[Traveling Tales] Serenity in the Sequoias


With the sporadic influx of pseudo-Winter weather in Southern California over the last few weeks, a fresh blanket of snow had dusted over the local mountain ranges and springtime blossoms were peeking out with pastel colors against fifty shades of green.  Once I caught wind of the awe inspiring pictures of Yosemite’s fabled February Firefall, the itch for wanderlust had flooded back through my veins.  Twenty minutes and an excited conversation with Danny later, and we were scheming about what shenanigans we could get up to for the weekend.  Since the weekend before was a beautiful three day Valentine’s Day and President’s Day twofer, we realized that there would be very few people on the roads traveling about – which made it perfect timing for a quick weekend adventure.

A self professed ‘city kitty’ of sorts, I can easily count the number of times I’ve played in the snow on one hand.  So, the genuine prospect of an outdoors adventure prancing around a crystalline cloud makes me giddy, like a school girl crush on the first day of Summer. After consulting the map, we realized a 36 hour trip to Yosemite was a bit lofty – but the good news was that we could cut our travel time in half and finally enjoy the stunning scenery that Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks have to offer.

After some quick research of the area, we devised what I thought was a genius game plan. First, we jotted up to Project Survival Cat Haven for a quick stop and a Caturday inspired tour of the big cat sanctuary and conservation center.  Between the gorgeous Lions, Bengal Tigers, Lynx, Leopards and more – the feline fanatic inside me was absolutely satiated. Then, we headed off to King’s Canyon to frolic in the snow and gallivant around Grant’s Grove.

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A full day of snow filled adventure later, and we were ready to turn down for a delicious meal overlooking the Kaweah River in the sleepy town of Three Rivers, right outside of the southern entrance of the park.  Once we found our cabin for the night, we nestled in and reflected on our incredible day, while memories intermingled with the rich aroma of a Winter night’s fire and laughter. The next morning as the sun slowly soared over the mountains, we found ourselves enraptured by beauty at each and every angle, from geometric reflections in the pool to the warm aroma of rosemary and lavender. After some hearty conversation with some of the locals, we were off, off and away – but this time, into Sequoia National Park and the Giant Forest.

Founded back in 1890, Sequoia National Park stretches to over 400,000 acres of land with topographies that range from 1,000′ to 12,000′ – including the highest point within the Great 48, Mount Whitney. The park contains 34 separately stunning groves of Giant Sequoia Trees, accounting for nearly half of the Sequoia groves in the world. A member of the Redwood family, Sequoias are considered to be one of the oldest living entities on Earth with it’s  oldest members dated at an awe inspiring 3,266 years old; for some perspective, the oldest living tree is an astonishing 9,550 years old.  Featuring fibrous, fire resistant bark – the Giant Sequoias rank in as the world’s largest single trees, and largest living thing by volume.  The world’s largest tree by volume, the General Sherman clocks in at over 52,000 cubic feet, stands over 280′ tall and is aged between 2,200 and 2,700 years old. The park also contains the next four largest trees in the world – including three additional Sequoias that lie within the Giant Forest.

Sequoia-44One of my favorite things (and there were a lot of favorite things) about the park is the varieties in the terrain, yielding a complex menagerie of landscapes within a small area. In addition to the incredible Sequoia themselves, the flowing Kaweah River was roaring with delight while wildflowers sprang out sporadically from behind bushes and gold dusted rocks. Waterfalls peeked from around each and every bend, with small off the beaten path hikes and trails, while incredible granite monoliths like Moro Rock and Hospital Rock towered above us like a watchdog.

Heading up the mountain one more time, we ascended in direct proportion to our excitement – with changes in elevation causing me to constantly bundle up in more warmth around each and every turn. Eventually, we arrived at Big Trees Trail – the home of the General Sherman, and you better believe there was a whole lot of tree hugging going around.  Their warm rich color paired with vibrant evergreen needles against the pristine white snow made for a nearly spiritual moment seeped in serenity.  Ravens and red tailed hawks flew to and fro while the trees beckoned to us gently in their stillness; standing in their shadow, a wave of humbling calmness washed over me as I finally felt like I understood the true gravity of the world.  Stuck within a moment of lucid beauty,  I found I’d lost track of time and couldn’t tell if we’d been standing there silent for moments, minutes or hours. I left the forest feeling transformed, transfixed on what felt like a life changing experience underneath the stunning Sequoia.

