Sequoia and King Canyon National Parks

Before I start I have updated the Our RV Map. It is a bit ahead of the Blog as it includes our route beyond San Francisco and I am afraid I am a bit behind with the updates of the Blog!!

After leaving Los Angeles we headed almost directly North to a town (although as usual it is a City in the USA) called Visalia which is on the edge of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and close to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks which are home to the biggest trees in the world, the Sequoias.

The RV Park was a KOA on the edge of Visalia that was very quiet and secluded with nice gardens.

 

Our Site

On the first day we went for a bit of an explore up to the Sequoia National Park, without going into it as we knew that would take too long. Found a very nice restaurant near the National Park and decided to have lunch there.

Quite a backdrop to a very good meal.
The bridge downstream.
View of the river.

Later on we discovered ………….  EXETER!!

Not a City with a population of  10.730!!

A very pretty town(city!!) which was actually founded by a guy who emigrated from Exeter.

Caption to the mural of the Founder

For such a small place this was a beautiful, clean little town with some absolutely marvellous murals painted around the town and the smell of orange blossom made it even better.

View of an orange orchard, makes you believe you are there!!
WWII US Bomber command memorial in a car lot.
Raisin capital of the world.
Original settlers.
Exeter early 1900’s
Railway Station.

All the murals (and there were supposed to be more than 30 of which we saw about 20) were absolutely beautifully done and really added a lot to the town.

The next day we set off for Sequoia National Park and the home of The General Sherman, the largest tree in the world.

A very interesting drive it was too, with a twisting road up into the park from 2,000ft to 8,000ft plus. Anne will say she didn’t enjoy this bit as some of the drops off the side of the road were quite immense!!

Tunnel Rock, look carefully the road used to go under it!!
An immense round rock face called Big Baldy!!
Yes, that is the road down there twisting around the mountain, we came up that.
Two baldy’s together!!
Panoramic view of the mountain range.

It is at this point I have to sing the praises of the Spark. You buy a car and you hope you have made the right decision, and in this case (touch wood) we seem to have done so. It has not missed a beat since we bought it, and we have taken it up mountains, across deserts and dirt track roads and done thousands of Interstate miles in it, marvellous little car. It handled these mountain roads like they weren’t there and we passed quite a few people with overheating engines that didn’t like the climb!! Spark rules!!

Then we reached the Sequoia forest. What can I say, but marvel at the immense size of them, plus the beautiful rich red colour of their bark.

And this is not the biggest one!!
Another!! But this gives you a sense of scale, look at the person and the bench at the base.
Three together with the road splitting though them..
Getting bigger still!!
The base showing fire damage.
There are two of us!!

And then further on I walked down to The General Sherman. Anne decided not to join me as the walk went down a fairly steep path, which you had to walk back up, and at 8,000ft that made you puff a bit!!

General Sherman, the largest tree in the world.
Diagram of the trunk at the ground.
What makes it the biggest.
The General and a twin Sequoia next door.
Another view of General Sherman. Tiny people at base.

The views around the park from 8,000ft plus were absolutely magnificent, but a camera shot doesn’t seem to do it justice.

Normal trees and snow capped mountains.
More snow capped mountains.

We were supposed to be going to Kings Canyon on the next day but overnight a low front came through, and it snowed above 2,500ft so much they closed the roads into the park for the day. We had seen notices saying weather conditions can change quickly be prepared, but didn’t realise it could happen quite that quickly. So we looked around Visalia and found a tractor museum and a group of volunteers cleaning a decommissioned B17 Flying Fortress.

Iron rimmed wheels and a transverse engine, most unusual.
RV belonging to the restoration group.
The shiny B17.
Polishing the aluminium hull.
Bomber was part of the 379th Bomber Group that was awarded the 8th Air Force “Grand Slam” Award for the greatest tonnage of bombs delivered in April 1944.
Cockpit all clean and shiny.

By the following day with a rapid rise in temperatures the roads into King Canyon National Park were open again and we went to see the General Grant, the second largest sequoia in the world, which is over 3,000 years old.

Evidence of the previous days snow on the way up.

The General Grant tree is one of many imposing sequoias in a grove called the Grant Grove.

