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the grandstand

The Grandstand talks about hiking in a way that is personal, humorous, and humble with the belief that spending time in the wilderness makes us better people. Hikes are more than just mileage and elevation gain—for many of us, they are a means of enduring, and possibly even enjoying, whatever life brings our way.

The Grandstand was named after a rock monolith at the Racetrack Playa in Death Valley.


Roads End to Paradise Valley, Kings Canyon

Roads End to Paradise Valley, Kings Canyon

I'm not inclined to camp in the snow, so by April, I'm longing to set up my tent in the Sierras after a winter of gazing at them from the 395. 

For those impatient ones like me, the valley floor of Kings Canyon stands at only 5,000 feet, where the snow melts relatively early. The winding, majestic road into the canyon usually opens by mid-May on an average snow year, and well before other roads like Tioga Pass in Yosemite. Memorial Day weekend also begins the season for both permit quotas and crowds. So, there's a narrow window in which hiking to Paradise Valley is both ideal and easy.

For all of these practical reasons, the first solo backpacking trip I ever did was to Paradise Valley out of Roads End in Kings Canyon National Park, also known as the first quarter of the Rae Lakes Loop, moving clockwise. What I didn't know is that I would love this hike so much that I would return a year later. These pictures are from my latest trip, which was last weekend.


The trail begins with a charming footbridge and I was surprised to see the water levels from the snowfall of 2018 were not so far behind what I saw in the spring of 2017, not that I believe the permadrought isn't real.


Throughout the first portion of the hike—a flat, wide, and sandy trail lined with forest—the park service was conducting controlled burns. A strange sensory experience ensued as I was simultaneously misted by the South Fork of the King's River and followed by the smoke and smells of burning pine.


As we approached Mist Falls, the temperature dropped about 10 degrees.


A large group dominated the campsites at Lower Paradise Valley, and flat ground was impossible to find at Middle Paradise Valley, so we continued onto Upper. We found the most ideal campsites there, complete with fire rings and a harmonious river soundtrack. It was also fun to see the blown out bridge over the South Fork Kings River, which won't be rebuilt for at least another year, according to SEKI. Nature wins.

Close Ups of the High Sierra by Norman Clyde

Close Ups of the High Sierra by Norman Clyde

Unnecessary But Important Hiking Rituals

Unnecessary But Important Hiking Rituals