When I hopped off my car and excitedly got ready — food and extra jackets in my backpack and my camera strap slung over my shoulder — little did I know that I was walking into the most strenuous hike of my stay at Sequoia and Kings National Parks: The Tokopah Falls Trial.
I don’t think the actual trail hike is supposed to be exhausting or strenuous, but the trail was snowed over and thus added a lot of time and other fun complications to the hike — and I have no complaints about that. 😊
After parking and using the restroom at the convenience store/lodge near us, we walked along a concrete road to get to a small footbridge that was entirely covered in snow. We couldn’t even walk across the footbridge to get to the trail-head of the Tokopah Falls Trail; instead, we walked across the several feet of snow that was packed on top of the footbridge.
I think you can clearly see from the picture above how high the snow was packed on the footbridge. I mean, it was packed so high to the point where one wrong step would send you tumbling into the freezing river below. And there was even a warning sign that said several people drown in the river every single year.
Though this river seemed beautiful and not at all threatening, it’s these signs and warnings I see while camping that remind how powerful and unpredictable nature is. I love seeing the beauty of nature and experiencing how peaceful and serene and quiet it can be, but at the same time, I always need to remind myself that nature is not something to underestimate. If I run out of water and food, it’s not something I can refill immediately here, so that’s always something I keep in mind.
The beginning of the hike was truly beautiful — this was the first time I had hiked on a trail that was snowed-over, and I loved every minute of it. The layers of snow that surrounded me as I hiked, combined with the snow-free green trees and the clear, running river besides me painted the perfect picture of a winter fading to give way to spring.
I think the most beautiful aspect of the river was how clear it was. It’s not every day that I see a river so free of pollution. In some areas where the water stayed still on the edges of the river and didn’t crash down past rocks and boulders, the water appeared turquoise, sea-green, or a lovely shade of moss-like green. Walking besides a beautiful, natural body of water that wasn’t tainted or damaged by pollution was probably the most rejuvenating part of the hike.
As I continued walking on the trail, though, it became apparent that the actual trail itself was pretty much impossible to find. Instead of being on the trail, my family and I had relied on the tracks previous hikers had made in the snow and followed the tracks that seemed to be used the most.
Even then, we still lost the trail on the snow and had to walk around — or up and down along the banks of the river — to see if we could find the trail-that-wasn’t-actually-the-trail on the snow again.
As we kept losing the trail, we knew that we were eventually going to have to turn back again. However, with a sense of determination, we continued to find the trail and pushed on forwards, passing a creek, a few hikers, and…
… eventually completely lost the trail again. There was a difficult part of the trail where it was apparent that we had to cross a small river, but we weren’t sure where we should make the cross. After finding our way to the other side, we found the trail (shown in the picture above) which climbed at a steep slope upwards but seemed like it was the right path. Once we finished the climb and walked forward a bit, we had great views of the surrounding mountains and trees and nature, but still no Tokopah Waterfall — and no definite trail that we could see.
At this point everyone was exhausted. We sat down to eat, and decided that, sadly, this was the farthest we were going to go. We could climb up the dauntingly tall, snow-covered boulders on the banks of the river to get to the falls, but we eventually decided against that. Getting down those boulders with mushy snow was going to be harder than us going up them now. Instead, I spent time listening to the soothing sounds of the river besides me, birds chirping, and contemplating whether I would be able to survive in this wilderness for a few days while laying on the dried pine-strewn floor of the forest with my eyes closed.
I have no idea how much time passed while I laid on the ground — I don’t look at my watch when I’m camping because being in nature somehow feels timeless — but like every utterly beautiful and unique moment in life, the peace ended and my family and I had to make our way back. At this point, the snow was becoming slushy and less packed than it first was when we hiked across it in the morning, which contributed to a lot of falling and faltering and slipping and feeling like the world was sinking beneath my feet when I stepped on a layer of snow that had nothing but air underneath it.
In other words, it was awesome.
It was really interesting how the snow on the trail melted. Instead of melting from the top layer down, the bottom layers actually were the first to melt and turn into running water, which made it challenging to determine whether the next step would be normal step forward or send me tumbling into a dark abyss beneath my feet.
After the struggle back home, I had what seemed like the most delicious lunch in the world — a bagel with vegetable cream cheese and salami. MMMMmmmm. Something as simple as that tasted so wonderfully delicious after such an exhausting and strenuous hike. By the end of that hike, my hiking boots were squelching from the snow that got into them and melted, because there was a point in the hike that I just gave up in picking the snow that constantly found its way into my shoes. It’s part of the experience, yanno?
We were planning to go to Moro Rock after our hike, but we completely underestimated how much energy the hike would drain from us. The rest of the day was spent happily relaxing in the lodge we were staying at, and thinking of how amazing our hike to Moro Rock would be tomorrow…
… and that was Day 2 at the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. 😄
Thanks for reading, and I will cya next time!