My first taste of hiking in the Sierra Nevada Mountains came in August of 2012, when I took a three day weekend and traveled up to King’s Canyon National Park in California, not knowing what to expect. It was my first solo camping trip in ages, and I’d just heard the Park existed. I knew about Sequoia, naturally, which extends to the south of King’s Canyon and forms one massive National Park area covering the majority of the southern end of the High Sierras, but King’s Canyon was a mystery.
I followed back roads up through the foothills before descending back down the massive namesake canyon to the campground at the literally named “Road’s End,” where I set up camp and looked over my map of the Park. The campground was full of people, mostly weekend campers enjoying splashing in the cool waters of the King’s River, or grilling hotdogs next to their huge RV’s. It was a bit too much bustle for what I had in mind, so I looked at trails that would lead me away from the throng. I saw a trail leading up from Road’s End to a place called Paradise Valley, which sounded great, so I circled it and went to sleep in the surprising heat along the canyon floor.
The next morning I set out from Road’s End and gradually started up the Wood’s Creek Trail, following its namesake creek as it tumbled down through the forested floor of the canyon. Eventually, the woods thinned, and the smooth granite of the Sierras started to replace the smooth dirt of the forest floor. The sound of the creek grew louder, and I came around a bend to see Mist Falls, a small waterfall sheeting off exposed granite, just ahead of me.
I went down to the creek and scrambled out over some rocks, using my tripod as a walking stick. It was still hot, and the cold mountain water felt so good I took off my boots and sat there on a rock, barefoot in the river, trying to get the perfect long exposure. I’m not sure I got it, but the photo above is still one that brings back memories of that hot August day, that blessedly cool creek, and the sound of the water as it tumbled across the granite. I never made it to Paradise Valley on that first day in the Sierras, but I found my own little slice of Paradise there watching Mist Falls.