Week of October 26-November 2, 19995
Subterranean rafting in New Zealand
Thanksgiving camping at Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park
Q: I would like to know if it is feasible to go camping in Kings Canyon National Park during Thanksgiving. What is the weather normally like at this time, will any of the roads be closed and will any of the areas be closed due to weather?
San Jose, CA
A: Despite frosty temperatures and snow at higher elevations, it is possible to camp in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park in late November--just be sure to bring your cold-weather sleeping bag and plenty of warm clothes. The only main park road that's closed in the winter is Highway 180, from just north of the Grant Grove Visitor Center to Cedar Grove. Don't worry, though, the scenic Generals Highway is open year-round; pick up this road at the park's southern Ash Mountain entrance and take it 17 miles north to Giant Forest, home of the General Sherman Tree, the largest living thing on earth. Camp at nearby Potwisha, one of the three campgrounds open all year; with running water and flush toilets, a site here will cost you a mere $4 per night. From there, drive north to Grant Grove Visitor Center for a look at Sherman's rival: The General Grant Tree is a towering 267-feet tall and is second only to Sherman. Car camping is available at Azalea Campground, just north of the visitor center on Highway 180 ($6 per night). Or, opt for something a little more primitive and head back down to the Lodgepole Campground on the Generals Highway. Sites here are $4 per night and are available, like the others, on a first-come first-served basis. The only hitch: Winter camping here means pitching your tent right in the parking lot. As for backcountry camping, strap on your cross-country skis or snowshoes and head in on either the Pear Lake or Panther Gap trails, the only two winter-marked trails in the park; before you go, pick up a free backcountry permit at the Lodgepole Visitors Center. You can camp anywhere in the backcountry as long as you're three to four miles in from the trailhead--just be prepared for lots of snow: Sequoia and Kings Canyon get an average of 260 inches of white stuff a year, with the storms rolling in as early as mid-October. For more information about winter camping facilities and weather conditions, contact the park headquarters at 209-565-3341.