“The mountains are calling and I must go.”
low and high
My campground was only four miles or so from the entrance to Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park and I reveled in my final glimpses up the valley. Moro rock stood out as did the surrounding rock edifices. But out of the canyon I went and into the tourist town of Three Rivers. I spent too much time here but I really needed some essential supplies. At a hardware store I got actual denatured alcohol for my stove for the first time since Ashland. So it was early afternoon and already plenty hot as I rode out of town and around Lake Kaweah.
The lake was, like Pine Flat Lake, super low and it was really hot in this valley. So the campgrounds and such around it were all empty as far as I could see. The heat really picked up as I descended still further from the lake down to 512 feet, here temps were at least in the upper 90s (F). The road swung into the Yokohl Valley and this was the most bleak landscape of the tour. Nothing but rock, dead grass and dirt under the merciless sun. Barely anything here though it was ranch land. As I climbed the oaks reappeared and sometimes there was some shade. This was a pretty tough slog, a 2000′ climb out of this bowl like valley up switchbacks to the lip. There was a pretty long decent from the Yokohl but mostly on terrible roads that I had to be mindful of. But on reaching the bottom, I took a short break to resupply my liquids and then began the second climb of the day. It was after 5pm, I’d already ridden near 60 miles and it was 97 degrees here.
The ~3500 foot climb into Giant Sequoia National Monument was probably the hardest climb of the tour. It was all small curves with really steep bits leading up and around each curve. The sun was right on my back and just beating down and I was already worn down. The valley though was beautiful with big rocky protrusions and a the Tule River merrily running over rocks below. The river ran over a series of pools that looked so inviting to swim in. The sun was setting and I again attracted the swarm of gnats that harried me for many miles. At one point, just over 70 miles for the day a pickup truck passed and asked if I need a lift. Only pride had me immediately respond “I’m cool”. They drove on. If they asked me again five minutes later I probably would have given in. I nearly bonked on this climb as I was starving for dinner and it was getting late. Finally though it flattened out and the final few miles to Camp Nelson weren’t bad. I turned down the side road to Coy Flat Campground which was two miles into the woods and it was pitch black. I was quite happy though to reach the campground, drink as much water as I wanted and cook dinner.
crumbling black rocks   —  soft scurrying of lizards
withered yellow grasses —  raucous scramble of squirrels
swirling tan dirt — the piping of an unseen bird