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Hands down, the National Park Systems is one of the best gifts that the United States Government could give back to the people and slowly but surely, the country mouse is coming out of me and I’m truly enjoying submersing and submerging myself within its ubiquitous beauty.  If last year I could find the time to work and play at a new music festival every month, this year I can certainly commit to a new national park every month.  And now, with this past trip under my belt, I have to admit that Sequoia now has a special place in heart and is my favorite park that I’ve visited so far, with Zion and Red Rocks coming in as close seconds.  If you have grandiose plans of traversing the park soon, be aware that Generals Highway is closed between Lodgepole and Grant Grove – and the depending on your proposed route, your detour can be an incredibly narrow and windy road (trust).  The closure will be reopening in Mid March.

What’s your favorite National Park and which ones are on your bucket list?

 

 
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[Oh, Snap] Project Survival’s Cat Haven: Lions, and Tigers, and Cheetahs – Oh, My!

When I was three years old, I baffled my parents when I started mumbling the phrase ‘fully textured for cats’, when I was in 5th grade I did a report on the history of cats, I used to have grandiose dreams of owning a Bengal Tiger a la Jasmine from Aladdin, and yes, in fact, I have been to a cat show.  If you’ve been privy to this blog for more than a few months, then you most likely have seen the multiple barrages of adorable kitty pictures and know that I’m currently a proud owner of four little fur babies – Stella, Daisy, Loki and Marley.  Cat lady supreme? It’s debatable, but yes – big or small, young or old, fluffy, puffy, plush and everything in between – I definitely have love for all the kitties. So, when my fiance told me there was a large cat sanctuary near where we were vacationing this past weekend, I couldn’t help but squeal like a little school girl.

On Saturday morning – or as I prefer: Caturday morning – we packed our bags and hit the road to the gorgeous and awe inspiring Sequoia National Forest but before we did we made a special pit stop in a sleepy town called Dunlap to prowl around Project Survival’s Cat Haven.  Sitting on 100 acres of sprawling wilderness, the PS Cat Haven has been working diligently towards large cat conservation and education since 1993. Founded by Dale Anderson, the site is host to a wide variety of cats – from Lions, Lynx, Amur Tigers, Cheetahs, Bobcats, Servals, Lions and a stunning White Bengal Tiger

If you feel anything like I do about Seaworld and most Zoos, than you’ll understand that in the beginning it might be hard to see the animals in the size of cages that they’re in. But, please know the cages are held to regulation and there were several decommissioned areas based on the same principal.  Not only that, but the animals receive daily enrichment – a fancy word for boxes, treats and toys – hunks of meat and have an outdoor playpen to roam around in, and for a few of the litters of animals – potentially even a playmate.Now, I wasn’t able to get too close to get a picture (and rightfully so, with the cages and barriers), but these are some of the beauties that I fell whiskers over paws for.

Rose and Samba were a pair of Jaguar sisters, and completely playful and adorable – their only competition was Nacho and Libre, who turned out to be their brothers for a little a few years later! And of course, I loved the White Bengal tiger!

For being a tried and true cat lover, I actually learned a lot – but there were two fun feline facts that stood out to me…

For all us cat lovers that sit there and talk to our cats, did you know: cats that purr can’t roar, and cats that roar can’t purr.  Your felines vocal proclivities are driven by a bone at the back of their throat, the more rigid the bone – the more of a Roar!

Secondly, the Panther is a misnomer – Panthers are melanistic leopards and jaguars. Melanism is a recessive genetic phenotype that occurs in a small variety of animals, and is why we get the elusive black flamingo, black wolves, black snakes and black squirrels and ‘black panthers’.  In most cases, this was an adaptive trait to help the species survive over time.

In large cats, this happens within the ‘Agouti Gene’ and results in various species – like leopards, bobcats, servals, and jaguars – presenting with darker pigment in the normally orange areas.Though they look black from afar, the result is that deliciously chocolate brown coat with even darker markings that “Black Panthers” are known for.   On the flip side, this gene doesn’t present in domestic cats – meaning your elegant black house cat really is black.

For more about Project Survival Cat Haven, head to their website or socials:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Yelp

To Donate to their cause, head here! | Adopt a Cat from PS Cat Haven