, some laden with fruit.

When we stopped for lunch I investigated a couple of trees in an already harvested grove, and I found a few that got left behind. I picked 6 huge, perfect naval oranges, the best we've tasted. Moving on, we arrived at our campground in Lemon Cove, California. This campground, too, has seen better days, and has its share of antique trailers with blue tarps stretched over their roofs to keep the rain out. But, there's flowering shrubs and trees, including olive trees. I picked a quart of the vile fruit to cure for Nancy and the boys who, for some reason incomprehensible to me, actually like to eat those little black balls of evil.

As the Memorial-Day-weekend crowd poured in the park took on a friendlier feel. There were several huge hispanic families camped there, cooking and playing games, making it feel festive, filling the air with the happy sounds of Spanglish.

We headed uphill along the raging Kaweah River to Sequoia National Park.

This is the first time we've visited one of our National Parks on a holiday weekend - we've been spoiled. It wasn't so nice. Trying to find a parking space for Gigantor at the visitor's center or at a trail-head was challenging, then bumping shoulders with flocks of people, so many of whom were rude. American's are known for being obnoxious tourists, and some certainly are, but some of our foreign friends could stand a lesson on common courtesy as well. In order to see the really big sequoia trees we had to endure the crowds. Luckily, the world's biggest tree, General Sherman, is so big that we found a spot around its base less crowded, and got a chance to appreciate the majesty and beauty of this specimen.

How big is it??? This is the largest single-stemmed tree on earth (as measured by volume) measuring over 36 feet in diameter at its base, over 100 feet in circumference at its base, and over 275 feet tall. If you laid Nancy and I end-to-end, it would take 3 sets of us to equal it's diameter. It would take 44 Tobys to reach around the base. A whopping 137 Kinseys would be required to reach the top. That's a lot of westies!

Up in the forests, above 6500' of elevation, we were in the clouds. The trees were enshrouded, and driving the twisty mountain roads through the park was a challenge, with severely limited visibility:

So, we didn't see much else until we descended out of adjacent Kings Canyon NP and drove back to camp. This drive to camp started out so much fun - switchbacks and tight turns following the wrinkles of the land. It felt like I was turning the wheel lock-to-lock over and over and over again, trying to keep our speed comfortable in the turns but also get home as soon as possible. After 15 or 20 minutes I was pretty tired of driving, but it went on and on and on. It took over an hour before we were finally back on the valley floor. It was gorgeous, don't get me wrong, but a 22' long one-ton dually pickup truck is not the right vehicle for extracting enjoyment from such a road. Turn me loose on those bends in a low-slung BMW Z4 and I'd be grinning!

We've been suffering a constant battle with grass seeds which were embedding themselves in the dogs' feet.
We've actually been dealing with this since Zion, and most nights I spend time with a strong light and tweezers, picking seeds out of dog feet. These seeds are pointed and barbed, designed by nature to embed themselves in earth or in flesh. I've pulled some out of Toby that were sticking more than 1/8" deep in the flesh between his pads, creating an irritating bloody wound. I can't wait to move out of the habitat of these nasty grasses.

We loved, however, the perfect temperatures here in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and the abundance of fresh fruit. We filled up on the best oranges and strawberries we've ever tasted.

1 comment:

  1. Love the description of the park in Boron, sounds like the town was well named. Weren't the fruit trees amazing though! Had to be our favorite part of the trip.

    We drove the same road as you did coming out of the park and despite being in a small, sporty car we were miserable! Both of us were nauseous by the time we got back to the lake.