Part of the Grant Grove from the car park.

 

And more.
A fallen hollow sequoia that was lived in. Because of their high tannin content which is what gives the red colour, they are very resistant to rot.
General Grant.
Top of the General Grant has a lot of canopy.
Fire scarring, tannin also makes them resistant to fire.

 

What idiot wore shorts in the snow!!
Anne at the base of the General Grant.

We then drove on to see Hume Lake, as beyond that King Canyon was still closed for the winter (funny I thought it was Spring!!).

The road was quite narrow and had huge drops off the side.  There was over a 1,000ft drop here.
How the lake was formed.
Hume Lake

That is the end of our visit to the Sequoia and King Canyon National Parks, the next Post will show our cross country trip to Yanks RV Resort.

 

 

 

 

Los Angeles

We arrived at Acton / Los Angeles North KOA after what seemed a long drive in almost continuous traffic, especially around Los Angeles where yet again another US interstate is being dug up and improved. Can’t fault them for improving the Interstates (wish we would do the same to our road infrastructure in the UK!!), but we do seem to have hit our fair share of roadworks!!

The campsite turned out to be in a canyon north of  Los Angeles called Soledad Canyon. The site itself was a bit open but still quite nice and the people running it were very friendly. It was bit close to a railway track, but the trains were not very frequent so no real problem. And, as it turned out, quite fortunate as it was a short (in American terms!!) drive to the local station where could catch a MetroLink train into Los Angeles for the princely sum of $7 per person for an All Day ticket, that would also allow us to use the Metro Subway and all the buses in Los Angeles!! Oh it should be so cheap in the UK!!

Our Site.
And another.
The surrounding canyon.
The trains are close!!
The MetroLink double decker carriages, and very cheap.

So we decided to try out the train on the Sunday and have a quick look at Los Angeles. Catching the train was fine, but we should have looked at the timetable more closely as we ended up eating in Los Angeles in order to kill 3 hours after we misread the timetable!!

The station, notice the passengers walk across the track, that would be against ‘ealth & safety in the UK!!

The journey in passes quite a few famous stations.

Burbank Station

Union Station is quite a spectacular station inside.

One of the side halls.
Main concourse with seating.
Plaza outside

There was a Mexican market going on in the area just across the road from the station.

More Inca than Mexican!!
Two trumpeters from a Mariachi band.

So, as our tickets covered the subway as well, we headed out to see the Hollywood Walk of Fame thinking we just had time before the train home left!!

The station ceiling at Hollywood & Vine, notice the film canisters.
Apollo XI
Here’s looking at ?
Taylor and Burton side by side!!
Typical street sign, in your face!! Notice the tag line is a registered trademark!!

So we returned to Union Station only to find out our mistake and our return train had just left, so we had a Mexican meal close to the market and then someone used the seating until the train was ready.

However, sitting there was an experience!! Los Angeles has a huge homeless problem (some whole streets are just lined with people sleeping rough and some of the parks look like tented villages), so the station had continuous patrols checking the people seated were catching trains, and not using the station as sleeping quarters, and we had to show our tickets numerous times, and at least twice the police were called to eject people. Got back to the RV at 10.30pm slightly later than we had planned!!

Part of the reason for being slightly North of Los Angeles was to visit Joshua Tree National Park. So the next day that is what we did.

This is a Joshua tree, apparently named by the Mormons who thought the branches resembled the description of Joshua in the bible. I quote from the guide book. ” Legend has it that these Mormon pioneers named the tree after the biblical figure, Joshua, seeing the limbs of the tree as outstretched in supplication, guiding the travellers  westward. “

However, although home to thousands of Joshua trees it also has some spectacular rock formations, which apparently a lot of people come to climb.

A typical rock formation.
A bigger one, down which, from the highest point ….
This guy and this ….
And this lady were abseiling!! Rather them then me!!

There was also a viewpoint that was at 6,500 ft up and had some spectacular views.

Panoramic view.
It was a steepish climb
Attempt at a selfie using my camera!!

Very interesting place, well worth what turned out to be quite a long drive and a long day.

