For Liz Curry, last summer was a time of extremes. She and her boyfriend, Dave, lived in the extremely small town of Bishop, California, where he was working as a National Park Ranger for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. In yesterday’s post, Liz told us about their search for the oldest living tree in Bristlecone Pine Forest and hiking Bishop Pass at 10,000 feet. Here, she salutes Sequoia NP’s General Sherman, the largest living thing in the world, and recounts the unbearable heat of Death Valley, the lowest point in North America.
Sequoia National Park
If you choose to follow in the footsteps of the ultramarathoners, you’ll find Mt. Whitney in Sequoia NP. I didn’t get a chance to climb this 14,000+ peak, but my boyfriend led a patrol up it and thought the crowds were very intense. More than 200 people climb the mountain every day. There is a limit to the amount of permits the park system releases, so get in line early if you want to climb.
We chose to drive around to the western side of Sequoia National Park to see the world’s biggest living things. The sequoias are found only in California and though not as tall as redwoods, they are the largest living things on earth by volume. They are also very beautiful with spongy bark and feathery needles. Once away from General Sherman (which is the largest and most famous tree), the crowds thin out and you hike for hours alone among these towering giants. Or, if you prefer to stay close to the car, you can drive through them as well.
About 90 minutes from Bishop sits the lowest spot in North America. Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park is more than 200 feet below sea level. We visited this spot on one of the hottest days of the year in August. The temperature was 115 degrees! This heat was so intense that it was difficult to walk or think clearly.
Most visitors don’t hang around the basin too long, but there is a subset of insanely crazy people who run a marathon from this point to the highest spot in the lower 48 states — Mt. Whitney.
John Muir Wilderness Area
Located along the crest of the Sierra Nevada range, John Muir Wilderness Area is less well-known than Sequoia National Park and Death Valley. But this hiking mecca is certainly worth a visit for any lover of nature and beauty. John Muir’s granite peaks (57 peaks are over 13,000 feet high) and calm lakes won’t disappoint!
Check out Liz Curry’s tips for visiting King Canyons National Park and Bristlecone Pine Forest.