Kings Canyon: Lizards & vistas & bears! oh my!

Published: May 11th 2018
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Kings Canyon National Park

After waking at first light freezing cold we got up to a frosty morning and watched the sunrise over the mountains. Buffet breakfast not so good as supper but we did get given free packed lunches for the day. On the way out of the lodge we saw a coyote!

First stop was Grant Grove to get some petrol, only to find out the only open petrol station in the park was at Hume Lake so we detoured there, very pretty drive down a side canyon. We were then delayed on route 180 by a lane closure as they cleared a fallen tree off the road.The road had only opened for the summer the day before though so this wasn't too bad going! These delays meant it was nearing 11am by the time we got most of the way down the 180, not that we minded as towards the east end of the road we spotted a few cars pulled up on the side of the road & people looking excited, we also pulled over & were rewarded by seeing two black bears just next to the road. We watched them from besides the car as the pottered around & then crossed the road & went off into the woods. Wow! I spent the next few days randomly grinning & saying "I still can't believe we saw bears!" lol. The slightly larger (older?) bear also had a collar on which a chap at the lodge says mean it's been found sniffing around people/campsites before. Video links below...

Our plan was to hike the Mist Falls trail but there was a sign up saying they were doing controlled fires along the route, & a second sign said the only possible secondary route was also closed. We wondered about what to do instead when we saw a few peoole duck under the rope & we thought we'd give it a go having come this far.... For reference, when they close a train in the states it seems to be for good reason. At first there was only older burning, no problem, but then there were smoking ashes and finally flames. Given the amount of dry lea litter & the fact the wind was getting up we decided to play it safe & head back. On the way we met two fire marshalls who confirmed that the area was unsafe & that we shouldn't be there. We did pause once we got to the safe stretch for a picnic lunch by the river though!
We decided that having missed the views of the other walk we'd do the first mile or so of Cooper Creek trail to a good view point. As this was a rather steep trail we thought got our hiking poles off our bags only for me to discover the bottom section of mine had somehow dropped off on the previous hike & as we were told not to be in there we couldn't really go back to find it. Brand new pole too! Luckily I had two, but the other was back in my suitcase! The trail wasn't too bad though and the valley views were rather good. We also saw lots of bear poo along that trail, some of it very fresh! On the hikes we saw lots of lizards (possibly western fence lizard), ground and grey squirrels, chipmunks, a woodpecker (need to check species), Anna's hummingbird, American robin, Steller's jay, western swallowtail & several other butterflies & moths. The lizards did a fair bit of bobbing so may have been males displaying.

From Big Baldy trailhead

We then went around the Zumwalt Meadow loop which was pretty and on the drive back stopped to look at Roaring River Falls and Grizzly Falls and to admire the views, including at Juntion and Yucca Points. We decided to take the Hume Lake road back to the lodge get some different views. We got back to the lodge for supper at 6pm (again delicious food - veggie chow mein tonight followed by bread pudding - not quite as good as last nights chocolate brownie!). After supper we drove out to a local view point to watch sunset - Buena Vista was sligtly to low but the view from Big Baldy trailhead was great. The full moon was pretty impressive too. This night we had hot chocolate in our cabin whilst I dried my hair after a shower in front of our woodburner as I wrote up our day.

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