The next day saw us back on the train into Los Angeles to do the Hop on Hop off tour. But that turned out to be more complicated than we thought because Los Angeles is a spread out city and they have 5 tours, each of which are 2hrs plus.

So we settled on the Hollywood tour and while we waited for the bus looked at more of the Walk of Fame and the Foot and Hand prints outside the Chinese theatre.

Meryl Streep
Various
Michael Jackson

Then we boarded the bus. Because of the traffic the 2hrs was definitely an optimistic estimate!! But we saw most of the sites we wanted to see.

This carriage diner has featured in many films.
The famous Beverly Hills sign. However most of the road was being widened and the lovely gardens had fences all around them.
And again.
The Brea Tar pits
The actual tar pit.
Part of the shopping area (there was lots of this).
The famous sign.

After that we didn’t go back into Los Angeles as I think both of us were a bit underwhelmed by it. Wherever you went the homeless problem was very evident and around the Walk of Fame etc. the people trying to sell you something were quite aggressive. Begging was rife and the newly legalised use of cannabis was self evident wherever you walked, the “whacky-baccy” smell was everywhere including the subway.

All in all I think we were glad we had only booked a 4 days stay.

Next time we will be in two National Parks.

 

 

San Diego

 

Arrived in San Diego on Saturday 24th March and checked in to Rancho Los Conches RV Park. It is an interesting place laid out in tiers down a valley side with lots of trees and nice shaded sites. We had a back-in site on the lowest tier in the valley and behind us ran a little stream.

Our site, awning out as it got quite hot!!
General view of our tier.

On the Sunday we had arranged to meet up with a friend of Anne’s, Zeina Guoin, from when Anne did her degree at Aberystwyth University. We drove to  Del Mar, north of San Diego to meet her there in a restaurant and after a meal we had our first proper walk along the Pacific Ocean.

Zeina , Anne and myself.
Pacific Ocean.

We had booked a longer stay in San Diego, firstly to get the first oil service for the RV, but also because our first fault had developed. Just after we left Monahan Sands State Park the RV developed a steering squeak, which turned out to one of the main bushes on the steering arm had basically disintegrated!!

Ooops that isn’t supposed to look like that.

So on Monday I rang a few dealers to find someone to fix it. The local Winnebago dealer could do the oil service but was booked until August for other service requirements. They suggested another dealer and when we went there they said they didn’t do heavy Ford chassis repairs and suggested Precision Tune Auto Care in El Cajon. I spoke to them and they agreed to order the part and could also do the oil change. I got some pictures of the steering arm bush to make sure we had ordered the right part, and good to their word they got the part in for the next day. So we agreed to take the RV in on the Wednesday.

Then on the Tuesday we took a trolley bus tour of San Diego and realised there was a lot to see!!

USS Midway. Better pictures later.
The Maritime Museum
The bridge to Coronado. Someone doesn’t like heights 🙂
One of the older houses on the Tour.
Little Italy district.

The Wednesday arrived and we took the RV to Precision Tune Auto Care and the new steering arm was fitted. You cannot just change a bush, they come as part of huge 2ft long piece of metal that connects the steering cam to the nearside wheel and weighs about 30lbs. Basically an RV is a static caravan on a truck chassis so all the parts are truck size!!. Well after about 3hrs the new arm was in place and had been inflated with grease and the oil and filter had been changed, and the RV was “good to go” for another 5,000 miles. Thank you Manny at Precision Tune Auto Care you did a great job at short notice.

So Thursday dawned and first on the list was USS Midway CV-41 that was launched in late 1945 and commissioned just after the Japanese surrender. She was in service for 47 years and until 1955 was the largest ship in the world. Saw service in Vietnam, Korea, and finally in Desert Storm before being decommissioned in 1992.

If you are going to visit this ship give yourself a day as there is an awful lot to see, from the engine room, through the carrier decks to the flight deck and the operations island, where the captain and flight operations was based. It is also HUGE so make sure you have good walking shoes, and some of the steps between decks, especially in the island, are steep and narrow. But don’t let me put you off as it is well worth the visit.

