This is the fifth post in a series about our recent vacation/adventure to California. Feel free to read the first post about Calaveras Big Trees State Park, or check out the second, third, and fourth posts about our 3 days in Yosemite National Park.
I’m back! Today I’m going to share our first day spent in Sequoia National Park. Before I dive into all that, I want to share a sneak peak of an on-going project that was partially inspired by this part of our trip…
As I mentioned in my last post, we were staying in Three Rivers, California, which is right outside of Sequoia National Park. Compared to the 3 days we had just spent in the lush greenery of Yosemite, this area was quite different. The hills were golden brown and dotted with dark green – a landscape similar to Calaveras’ wine country.
Considering the fact that the mountains of Sequoia National Park were just as green as Yosemite, it was surprising how arid the lower elevations were. There were even a couple of palm trees downtown!
The place we stayed at, The Buckeye Tree Lodge, had potted cacti all around the premises, and they have been sitting in my brain ever since. So, I finally answered the call of the cacti muse, and carved a couple of cacti stamp sets:
Handcarved cactus & flowerpot stamps
I actually have more to share (and more to make), but I’ll post about them after the California Dreaming series wraps up.
Let’s get back to today’s topic, shall we?
Our first day in Sequoia National Park included a loooong (and windy) drive into the park, with great views of the river valley and Moro Rock.
Kaweah River Valley.
One of the first features we saw was Tunnel Rock. The main road used to go beneath it, but they eventually had to close it as cars got larger.
Tunnel Rock with a Moro Rock in the distance.
Moro Rock. Notice the 3 lines near the middle of the picture, that is the road winding back and forth.
Eventually we entered The Giant Forest, and I was back in another Treehugger Heaven!!! This forest rivaled Calaveras Big Trees State Park in awesomeness! After getting some good advice and buying a Giant Forest map from the Visitor Center, we decided to park at the General Sherman Tree parking lot and then hike 3ish miles south to Crescent Meadow (where we could then take the free shuttle back to our car).
The first must-see of our hike was the General Sherman tree, which is “recognized as the as the world’s largest tree”. I think the caveat is that it’s not necessarily by height or width (I think there are wider and taller trees), but by mass. Nevertheless – it was still tough to get a picture of the giant. But here is one from afar, up close, and also looking up from below it.
The General Sherman tree is one of the most popular trees in the park, and is surrounded by paved paths, so that area was pretty crowded – but once we got on the Congress Trail and continued on with our hike, it quickly became desolate.
The fallen sequoias really refresh your perspective on how tall these trees are, as they span for yards through the woods.
Eventually we made our way to the McKinley Tree. Perpendicular to the tree & the trail was a path that went up a small hill, and led you to this stunning view of this massive tree:
The McKinley Tree, Sequoia National Park. Can you see me??
At one point the sunshine’s golden rays were pouring in between the trees and we came to my favorite grouping of trees: The Founders Group. It was perfect:
Entering The Founders Group
You’ll have to take my word for it: lots of Founders Trees were hugged.
Not far from here, the forest was broken up by wide areas of meadows that used to be for grazing (domestic) sheep in the early 1900s:
As it turns out, some animals still like to graze here, because this is when we came across 3 bears! Yes, BEARS!! Eek!!!
I should mention, a couple years ago we went to Rocky Mountain, Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks. There, you are strongly advised not to hike if you don’t have Bear Spray. Yes, Bear Spray – that’s a real thing. It’s super strong pepper spray that shoots about 10-20 feet away, so you can spray and then RUN LIKE HELL (at least, that’s what I would do). That’s because those parks have Grizzly bears, which are large and (therefore) not scared of humans. Thankfully, we never had to use our Bear Spray.
California, on the other hand, has Black Bears (although, their fur ranges from blonde to cinnamon to brown and black) which are smaller and more likely to be scared of humans. Don’t get me wrong – I was still pretty nervous when we saw them…but I still took the time to put the zoom lens on and snap some pics, from afar.
After we snapped some shots, Paul found some branches to bang together so we could make our presence known and not startle the bears. Then, we went off trail to give the bears plenty of space. We weren’t about to test the “they’re more scared of you than you are of them” theory. From that point on, we picked up our pace and hoped we would see some people soon.
But, instead of people, we saw marmots, which was a little surprising. Being in such a thick forest with very few overlooks, we forgot how high we actually were (about 6,500 feet).
And then, we saw ANOTHER bear. Thankfully this one was much further away, so it was less scary – but it still had us wondering (for the first time on our trip)…where are all the humans??
Again, we continued our expedited pace…but I’m glad Paul snapped this picture:
This Giant Forest is magical :)
We (finally) started to see some people as we neared Crescent Meadow, and before long, made it to the parking lot. Since we had time to kill before the next shuttle, we decided to eat lunch at the picnic tables. While we were eating, a family of 4 deer emerged from the woods, no more than 10 feet from us! We were wildlife magnets!
The weather had become pretty overcast at this point, with a definite threat of rain. After the shuttle brought us back to our car, we headed over to the post office and gift shop and killed some time before deciding what to do next. We had planned on climbing up to the top of Moro Rock to see the sunset, but that didn’t look too promising.
So, we had decided to just head back to town, have a good dinner, and a nice relaxing night. Evidently, Sequoia had different plans for us….
First, when we left the gift shop, we saw ANOTHER bear! This time, I was thrilled to be within the confines of our car.
As we made our way back through the park, we started to see peeks of sunlight through the clouds.
At the last minute, we decided to get ourselves to the top of Moro Rock to try and catch the sunset. By the time we parked, I was a little (okay, a lotta) frantic because I was sure that we were getting there too late & were going to miss it, so I practically ran the 350 steps to the top.
I’m glad I had to stop periodically to catch my breath, because I would also snap some pictures. The views, combined with the twilight lighting, were in-credible!
See the lines to the left? That is the super windy road that I mentioned at the beginning of this [epic-length] post
Although this hike was made a million times easier because of the steps – there were definitely some parts that made my palms sweat…
After we finally made it to the top, and the sun took a solid 20 minutes to actually set, so – all the rushing was for nothing. At least I got a good workout. Even better, we had plenty of time to take in all of this:
I love how you can see precipitation in the distance to the right of this picture.
I am so (so, so, so) thankful we decided to get up to the top of Moro Rock. This sunset was unforgettable.
After the sun had completely set, we got our flashlights out and headed down to the car. It took us about an hour to drive out of the park and get back to our lodge. At that point, all the restaurants in town were closed. So, we ate sandwiches that we had bought for the next day, I wrote out some postcards, we kept talking about the bears, and we ended up having that nice relaxing night.
I should be wrapping up this series in 3 more posts. I hope you’re all still enjoying it!