The American National parks never cease to IMPRESS us. By far the best 'thing' of this trip we just keep on lovin' the parks, monuments, seashores, battefields and the like that are all managed by the dept of the interior. Just bought our latest annual parks pass, which for $80 has got to be the best value $80 we spend each year. Just fantastic.
Right now we are in Kings Canyon National Park which borders with Sequoia National Park - working as a kind of twin park thing going on. Here there is such diversity of landscape - the foothills (starting at 1800ft), the giant sequoias, canyons and the high sierras (reaching up to Mt Whitney at over 14,000ft it's the highest point in the contiguous United states). It's all incredible scenery which, at every turn is constantly wowing us. The world's largest tree is here - General Sherman which gets the prize based on volume. The widest tree is also here - General Grant which at 40ft in diameter really needs to go on a diet methinks...!
The first night in the park we stayed in the foothills and it was all drama that evening when 'bear C96' came a-visiting. Apparently she's quite familiar to the rangers having been visiting the campsite for the last 11 years (her number means she was the 3rd bear captured and tagged in 1996!). She's out of her regular habitat but comes purely for human food and opportunist rewards. The group in the campsite opposite us (not 20 yards away) were sat around their fire and spied the bear about 6ft from them, when they ran (as it's kind of difficult not to - gut reaction and all!) the bear took the chance to come right forward to the their table and food they'd left there. - Blimey - exiciting stuff!! She got hazed off by the ranger but about an hour later she came back (to the same campsite) and this time we saw her cruising around their tent! Next morning we discovered that the Donkster (uh-ummm - the motorbike!!) had been high-fiving it with her - a bloomin' great bear paw print was on his seat!! Coooool!!
Been doing loads of hiking - 50 miles in the last 2 weeks - 30 miles of it here in Sequoia & Kings Canyon. And nothing like easing ourselves in gently we're straight back up to altitude hikes and skinny air!! (but it isn't 'alf fresh!! - ahh - bliss!) Chris did spot another bear out on our hike today. About 30 yards in front of us on the trail heading away. Apparently it turned to look as it wandered off so it knew we were there. I say apparently coz Chris shoved me back round the corner before I got sight of it. We then started the loud inane drivel that tends to spout forth when we're in bear country and by the time we'd edged back round the corner it had sensibly long gone (probably to save it's ears).