Busy times were had by all — park staff and visitors — in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks over the three-day holiday weekend that marked America’s 240th birthday. Lines into Sequoia National Park at the Ash Mountain entrance were backed up for a time to the Three Rivers Memorial Building, a distance of more than three miles, blocking residential driveways and streets and inhibiting access to some local businesses.
At the Kings Canyon entrance on Highway 180, the line of vehicles seeking access to the park on Friday, July 1, extended to the Sequoia Lake junction, also about three miles. This is a more remote stretch of highway, however, so no private property or business enterprises were impacted by the lineup.
The crowds in Mineral King were like no one could remember ever seeing in the past. The two campgrounds were full, rangers were issuing wilderness permits from the porch of the ranger station long after closing time on Friday, July 1, and into Saturday while parked vehicles overflowed from trailhead parking lots into picnic areas and along the roadway.
The most popular lake destinations — Eagle, Monarch, Franklin — were more like tent cities than wilderness experiences. There were reportedly 60 people camped at Franklin Lake during the height of the weekend.
The General Grant Tree in Kings Canyon National Park and the General Sherman Tree in Sequoia were gridlocked, both by traffic in the parking lots and pedestrians at the trees. All other major attractions within walking distance of a parking lot were also swamped.
Campgrounds in the Grant Grove area were filled by the morning of Friday, July 1. All 14 Sequoia-Kings Canyon campgrounds were full throughout the holiday period, as were the neighboring 10 Sequoia National Forest campgrounds. The campgrounds were all full during the weekend previous to the three-day holiday as well.
Although no one can put a finger on exactly why the increased interest and exploding visitation numbers at the local national parks, this weekend was a perfect storm of conditions: the well-promoted 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, July 4 being on a Monday and creating a three-day weekend, and picture-perfect mountain weather.
SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK
June 28— A sinkhole developed along Crystal Cave Road. Rangers directed traffic while maintenance staff repaired the damaged roadway.
June 28— A 14-year-old male from Sunnyvale, Calif., was hiking with a Boy Scout troop on the Hockett Plateau when he began experiencing extreme nausea and vomiting. A satellite texting device was used to call for help. The message indicated that the young man required evacuation from the wilderness. He was transported from the wilderness by helicopter to a location where he was then transported by ambulance to the hospital.
KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARK
During the Fourth of July holiday weekend, traffic was heavy, requiring temporary closures of Grant Grove Village and the Grant Tree area due to gridlock.
July 3— Rangers responded to assist with a car over the edge at Cherry Gap on Highway 180. Rangers evaluated five patients. All refused further medical treatment.
July 4— Rangers provided advanced life support care to an elderly female in Azalea Campground. She was transported to a local hospital by ambulance.
July 4— The annual Wilsonia Fourth of July Parade was enjoyed by visitors and residents alike. Nearly 30 vehicles, horse-and-riders, and bicyclists took part in the parade. The community of Wilsonia hosted an ice cream social afterward.
July 4— Rangers received a newborn fawn from some visitors. The animal was reportedly found in the roadway, and the visitors could not locate its mother. The park visitors escorted rangers to the location where the fawn was found and it was released. Citations were issued for “Taking Wildlife” and possession of a controlled substance.
July 2— An ambulance transported a person with respiratory distress and altered mental status.
July 3— There was an accident involving a vehicle and a deer.
During the week, there were two separate incidents of visitors killing rattlesnakes.
July 1— Anxious parents of a 21-year-old female Pacific Crest Trail hiker contacted park dispatch when the daughter stopped checking in with her SPOT device. Wilderness rangers were able to obtain information from other PCT hikers that she was okay and still hiking north on the trail. The parents received a SPOT message on July 3.