This was our first trip to Sequoia/King's Canyon National Parks in August 2006.
Dave suggested we hike to TOKOPAH FALLS, a beautiful 1200 ft. high cascade along the Marble Fork Kaweah River. I was getting pretty worn out since we'd been hiking *8 miles everyday with no days off. I had started wrapping my left ankle at the start of our hikes so I'm certain I didn't sound too enthusiastic with my "Sure, okay" reply. I'm SO glad that we did because the hike to TOKOPAH FALLS was one of the best hikes we took on this trip! Families play in the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River near the trailhead.
The trail followed along the river with amazing views of the granite cliffs. We started around 2PM and quickly encountered other hikers making their return. Our preference is to begin hiking early in the morning although many times that's dependent on sunlight and shadows for Dave and his photographs. I'm easy-going and just go with the flow!
The "WATCHTOWER" 8,973 feet.
Most times when we're hiking, Dave, with his better endurance and longer legs is ahead of me on the trail. However this was one of those rare times I was out on the trail ahead of him while he was down next to the river taking pictures of wildflowers with the sunlight playing on the water. Up ahead in the distance (sounds like an EAGLES song-ha ha) I spotted some hikers who were returning from the Falls, looking to the left of the trail, up the hill, pointing and taking pictures. That always means wildlife! I came up to them and started watching a black bear which was feeding, turning up rotted bark on felled trees, looking for grubs. I kept looking down the trail for Dave since he was missing out on getting a picture of the bear. As soon as I saw his green Cabela's cap bobbing up the trail, I started waving my arms and mouthing the word, "BEAR". We lingered for a good 20 minutes, watching and photographing until the bear moved out of sight and then we pressed onward, toward the Falls.
We soon crossed over a small bridge where we saw a family with 4 young kids playing in the water. I walked down to them and told them about the bear up ahead. I wanted them to be "bear aware" since they had small children.
As we got closer to the Falls, Dave was once again ahead of me on the trail. I was taking my time because there were a lot of loose, granite rocks in different sizes that I had to scramble over. With a sore ankle I didn't want to step badly and possibly twist it. Not only that, I didn't want to fall since I have bleeding issues with my auto-immune disease! Dave turned the corner of the trail and was suddenly out of my sight. I continued on the trail, towards him when he reappeared, backing up on the trail with his hand held up, indicating, "STOP". I knew that he had spotted a bear! After a while he motioned for me to move forward. I caught up with him and he told me of his bear encounter.
He had turned the corner out of my sight, gone a short distance, within sight of the Falls when he heard a rustling in the brush right next to his feet. He stopped, looked down and saw a small, black face with 2 eyes looking at him. He actually said to himself,
"What is that? Is that a dog? It can't be, dogs aren't allowed on the trail. Maybe it's a wolverine?"
When it moved it quickly dawned on him that it was a black bear cub and there was a 2nd cub right next to it!! He began backing up, growing concerned because he didn't see the mama bear and he did NOT want to be between them! As he continued to back up, the 2 little bears crossed the trail! He snapped a quick picture and quickly left!
We reasoned that the mama bear must have been on the left side of the trail, the uphill side. When he pointed to the spot where he had seen the small bear cubs, I looked around us. The whole, entire area was covered with berries!! It's no wonder we had encountered bears! I told Dave,
"Do you realize how fortunate you are? If those bears had started squalling, Mama Bear would've come crashing down on top of you!"
He said he only had seconds to think, respond and try to formulate a plan. He told me that he,
"Didn't know if he should run ahead towards the Falls or back to me".
Thank goodness it didn't come to that!
(Due to arline regulations we weren't allowed to bring our Counter Assault Bear Spray with us on the plane. We had decided to purchase a can while in Yosemite and then donate it at one of its Visitor's Centers but we never saw a can the entire time we were there!)
Our destination, TOKOPAH FALLS
We resumed our hike, keeping on our toes and soon arrived at TOKOPAH FALLS where we took several pictures of the Falls as well as the granite cliffs all around us.
We thoroughly enjoyed our break as we talked endlessly of our bear sightings. We headed back down the trail and encountering a family of 3 and told them about the cubs and the mama bear that might still be around. We took a short break next to the river and soaked our feet in the cold water!
As we made our way down the trail further, we came across yet another bear! Being slightly ahead of me, Dave saw it first standing on the trail. We tried taking some pictures but the bear was constantly moving about making it difficult to photograph.
The family of 3 had caught up with us by now. At one point, Dave went down the trail to try and get photos. Suddenly the bear decided it wanted to go down towards him. I said in a loud voice,
"It's moving towards you!"
Those words reminded me of the scene in the original "Alien" movie where Dallas is in the ventilation shaft and through his earpiece, he's told that the alien is moving right towards him! At any rate, the bear crossed the trail and moved on up the hill. We were so excited! In all of our years spent in the wild places we have come to love, we've NEVER had an experience like that!
We returned to the lodge, cleaned up and ate a late dinner. We crashed that night, saddened that we were leaving the next day. I'm never ready to leave the wild places!
We stayed at the "John Muir Lodge" while in SEKI NP's.
A potrait of John Muir hangs over the stone fireplace.