Our Vie Adventures consists of Cees, Madison, Vladimir the Kitten, and a 1989 Toyota Motorhome named Vie. Cees and Madison are on the road, living the dream of every outdoor-minded couple by visiting each national park in the country over the course of the year. In celebration of our National Parks centennial, we’ve partnered with Cees and Madison to bring you stories and photos of their yearlong quest (and of course, plenty of #vladimirkitten along the way).
Keep scrolling to see Cees, Madison, and Vladimir’s visit to King’s Canyon National Park, CA. Stay tuned to Downstream for updates on their adventures and follow them on Instagram (@ourvieadventures) for more frequent updates from the road.
King’s Canyon and Sequoia National Parks are kind of managed as one. It makes sense though. They share park borders and are part of the same massive plume of granite that makes the beautiful walls. When we left Sequoia, the first sign we saw of King’s Canyon was the photo of us on the top. We thought the sign was a little sad, so we decided to spice it up with a family jump shot – kitty included. We drove about 15 minutes up the road and found the “official” King’s Canyon sign.
The nice thing for us about these two parks is that sandwiched right between them is a beautiful chunk of National Forest! That means FREE CAMPING. We would sleep outside of the parks tucked into little spots down a dirt roads. Finding places to camp can be stressful, but it can also be really fun. I had a blast driving down some of these little roads to find our spot for the night.
Sometimes we get fancy and make scones and eggs. It was really tasty, but the cool part for me was that after we did the dishes, we walked outside to the King’s Canyon overlook! We had a kitchen with views! Side note on the above picture: I straight up stabbed a bee out of the air. Call it an American Mr. Miyagi move! I was pretty stoked.
Our first day “in King’s Canyon” we actually spent kayaking on Hume Lake. The beach was nice and the crowds were low. It was fun to just paddle around and swim. The lake is actually a reservoir created to help aid the flow of timber down a channel.
The kitty had a blast on the beach. Actually he kind of hated it. He just likes to keep his distance from the water. The funny thing is though, when we get him in the boat, he does just fine. It is the transition from land to boat that is always a struggle.
We liked Hume Lake so much that we decided to leave the kayaks set up and go for an early morning paddle. In the morning the lake was covered in a magical mist.
There is something special about a sunrise. It probably has something to do with the fact that I am rarely up for them, but when I do get to catch them, it always feels productive. I feel like I am up and getting the most out of my day. I really like the sensation it brings, but for some reason, I can’t seem to remember those feelings when my alarm goes off to wake me up. It must be one of those delayed gratification deals.
Once we were actually in the canyon and in the park, we found a place by the river that we could “get some work done”. There wasn’t much service, but we were able to catch up on organizing photos and planning the next few weeks. It was fun to set up our “office” outside and in this secluded little spot.
Along with catching up on our work, Madison got to take a moment to paint her nails! CUTE!
The paved road that is actually in the park boundaries is very short. It is less than eight miles long! It allows access to beautiful places, but in the whole scheme of things, you don’t see all that much of the park.
There was an interesting quote at one of the overlooks that we stopped at on the way in that read: “We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves four sanity as creatures, part of the geography of hope.” – Wallace Stegner, 1960
I feel that a lot of our trip is “driving to the edges” of these great spaces of wilderness. We get glimpses of the beautiful places and of what it means to experience these parks. But there is SO MUCH more to discover! Part of me wishes that we could have a month in each park. That way we could get into the nooks and crannies and pull out all the secret treasures that are hidden deep inside. But even in a whirlwind tour of these places, we are constantly reminded of our role in what Wallace Stegner referred to as the “geography of hope”. We are inspired even though our efforts barely scratch the surface.
General Grant is our nation’s Christmas tree! I thought this was kind of odd, since it doesn’t really look like any Christmas tree I have ever seen. It was also dedicated as national shrine just after World War II. The peace and the stability of the tree, after weathering countless storms and fires, gives tribute to the sacrifice of those who served.
We had a little bit of rain one morning. Nothing a few raincoats and hot chocolate can’t fix, right?
We took the rainy morning opportunity to have a kitty rain jacket photo shoot. Yes – we are crazy cat people. I don’t know what happened, I think I was tricked by my crazy cat lady wife somehow.
We set out to experience a piece of the Sierras on the Mist Falls Trail. We had heard that there were a lot of rattle snakes on this particular hike. Madison dressed accordingly – thick socks and boots!
I can stare at these mountains for extended periods of time. It is something about the granite and the trees as they zip together with the blue sky. It is captivating.
Can you see our rattling pal? They were pretty stealthy! We saw two of them on the hike – but the more disturbing statistic is that of how many we didn’t see, that we knew were close! There were two groups of people that warned us of a rattle snake ahead on the trail, both of which we didn’t see! They’re always watching, even when you can’t spot them.
The hike up to Mist Falls was almost five miles one way. It required the most effort out of the falls we saw in the park for sure. But later that day, we drove to two other falls that were relatively close to the road. That was the major take away, for me, from King’s Canyon – the waterfalls. There were quite a few of them – and I loved them all. There is something about flowing water that seems to resonate with human beings. We love to watch rivers drop over rocks. I am not sure what it is exactly – perhaps the sounds, the smells, or maybe the way that it is ever-changing?
With the bikes on top of the RV we are a whopping thirteen feet tall. In Sequoia, I actually hit a branch that was hanging over the road. So in King’s Canyon I was kind of paranoid. I would drift to the middle of the road to avoid the low hanging branches. If you look very carefully in the mirror, you can see the ranger that pulled me over for “driving drunk”. Of course I wasn’t drunk, but I guess my swerving gave the officer a scare. Luckily he let me off with a “just try and stay in your lane” warning.
I was geeking out the whole drive up the canyon. I made Madison stop more than she wanted. Oh well. Though technically not in the park, the drive up and out of the canyon was stunning. King’s Canyon is the second deepest canyon (next to the Grand Canyon) in North America. There were some big walls to be looked at!
I drove past these folds and had to pull over and step out of the RV. Look at this beautiful piece of art! All this confirmed for me is that man has NOTHING on nature. We try to hard to use what the earth provides to create beautiful buildings, and walls, and paintings, but nothing compares to what Mother Nature has been doing on her own for millions and millions of years. Now that’s a nice piece of gneiss if I have ever seen one! Leave it to the granite to make the surrounding rock even more beautiful. Wow.
Our last day in King’s we hiked Big Baldy. Madison was still freaked out about snakes so she put her sock and boot armor back on.
At the trailhead there was a sign that had a photo of the view from the top. Madison and I were bothered by this. At first, we thought, “you can’t rob people of the reward at the end!” But we decided to hike it anyway – and it was still worth it. The picture didn’t compare to the real thing. So, let that be a lesson to all of you that read these posts and look at the pictures! Get out there and experience these mountains and these adventures for yourselves!
After hugging at the summit, Madison thought it would be funny to push me off. Luckily I have amazing reflexes and was able to cling to the wall instead of falling to my death.
I am confident we could spend the rest of our lives in the King’s Canyon/Sequoia wilderness and never have enough. It truly is some of the most beautiful country around.