About an hour into the drive in Sequoia National Park you will pass a sign that says Entering Giant Forest. Just beyond that sign the striking orange glow of a giant Sequoia amidst the more subdued forest tapestry makes it clear why. You'll get to maneuver around numerous people parked awkwardly in slim pullouts on hairpin turns to snap photos at the foot of massive Sequoia's; pausing for a second take at layers of mountains ranges fading one behind another toward the horizon; and clamoring with a spontaneous group of amateur photographers to capture a foraging, disinterested black bear for the family album.
On the one hand you think, "C'mon people, these turns are way more fun if you keep moving!", and then you find yourself carelessly swerving your car into a cliffside pullout half its size and shambling back up the road to take a photo of vibrant yellow mountain flower afront a vast landscape of Giant Sequoias around a meadow with a disinterested black bear.
This June, I took a 3 day trip to Sequoia National Park. This post documents a few of the highlights.
I stayed just outside the park at a place called Sequoia Riverfront Cabins in Three Rivers, CA. I checked in at 4pm, discovered my room (next to the empty appliance boxes in the parking area) had not been cleaned, received a nice little upgrade a couple of cabins down (past the pile of tattered windows leaning up against the game room, out of range of the office wifi).
The place is near a river, however you have to walk through a fairly unkept field full of rocks and weeds and past a rusted truck chassis to get to it. There are plenty of picnic tables and benches, mostly littered with the wear of being outside without much tending. If you're okay with brushing off your seat, they are structurally sound. Management kindly provides bottled water in the rooms, as the river can discolor the water from the faucet, and the shower had a distinct smell of sulfur.
If you can't stay inside the park, Three Rivers is a good home base. The drive in to several nice areas of the park is about an hour, and it's quite enjoyable – full of sinuous mountain roads, scenic overlooks, dashes of wildflowers, and big trees to appreciate along the way. With a good audiobook, soundtrack, or in silence: it's a nice drive.
On arrival, I unpacked and head into the park to catch the sunset up at Moro Rock. I arrived a bit early so I had time to stroll up to the vista and back a couple times. The tight corners and sheer edges make the walk quite interesting, as did the layered mountains and vast forests in each direction. I stopped upon one of the ledges to read for a half hour before heading back up to the top for the sunset. While I had been to the top shortly before and seen the sun descending in the West, I was surprised on my final ascent. When I peaked the setting sun had been joined by a full moon rising to the East.
Standing at the top of Moro Rock, a blazing sun setting to the west, and full moon rising to the east, I couldn't help but turn in circles until I was dizzy.
My second day started in Crescent Meadow. On the path that loops around the meadow, there were three bears foraging and mostly unconcerned by the number of camera's and bustle following them around.
I had intended to make the loop around the meadow and hike a 2 mile trail over the hill down to General Sherman (by volume, the largest known living tree), however, at the trailhead as I parted from the meadow toward the massive tree I ran into a group of seven pale Germans and was told that just over the hill there were four or five bears.
"Like, right next to the trail!" exclaimed one of the two in the crowd still wielding a thick, fallen branch.
All I had was my camera and my wit, neither of which seemed overly tempting to a bear, but as I paused at the trailhead for five minutes unpassed by any other hikers on the trail, I chose to not take my chances venturing down the path alone.
Completing the loop, I started to drive to a more populous trail near General Sherman but, before long, I found myself again amidst passerby and three more bears trotting through the woods.
After the romp, I made my way over to the impressively large General Sherman; chased a marmot along Big Trees Trail (which also provided a fine meadow and peaceful bench to read some Edward Tufte); and enjoyed a simple dinner at the Wuksachi Lodge (whose Manhattan and Irish Coffee had nothing on my mom's, but were a nice cap to an enjoyable day).
On the third day, I drove up to Mineral King on the southern side of Sequoia National Park. Mineral King Road is a gnarly 25 mile drive that feels like it's just shy of two lanes wide. It's carved along the south side of the mountain and took over an hour and a half in one direction. A good half the trip I was having flashbacks - hand rushing to my dashboard in attempt to comfort my car discman before it skipped. I indulged in the requisite pie along the way at Silver City Resort. And I stepped from my car at the end of the road with an additional 1000 steps on my Fitbit.
My time was largely spent appreciating wildflowers and distant peaks and wishing I had more time to hike up to the collection of lakes beyond the trailhead at the end of the road.
While I would have loved to have stayed, it was time to make my way back. I picked up some Seared Tuna with Wasabi Honey Tacos at Muertos Kitchen & Lounge in Bakersfield, and paused for a chai, some coding, and live Irish Music at Dagny's Coffee a block away.
The reading list
A few songs off the soundtrack