On our walk towards Tokopah Falls, I was wondering why my husband stopped talking for several minutes.
He finally broke the silence and I noticed worry in his tone: “Ruth, I heard a strange noise,” he said.
“What kind of noise are you talking about?” I replied. As soon, as I stopped muttering those words, I hear the “noise.”
It sounded like a loud snore with a hint of a groan.
In cases like that, you are not supposed to run. However, I felt like flying.
“Let’s move fast,” my husband said while looking in all directions.
We had seen people in the trail but the majority of the time, we were walking by ourselves. And, the thing is that there was nowhere to hide. One side of the trail was covered by thick pine forest or granite boulders and on the other side a river with a thundering current was flowing.
It was our third day in Sequoia National Park. I am not going to deny I saw signs like the one below all over the place.
For some reason that I cannot understand, I didn’t pay a lot of attention. I guess you think you are immune to bear / wildlife encounters when you live in a big urban area.
Minutes after hearing the noise, we found people on the trail. Plus, my heart returned to normal when I spotted high granite wall throughout the trees. That meant we were getting close to the final leg of the hike.
When I visit a National Park, I like to fit in a hike per day. I am not the most able hiker in the world but I like to challenge myself a bit. And, let’s face it. Some beautiful sights are not located next to a parking lot.
We noticed a lot (if not the majority) of park visitors tend to congregate around the Giant Museum or General Sherman areas.
Traffic gridlocks faded away once we passed those areas and turned towards the LodgePole Visitor’s Center. The trailhead to Tokopah Falls is located past the campground in the area. The mostly flat hike is about 4 miles roundtrip and can be completed in 2 to 3 hours.
The trail culminates in a 1,200 feet (365.8 meters) high waterfall (the tallest in the park). In addition, it affords views of impressive granite cliffs and the canyon formed by the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River.
A granite peak known as The Watchtower dominates part of the landscape.
Most of the walk takes place under the shadow of towering pines. Once in a while, you bump into meadows and short wood bridges.
The howl of the river accompanies you all the time. The water moves forceful through rocks and fallen logs. Only a few sections seem calm and shallow (this can be deceptive however).
The trail narrows once the end of the canyon is in sight. A little bit of rock scramble is needed to get a good glimpse of the waterfall.
The beautiful thing is that Tokopah falls in several steps. When we visited, there were still some snow patches around. The melt was creating other thin falls to the right of the big drop of water.
Looking around and up felt like being in another planet. There were so many crevasses, lines and colors on the granite. You start to wonder what forces contributed to such features.
The other great thing is that we saw a lot of wildlife during the hike. We saw several marmots.
And a chipmunk eating the bark of a tree.
In addition, we saw deer and a wide variety of birds.
So, at the end, I cannot affirm the “noise” was a bear. However, the cafeteria workers told us people saw bears on the trail that same morning. I sweat a bit after hearing that. I am glad I didn’t see them even though they may have seen us.
- The LodgePole Visitor’s Center has a cafeteria and shop. I do not recommend hiking with an empty stomach.
- Bring water
- Be prepared to encounter bears during your walk. Make sure you understand what needs to be done on a case like that.
- Plus, respect other wildlife you see on the trail. Do not feed or harass animals.
- Never, never get into the river
- Once you reach the waterfall, there is a sign indicating people should not go beyond certain point. I will follow those instruction (I saw people descending to the waterfall, not a good idea in my opinion)
Have you encounter bears?
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