California is so rich in spectacular scenery that the state has cashed in 70 of its State Parks to meet budget cuts. Despite the closures, California is still an amazing place. Only here can you visit the lowest spot in North America (Death Valley’s Badwater Basin) and the highest peak in the lower 48 states (14,505-foot Mount Whitney) in the same day.
After a few days in National Park deserts, I was ready to head to the mountains for some hiking in National Forests, where the dogs are usually welcome on trails. First we headed to the Forest of the Ancients in Inyo National Forest near Bishop, California. This grove is home to Methuselah, a 4,600 bristlecone pine tree thought to be the oldest living being on Earth. The four mile loop hike through this spectacular grove of hundreds of thousand year-old trees overlooking Death Valley just might make it into my top ten hikes of all time!
After a night nearby at Grandview Campground, we drove up the valley to Devil’s Postpile National Monument. As a geology buff, I’m always looking for new rock formations and this one was pretty spectacular: 60-foot columns of nearly perfectly hexagonal basalt pillars. There was even a trail to the top of the formation so you could see the columns on end. Then the dogs and I hiked a lovely 5-mile loop on the John Muir Trail, which runs 211 miles from Mount Whitney to Yosemite. Someday, I’d love to hike the whole thing…
I’ll be in the Bay Area for the weekend before heading back to New Mexico on Monday. Stay tuned for more posts on dinosaur tracks, the geology of the Grand Canyon, National Park photography, ecology of really old trees and lots more!