With the promise of a 1200’ waterfalls as well as the second largest tree in the world, we leave Three Rivers, at the Gateway to Sequoia National Park, for a day of awesomeness.
Climbing into the Sierras at 6500’ to the Lodgepole Visitor Center on this mid-September Tuesday, we park at the near empty campground parking lot near the Tokopah Trailhead. It’s 43F.
Ideal for hikers of every age with an easy rating, the 1.7-mile Tokopah Falls Trail with a modest 600’ elevation gain, gently rises along the Keowah River; a mighty river during flood season but now a meandering-between-boulders trickle after another dry summer.
Any trail with a waterfall promise gets our attention. Seeing twenty-something couples or another with her mom on the trail, I wonder, don’t you people have jobs or school to go to on this Tuesday in September? No judgement, just wondering and becoming more aware that the kids of California pot farmers must need some time to chill themselves.
On the easy peezy hiking trail, Hannah and I talk about parenting. Ever impressed with our daughter Molly’s and her hubby Tip’s very intentional parenting of our grandsons, Owen and Max, we wonder how our own parenting developed.
We grew up in a time when Father Knows Best and our dads ruled the roost. Willing to follow by nature, Hannah and I knew such parenting didn’t match our personalities. Conventional then as now, Hannah and I shared the decision-making. Fumbling along, we hoped that spending time as a family and valuing experiences over things would make a difference.
Planets aligned, for we had the support of our families, I never lost my job over 40+ years in teaching, and we were humble enough to know that we didn’t have all the answers. Perhaps, like many parents, we just got lucky.
Forty minutes from the trailhead, we leave the rock lined trail along the river for rugged stones and boulders along the mountainside. Hannah offers to take the picture of two UC Santa Cruz students beneath this overhanging cliff, and they return the favor.
Arriving at the landing area of the falls, we can only imagine the 1200′ crashing falls that must tumble in spring after the winter snows; today, we can barely make out any water falling from on high. Our video captures the last 50’ of watery splendor.
With the giant sequoias in Kings Canyon National Park beckoning, we return to the trailhead in less than an hour.
Continuing on the Generals Road for 45 minutes over 27 miles, we stop at the Kings Canyon Visitor Center for some hiking suggestions. At the desk, Farrah, a park ranger, smiles and asks how she can help. After she suggests the General Grant Trail one mile away, I ask if she was named after Farrah Fawcett. Grinning for what must be the 10,000th time, she says yes, but adds that she never could get the hair right. She’s a delight and I wonder what influence a name makes to the direction of one’s life. I think that if we had hiked these mountains in 1979, Molly just might be named Sierra. (At least, it’s not Sedona, Molly.)
After lunch among the sequoias, we venture to the parking lot of the General Grant Trail. For a third of a mile, the paved trail encircles the second largest tree in the world (Just south in Sequoia National Park, General Sherman is #1).
Taking a side trail, I notice a husband taking his wife’s picture in the crook of this giant sequoia. I ask if he’d do the same for us.
Nearby Hannah spots a fallen sequoia, which upon examination, is a hallowed out tube with light pouring in at the far end. Ever adventurous, Hannah makes it her mission to climb through the 70′ massive log. I don’t exactly see the point for me to follow her. Pushing her up and over the first interior ridge, she gains her balance and is soon navigating the innards of this fallen sequoia.
And voila, she appears at the far end and immediately says, you have to do it. Having seen her bend, crouch, and step her way up on what turns out to be very slick, polished wood, I have little interest in the claustrophobia that lines the guts of the tree.
She counters, you’ll love it if you do it. Remembering the claustrophobic lava tubes we slithered through near Mt. St. Helens in Washington (Click here for that blog.), I just don’t see how my life will be fuller if I do this. On the other hand, the Mt. St. Helens lava tubes were tighter and darker than this fallen tree; and I made it through them. Hmmm.
With me being just not into it, she drops her encouraging-ness, and we hike on the north boundary trail to get in our two miles and one hour of hiking. As we double back, I think climbing through the sequoia could be blog-worthy. With that as motivation, I decide to give it a go. Oh, the things I’ll do for my loyal readers.
Returning to the fallen hollowed out sequoia, Hannah says, You don’t need me to push you because I now see a foothold for you. Really! It’s a slick cupped polished indentation, no wider than three silver dollars. But it’s just enough to get me up the first interior ridge until…
…I start to teeter forward into the abyss. Out of control, I can see this is not going to end well. The Vegas betting odds are that I’ll face plant three feet below me into the bottom of the unforgiving sequoia. And then I catch myself. Maybe it’s the morning balancing exercises I do. Or, more likely, I’m just damn lucky.
The hollowed sequoia tunnel is amazingly slick and slippery as if others have done this many times before. With no chance to go back, I trundle along with the sunlight in the distance.
Triumphantly out in the fresh air, I turn around to surprisingly see Hannah, 15’ behind me. I never sensed or heard her.
Smiling, she says, I wanted to do it once for Owen and once for Max. She’s one helluva Omi.