Arvin, CA and Sequoia, Winter Wonderland - Day 1 - April 2010

Not having gone back to the midwest during the winter I was craving some snow time and a friend was wanting to get out of the city so we headed to Sequoia National Park for one night. I'd been hearing so much about the amazing wildflower blooms this year on this site so we worked in a quick stop on the way to Sequoia in the Arvin - Bear Mountain area along highway 223 hoping to see some amazing blankets of brightness covering the hillsides. On the way we saw patches of yellow on the hills flanking the freeway. I'm still amazed by the colors.

The Arvin area wasn't as colorful as I'd hoped, but we got out at one point and found a ton of different types of flowers by the roadside. Some that I'd never before seen. Here's where we were:

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And here are some of the photos I took there:

purple owl's clover (Castilleja exserta)

fiddleneck (Amsinckia menziesii intermedia)

some kind of white lupine??

After checking out the flowers we continued on our way to Sequoia in search of snow. As we neared the park it seemed like the snow level was too high and we might not be able to see any. We also weren't sure how the road conditions would be, if we'd need tire chains at any point (we didn't have any) but we pushed on. A was determined to see some snow!

Here's where Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park is located:

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The lower elevations of the Sierra Nevadas (referred to as the foothills) were really colorful with flowers, a lot of redbud trees, and pretty warm (sunny and 65-70 ish) but more on that later. As we climbed higher and higher we started to see the awe-inspiring Giant Sequoias (around 5000 ft) and all of a sudden . . . SNOW! First there were only a few inches by the side of the road . . .

and it just kept getting deeper! By the time we got to the General Sherman area (altitude 7000 ft) we had to pull off and run around in it a bit. We parked and started walking on the trails. The snow was really deep, but it still wasn't terribly cold. It was surprisingly crowded but not really in an annoying way.

Some snowshoe tracks

Sequoias are so beautiful!

This lichen covered many of the trees.

The snow was so deep!

At one point, we deviated from the trail and I heard what sounded like a river, but I didn't see one. But then I saw a tiny bridge and there it was, a river cutting a path through the snow. Careful not to fall in we made our way towards the bridge. At this point there were no other people around and it was so quiet and peaceful.

Alanna Hirz took this shot.

Me and the General Sherman tree.
As of 2002, the volume of its trunk measured about 1487 cubic meters, making it the largest non-clonal tree by volume. The tree is believed to be between 2,300 and 2,700 years old.

We decided to head back to the car and see how much farther we could drive up and to our surprise, we made it almost to the northern entrance to the park. The road was dry the entire way. Here are some of the views we experienced.

Look how tall the snow is compared to the car! No idea how they plowed this!

We considered driving all the way to the northern entrance to the park, but decided against it because it was going to get dark in a few hours and we didn't want to have to rush down. We were already both feeling a bit of the altitude sickness (mostly headaches) from driving up so quickly.

Once we got back down to the foothills we stopped to look at some wildflowers before heading to our hotel in Three Rivers, CA right outside the entrance to the park for the night.

Spider lupine? (Lupinus benthamii)

Not sure what species, but I think it's a in the Phacelia genus.

We'd return in the morning for a light hike before making our way back to LA.

I continue to be amazed by this place. One minute you're in 70 degree weather in the foothills and the next you're surrounded by snow and the Sierra Nevadas and then back down again all within a few short hours. And all within a mere 4 hours from Los Angeles!

Click here for more of my photos from Sequoia.