Hey guys! Sarah here, taking over where Kaitlin left off in our California road trip series. If you missed the first two posts, check out the first installment for Joshua trees and desert adventures, and the second post for an epic campfire Pho Ramen recipe (and a series of embarrassing family photos, taken circa 1997).
When we started The Woks of Life, I was 22. Barely a year out of college, living alone in my parents’ house, and latching onto the “food blog” idea as a way to stubbornly ignore the fact that I was unemployed and camped out in the suburbs with only my dog for company.
Three years later, I’m 25 (SCARY).
A lot has changed since June 2013. Not only am I now a quarter century old, I have a day job. And an apartment. And a bunch of potted plants that I’m trying desperately to keep alive. I’m––dare I say it?––an adult.
I spent 3 hours the other day watching cartoons. So there’s that.
Of course, one of the biggest perks of my current status as a semi-responsible 25-year-old is the fact that I can now rent a car! From a mainstream car rental company! (As opposed to the one I had to go through when I lived in LA for a semester in college––the sketchily but aptly named “Super Cheap Car Rental”).
In addition to the 70s classic rock-fueled motives that my sister mentioned in her first post of this series, this newfound power was one of the biggest reasons why I suggested the idea of a road trip. And when it came to planning out where we would go, all I wanted was one thing: variety. We began our trip in a bleached, rocky desert. The next logical step? Giant sequoia groves.
After leaving Joshua tree, we had several hours of desert driving ahead of us to get to Sequoia National Park. For miles, it was all blazing sun, 80-degree weather, scrubby chaparral, and swirling dust clouds. We whizzed by on two-lane highways, with barely a car or McDonald’s in sight, and I would look down at the speedometer and suddenly realize that we were pushing 90 mph. With a seemingly endless stretch of road ahead, very few landmarks available to serve as points of reference, and one’s natural urge to gawk at the surrounding mountains, this happened a lot.
Pretty soon, though, the landscape changed. More grass, a few trees.
And then we were suddenly driving through orange groves and berry farms.
Which gave way to green hills and lakes.
Until we found ourselves driving past things like this:
In the course of a few hours, the temperature had dropped from 80 degrees to the low 60s. We got to the campground around dusk, and immediately changed out of our shorts and tank tops into jeans, sweatshirts, and jackets. Cooking dinner in the dark that night was not the triumph that our pho ramen post would lead you to believe. Let’s just say that our campground was picked clean of good kindling and starting a fire in the desert is way easier than it is in the rain.
But…it wasn’t anything that a good night’s sleep couldn’t cure. Kaitlin’s in there somewhere…
The next morning, after a breakfast of s’mores (because…camping)…
(Though, note that the lack of kindling was still a persistent issue–desperate times call for desperate measures, people.)
And fresh strawberries…
…we got in the car and drove from our campground (which is about 4 miles into the park) up to Sequoia’s Giant Forest, which was another 10 or so miles up.
I say “up,” because there was a pretty drastic elevation change. While it was a balmy 65 degrees at camp, we got out of the car at the Giant Forest Museum…
And it was 40 degrees. When we went inside, there was a sign on the wall that said that SNOW was possible that day. We were mildly prepared for such weather, having layered up, but many of our fellow travelers weren’t. Read: there were a lot of very unhappy people in shorts.
Our first stop was Moro Rock, which was a relatively short trek up some stairs. We weren’t sure what to expect at the top. My thought was that we’d probably just get a view of the valley below.
And we did. With a great view of the river below (I think it’s called the Kaweah River? Commenters feel free to pounce if you can correct me.)
But we also got this:
Incredible snow-capped mountains in the distance.
Where one is apparently at a much higher risk of getting struck by lightning.
Having walked up many an endless staircase in my day, this was one of my favorite moments from the entire trip.
But it was still early in the day, and we had more to see. We drove further into the forest.
And we hiked the Crescent Meadow trail, where we saw:
Surprise! Crescent Meadow:
And this old cabin made out of a hollowed out Sequoia tree:
We also headed to the Congress Trail, where tourists were gathered around the largest tree in the world by volume, the General Sherman. It’s the one in the middle there that I’m standing directly in front of:
We decided to walk further in to hike the Congress Trail, which we figured would be pretty crowded. But guys. There. was. no. one.
The tourist crowd seemed to be there for General Sherman and General Sherman only, snapping a few photos and then heading back up to the parking lot. But while the General Sherman is indeed an impressive specimen of a tree, there were giant sequoias with no names at all that were equally––if not more––magnificent, perhaps due to their conspicuous lack of names.
It felt like we were the only two people there––two tiny humans in a sea of ancient giants.
Of course, we did end up passing by some notable landmarks, including the House…
And this insane downed sequoia:
And this cracked one:
Plus, Kaitlin got her eagerly anticipated tree hugging photo. As you can see, she was really happy about it.
On the way back down to camp, we went a little crazy, stopping at every available turnout in the road to take in as much of the park as we could. The highlight?
This up-close-and-personal view of that river we saw earlier:
I wanted variety. And I definitely got it.
Next stop? The coast! And Highway 1. Stay tuned. (Update: Head to the Highway 1 post here.)