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Woah! A Bear Encounter!

Actually, that headline is a bit misleading. We really did see a bear but as for an actual "bear encounter", we narrowly missed a couple of them over the last few weeks:

At Yosemite's Porcupine Flats campground, it was almost dusk when we watched Jane, the campground host, running down the road, enlisting the help of the four young guys who were camped across from us, to scare a big bear out of the campground. The boys were up to the job but also took a few photos which they later showed us. Woah - It was a very big bear and only several campsites away from ours!

A couple of nights later, camped in a dispersed forest site without bear lockers, fellow campers right beside us, reported that a bear had raided their cooler in the night. We were camped only fifty feet away and had slept right through the event.

But, last week, while hiking the Zumwalt Meadow Trail, in Kings Canyon National Park, we did see the first bear we've ever encountered in the wild. We've been waiting for this event for the entire eleven years we've been traveling so it was a thrill and especially good that the bear was quite cooperative about posing for as many photos as we wanted.

Bear encounter

Bear at Kings Canyon

bear photo

As you can see from the photographs, this bear was no threat. He/she wasn't the least bit interested in us, only in munching on the berries along the trail.

We've been in bear territory for weeks now - ever since we entered the Sierra Nevada Mountains. At all campgrounds and parking areas, food and scented items must be stored out of site - in the trunk of your car or in bear lockers where they're provided. Apparently though, bears break into cars or trucks but not RVs - they associate them with people being in there too and just don't want to mess with that. A park ranger told us that and, luckily for us, it proved to be true. Unpacking and reloading all our cupboards every time we moved would have been tedious.

We loved Kings Canyon and Sequoia; two separate National Parks, joined together by one entry road. So close to Yosemite, with similar granite mountain scenery (not quite as spectacular) but without the crowds, the traffic, and line-ups.

Hiking through the Giant Forest section of Sequoia National Park, the biggest tree in the world was only one of many awe-inspiring giant Sequoias. What a place! And how wonderful that these trees, some of them more than two thousand years old, have been protected. Can you believe at one time they were being cut down to make pencils and simple wooden stakes? Yes, this because, as it turns out, the wood splinters cross-wise and isn't really strong enough to use for buildings.

Giant Sequoia

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

This uprooted tree seems to be a favorite stop along the trail for kids of all ages.

After visiting Kings Canyon/Sequoia, we returned to Yosemite because, now, at the end of July, the high country campgrounds were finally clear of snow and open for the season. So it was that we passed through Yosemite Valley again - this time on a Saturday - something I wouldn't suggest to anyone, ever. The traffic in the Valley was total gridlock. We were turned away at the entrance and told to come back in a few hours - the park was full and there was no day-use parking to be found anywhere. Were we ever glad we had already had our Valley experience (early in the week) last week!

We've adopted a new word to describe ourselves on this trip. Besides being boondockers and shunpikers, we've also become slackpackers - a word I discovered on line. The official definition of a slackpacker (from the website) is as follows: "Anyone that fits in between the casual day hiker and the backpacker. On occasion, the slackpacker will indulge in those practices as well, but doesn't make a habit of lengthy backpack trips. As for the typical National Park Service nature loop, the slackpacker prefers to opt for a longer, more difficult trail to avoid the masses."Yep, that pretty well describes us these days. Recently, we've been pushing ourselves a bit beyond the usual six-mile limit on this trip and managed two nine-milers within a week. One of these was the Mist Falls trail in Kings Canyon.

Mist Falls, Kings Canyon

Mist Falls, Kings Canyon National Park

Many trailheads for high Sierra destinations start in Kings Canyon. Not quite thirty years ago, Randy hiked 185 miles of the John Muir Trail that passes by here. It took him 26 days with one re-supply enroute. Luckily for me, it wasn't something he proposed we do together on this trip. No, we've become slackpackers, for certain.

Mist Falls, Kings Canyon

Pack horses on the Mist trail are used to resupply rangers stationed in the mountains as well as hikers on the long John Muir Trail.

The other nine-miler we hiked was to North Dome, a repeat trail for us, having done it once eleven years ago. It's so good - our favorite hike in all of Yosemite! The reason? The trail (starting from Tioga Road) is only nine miles return, moderately difficult, yet provides the most amazing views into The Valley. At the end, sitting on top of North Dome, the illusion is that Half Dome is so close that you feel as though it's right in front of you. In fact, you'll be lucky to spot climbers on the wall, even when using binoculars.

North Dome trail

Approaching North Dome on the trail

On North Dome

Half Dome seems so close.

On North Dome

View from North Dome

On North Dome

View of Cloud's Rest - living up to its name.

We enjoyed another afternoon of paddling in our inflatable kayak. This time, on the crystal clear waters of Tenaya Lake in Yosemite's high country.

Tenaya Lake

Tenaya, a most gorgeous high mountain lake in Yosemite National Park. It's easily accessible for swimming or kayaking.

Paddling on Tenaya Lake

Me, NOT paddling, on Tenaya Lake.

Actually we paddled up the lake, then I turned my seat around to face Randy's and relaxed (yes, with a snack and beverage) while Randy steered and we let the wind push us back to shore. Is there a new word in the making perhaps: "Slackpaddler? "

Free campsites on this leg of our journey included one with our own little private beach along The Kings River and another with a splendid view of Mono Lake.

On The Kings River

Our private beach. Morning coffee outdoors is one of our daily rituals.

Mono Lake

Mono Lake from our free campsite.

And one last photo: We got a kick out of this working gas-pump, at a lodge outside Kings Canyon National Park.

Old Gas Pumps

If only the gas prices were as "old fashioned" as the pump.

Days On The Road At Time Of Writing: 159
Camping Costs To Date: $314.00

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