View down the side of USS Midway.
Hanger deck
Phantom F4 on main flight deck + 1 crew member!!
View from Flight Control in the Island.
Flight Commanders chair and his deputy.
Your ready to LAUNCH!!
Main Island which houses Flight Commander and Captain etc., but it shows the width of the flight deck with TWO runways.
Guess who!!

Next we met Zeina again at Balboa Park. This is very large park in San Diego that was gradually built and extended from 1868, but really came into being as part of the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition when most of the current buildings were built. We visited the Museum of Man and then walked around a small part of the park before having lunch at Prada.

Museum of Man
One of the many pedestrian streets.
Ponds by the Botanical Gardens
California Tower and dome

We decided we needed to come back again as there was so much to see. Zeina also kindly invited us to Dinner on Sunday 1st, my birthday!!

On my birthday we had a long Skype conversation with ALL the family who had assembled in Burnham-on-Sea.

Everyone in BOS including Tim and Emily from Vancouver.

And then we had a lovely evening at Zeina ‘s where we met her ex-husband, Terry and their son Dale. After a lovely meal I had a birthday cake!!

More than enough candles!!
Lovely cake, thank you Zeina .

On the Tuesday we decided to look around Balboa Park again, including the Botanical Garden which had been shut on our previous visit as it was a public holiday. It had some absolutely stunning examples of my favourite flower, orchids.

Never seen this type before.
So many colours!!

All housed in this building, a wooden version of the Kew glass houses.

But what are they all looking at I hear you ask!!
This and …
This!!

No amount of pictures are going to do it justice so I suggest if you are ever in San Diego visit Balboa Park.

Fountains
Pretty flowers !!?
Rose Gardens

After a nice lunch in the Prada restaurant Anne wanted to visit the San Diego Museum of Art and I wasn’t so keen so I visited the San Diego Air and Space Museum.

Interesting place and they even had a World War II exhibit that featured the RAF.

Biggin Hill with a Spitfire in the background right.
Get the old kite ready there’s a good chap!!

But we can’t leave Balboa Park without showing you the Medusa cactus!!

Looks like a load of writhing snakes!!

Then on the Wednesday we visited San Diego Old Town State Historic Park the original area which was settled and dates back to the 1820s and includes many original buildings. At the end of a long day we also visited the Mormon Battalion Museum which commemorates the march of over 2,000 miles of 500+ Mormon soldiers to fight in the Mexican–American War of 1846–1848, but by the time they got there it was all over. They also created, as part of the journey, a southern wagon route to California, that allowed more settlers to follow them to open up California.

Map of the site which is quite extensive.
A replica Butterfield / Wells Fargo stagecoach
The main square.
Mormon Battalion
A Mormon Battalion soldier and a new recruit who thought she had walked 2,000 miles that day!!

And on the Thursday we used our last day of our Trolley Bus ticket to take us to the Maritime Museum. They have some interesting ships here including the Star of India (the world’s oldest active sailing ship), HMS Surprise (used as the set for “Master and Commander” starring Russell Crowe), a couple of submarines, one of which a Russian B-39 submarine is definitely showing its age, plus other sailing boats and steam launches.

Star of India, still sailing.
Someone knows how to varnish – a beautiful finish.
Think this Russian sub has seen better days, Anne decided NOT to tour it!!
HMS Surprise.
The Californian.

In the afternoon we visited the beaches leading to the “island” of Coronado. I say “island” because that is what they call it although technically as it is joined to the Californian coast by a spit of sand it is a peninsular!! And then to make our tour of the San Diego area complete we visited Point Loma which has some lovely views of the San Diego bay and is also the home of Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery which is a Federal Military Cemetery like Arlington in Washington DC. It is  a huge cemetery on both sides of the road for at least 2 miles.

This went on for miles!!
The Coronado Hotel that the original owners of Coronado built in the hope it would attract visitors!! Place was packed so I think they succeeded.
Coronado beach with 2 Brits in the foreground.
View back to San Diego from Point Loma.
Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery San Diego Bay side
Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery Pacific Ocean side.

And as Friday had to be put aside for such mundane tasks as laundry and food shopping, that was the end of our stay in San Diego, a beautiful place to visit. My next post will be from Los Angeles.