Park Ridge P750

Sat, May 4, 2013
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I had left Matthew and Nga after dinner in Kings Canyon around 6:30p, intending to drive home to San Jose. The blister on my heel was unlikely to allow me to do any hiking of significance and it seemed better to go home to lick my wound. I didn't make it out of Kings Canyon. I found myself getting sleepy almost as soon as I began driving, probably at least partially induced by the wonderful Thai curry and rice that Nga had prepared. I had no reason to rush home and the idea of spending the night listening to the sounds of the rushing Kings River had some appeal. I pulled over at one of the many riverside locations found in the National Forest along SR180 and crawled into the back to sleep. Though it was 75F at 7p when I pulled over, I had little trouble sleeping. I slept for more than 10 hours and was quite refreshed when I arose at 5:30a the next morning. I contemplated an easy hike I might do on the way back, eventually hitting upon Park Ridge.

Park Ridge lies immediately east of Wilsonia and Grant Grove Village. The 7-mile long ridge runs roughly north-south, separating drainages for Hume Lake to the east from drainages to Sequoia Lake and other places to the west. It is bisected by the boundary between King Canyon NP and Sequoia NF. The highpoint has 880ft of prominence which is how it had caught my attention some time ago when I was perusing maps. Though I hadn't come prepared ahead of time, I knew roughly where to find it and used the maps on my GPS to plan a route on short notice. The easiest way to reach it is to drive the paved road to Panoramic Point about half a mile north of the highpoint. From there it is a short walk to Panoramic Point and an easy hike along a pleasant ridge trail to the highpoint. I didn't realize this at the time and instead started at the North Boundary TH which is located just inside the NP boundary. There is a large turnout on the east side of the road where the trail starts, though there is no sign here to indicate this. There is a sign on the west side of the road where the trail can be taken in that direction to the General Grant Grove of giant sequoias.

Starting off at 6:30a, I followed the trail up past two trail junctions, taking the left fork towards Panoramic Point both times. Most of the lower portion of the trail appears to follow an old logging road. The larger trees were logged off this hill more than 100 years ago. The Park Service has reconstructed portions of the road to be more trail-like, but the wide footprint gives away its previous incarnation. There are some power poles along portions of the trail which I later realized head to the parking area for Panoramic Point. At an unsigned trail junction I turned right onto a use trail that connects to the paved road to the parking area and then to a service road that heads along the upper western slope of Park Ridge. The better route was to the left which heads to Panoramic Point, but I didn't realize this util the return. After following the service road (which heads south for two miles to a lookout at the end of Park Ridge) for half a mile, I hiked cross-country up towards the highpoint indicated on the GPS. Just before reaching the top I intersected the trail from Panoramic Point, only then realizing there was a more scenic route than I had chosen.

The trail follows mostly along the ridge, eventually reaching to the lookout several miles further south. As it bypasses the east side of the ridge just below the highpoint, I had a short cross-country jaunt to reach the top just before 7:30a after little more than two miles. A small cairn had been built against one side of tree at the highpoint, but there was no register found inside. Trees block most of the views from the top, but significant haze would have made the views rather so-so even without the trees. One can get a view east into the Jennie Lakes Wilderness and SEKI beyond it. Despite the haze, I could make out the silhouette of Mt. Brewer 26 miles to the east, just above the lookout atop Buck Rock, 5 miles distance. I next followed the trail back to the north and Panoramic Point. As the name suggests, it has a much better view, though haze and early morning sun made the views less than ideal. One can see both major forks of the Kings River and a large swath of the Sierra Crest from the Palisades to Mt. Gould. The Great Western Divide is also visible from Francis Farquhar in the north to Milestone in the south. Below to the northeast is Hume Lake, the first time I had set eyes on this well-hidden body of water. A pair of placards nicely label many of the visible summits, including Comb Spur where Matthew and I had visited the previous day.

I returned down the handicap-accessible paved walkway to the parking lot, found the North Boundary Trail again on the other side, and followed this back to the TH where I arrived around 8:15a. Less than two hours for maybe four and half miles, about as easy as it gets. And it would have been even easier had I known about the access road to Panoramic Point...

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