Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks – Home of Giant Trees and Glacier formed Canyons (April 28-May 2nd)

We had a one night stopover in Bakersfield, California at Shady Haven RV Resort ($29.50/night with Passport America) then headed to Three Rivers, California. Three Rivers Sequoia RV Park ($51/night with Good Sam’s) was our base camp to capers in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. While spring had arrived and the flowers were blooming, there was still a lot of snow in higher elevations with many roads and trails closed. It was a great visit, with beautiful vistas so all is good. As I always say, get those national park passes as visiting the two parks will cost $70 per car. Those passes pay for themselves in 4 park visits. Well worth it.

84% of both parks are considered wilderness areas. Sequoia covers 404,064 acres and became a national park in 1890. Kings Canyon is 461,901 acres and became a national park in 1890 as General Grant National Park. The name was changed to Kings Canyon in 1940. Of the two I preferred Kings Canyon. It has an ethereal feeling about it and the vistas and waterfalls are spectacular. We spent one and a half days in Kings Canyon and it was well worth it as the pictures will show. Just know that the pictures don’t do it justice. Sequoia and Kings Canyon run contiguous to each other so that was a plus.

Sequoia contains most of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range and has Mount Whitney which has the highest elevation in the United States of 14,505 feet above sea level. The giant sequoia trees are a marvel and the park contains 271 caves, some of which are open to the public. All caves were closed due to the late snows. It just means that I’ll have to go back! There is abundant wildlife and while I was resting on a steep climb up on one of the open trails I was visited by a friendly chickaree, a little squirrel like guy. He was interested in my camera pack. I didn’t see him until a couple of people stopped to take pictures. He was within an inch or two of my shoulder. Cute little bugger.

The first group of pictures are Sequoia National Park. The 2,200 year old General Sherman Sequoia was amazing. 275 feet tall, trunk diameter of 36.5 feet and weighs 1,385 tons. Wow!

Kings Canyon National park has great winding roads and steep cliffs so we had to drive with care. We met a few cars on curves who were on our side of the narrow road. Bless their hearts. I really enjoyed this park and would love to go back again. The pictures don’t do it justice.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Stay tuned for Yosemite and Crescent City, California. Thanks for visiting!

Communing with the Ancients Mesa Verde, Colorado Part 2

Welcome to Part II of the Mesa Verde experience. What a fabulous journey we are on. Next up: The Valleys of Mancos and Montezuma, plus Mesa Verde, Navajo Canyon and many more views and pithouse and pueblo sites.

Off we go to explore the homes of the ancients in Mesa Verde National Park. The park is on 52,485 acres, with 5000 ancestral sites including 600 cliff dwellings. Inhabitants of the region: Paleo-Indians 10,000 BCE – 7,500 BCE; Archaic built semi-permanent dwellings 7,500 BCE – 1,500 BCE; Basketmaker 1,500 BCE – 500 CE; Ancestral Puebloans 750 CE – 900 CE; Puebloans 950 CE – 1300 CE.

The population of Mesa Verde was estimated at 1,500 in 675 CE, by the 13th century the population grew to 20,000. Most of the puebloans had migrated out of the area by the 14th century. Those that migrated moved south to Arizona, New Mexico and Santa Fe. Drought and over population led to the migration but archaeologist have found that inter-fighting and fighting with other tribes played a part. Violence and cannibalism peaked between 1275-1285 and was widespread in North America due to global climate change affecting food supplies. I find these facts fascinating.

The Wetherill brothers, cattle ranchers who were considered fair people in their transactions with others, had become friends with some members of the Ute tribe. The Utes allowed them to “run cows” in the valley. In December 1888, Richard Wetherill and his friend Charlie Mason spotted the Cliff Palace from the top of Mesa Verde. Soon after other sites were found by the Wetherill brothers.

After these discoveries were made Gustaf Nordenskiold a Swedish scholar came to examine the dwellings. He was led to them by Richard Wetherill where he conducted the first scientific anthropological study of the dwellings. Nordenskiold also removed many artifacts and sent them to Finland where they reside today. Mr. Nordenskiold is one of the reasons that we now have the Antiquities Act of 1906. Finland should not have the priceless, irreplaceable artifacts/treasures from our country’s history. I strongly believe they should be returned.

Pictures are worth a thousand words. Enjoy!

Cliff Palace 1250 AD

This concludes our journey to the Mesa Verde pithouses, pueblos and cliff dwellings. This is a Unesco World Heritage Site, where some of the best preserved ancestral pueblo sites in the United States are preserved. I consider this a must see area. Go and contemplate what life was like for the early settlers of this area. Admire the craftsmanship and the determination that it took to build these places, some of which were abandoned in just 25 years. I promise that you will be emotionally moved with the experience. Until next time!…..

Communing with the Ancients! Mesa Verde, Colorado March 20-24

Mesa Verde RV Resort ($34.19/night with Good Sam’s) was our location for day trips out to see the pithouses and pueblos of Mesa Verde (Green Table), Hovenweep (Deserted Valley), and Canyon of the Ancients. The Four Corners National Monument on the Navajo Nation Reservation is where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet. We stopped there on the way to Mesa Verde. Four Corners has permanent stalls where local Native American Artisans sell their work. Worth a stop!

I’m in four states!

When we arrived in Mesa Verde there had been a late snow and it snowed in the higher elevations during our visit. At 7,500 feet above sea level there was about two feet of snow. Thank goodness the roads were kept clear and we weren’t slowed down too much for our capers.

We headed south to Hovenweep National Monument for our first adventure. The roads to get there were scenic and passed through ranches and open range (no fencing). We were delayed a tad when a herd of cattle claimed the road. We patiently waited for them to move on before we could drive through. There were dozens of calves and cows just hanging out in the road, in no hurry to move.

There was no snow at Hovenweep but it was windy and cold. The trails to get to the dwellings were well laid out and not too strenuous. Hovenweep has fine examples of ancestral Puebloan masonry. The visitors center has trail maps and water available and runs a great historical film that is worth the few minutes to view. Hovenweep is now one of my favorite places. Go with the right mindset and you can have a spiritual experience. Modern descendants of these groups believe that their ancestors still live there and it’s a sacred place. Treat it accordingly.

Hunter-gatherers (Paleo-Indians) inhabited the Cajon Mesa on the Great Sage Plain from 8,000-6,000 BC until 200 AD. They were followed by the Basketmaker (50 AD to 750 AD)and Pueblo Era Natives (750 AD to 1350 AD). Experts believe that Hovenweep was deserted due to increased populations and a 23 year regional drought. Currently badgers, large cats and bears have taken over some of the caves at Hovenweep.

The following homes to the ancients are found in Little Ruin Canyon and consists of the following: Stronghold House, Twin Towers, Rim Rock House, Eroded Boulder House, Tower Point and Hovenweep Castle. The Park Service employs Hopi masons to make repairs. These masons are torn about making repairs because there belief is that everything returns to the earth.

Up next: Canyon of the Ancients National Monument. We only got to Lowry Pueblo due to the weather and it was quite the trip down muddy and snowy dirt roads. The monument is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and is 176,600 acres of mostly wilderness. It has 6,355 recorded sites of ancestral Puebloan culture in the Chaco Canyon area. Lowry Pueblo is one of three ruins open to the public. Please visit the visitors center prior to visiting the pueblos. They have great exhibits and dioramas. One of my favorite exhibits allows you to listen to phrases in the different Native American languages. Exquisite.

The Lowry Pueblo is a National Historic Landmark, consisting of 8 kivas, one of which is the largest kiva I have ever seen. The pueblo has 40 rooms and some were three stories high. Based upon the size of the largest kiva, the Lowry Pueblo may have been a regional center for religious ceremonies and gatherings.

I hope you are enjoying the adventure. Stay tuned for Part II Mesa Verde!