Wanderlust Chronicles: Sequoia National Park

Anyone who knows me knows that I am borderline obsessed with making the very most of this life I’ve been blessed with and seeing all this world has to offer. Youth is a gift I feel is so often taken for granted, so I jump on any opportunity I can to take complete advantage of it. It doesn’t always need to be grandiose, either; sure, my bucket list is ever growing with countries I intend to visit and cultures I plan on immersing myself in, but there are so much I want to do and see locally, too. Case in point: our past weekend trip to Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. I’ve been making a running list of things for us to see and partake in on the West Coast since the moment I found out we were going to be moving here. I’d never ventured this far West before, so the seemingly endless possibilities intrigued me and sent my gypsy soul into overdrive.

There are so many national parks on this side of the country I’d seen online, on television, in movies, and everywhere else but my own eyes, and I decided that had to change. I honestly don’t remember how or why I decided on this one first, but I did and began our planning a few months ago. God knew exactly what he was doing when he made Tim my husband, because only someone who truly loves me could keep up with my mind that seems to constantly be going one thousand miles a minute. I’m not a terribly difficult person to shop for, and he’s come to learn that I will ALWAYS take a new experience over a physical gift – I value a heart full of memories built together far more than I would a home full of material possessions. We organized all of the details of our stay, situated our pups with their amazing aunt and cousins (fur and human) for the weekend, and we were shortly on our way!

The drive out wasn’t as lengthy as I’d initially feared, and after the one that brought us to California in the first place, we are now unofficial experts at road trips. Our home is down the street from the beach here, so it was pretty cool to see the terrain change as we traveled north. We passed major cities, which later transformed into acres and acres of farmland, and then finally entered the lush forest and mountains. By the end, it didn’t even seem like we were in California anymore. There were areas of snow on the ground! We entered the parks through the Kings Canyon side and still had a little ways to go before we reached our lodge for the night. Staying inside the park was the best decision we could’ve made because the next closest town was an hour and a half or so away. Our first night there was laid-back. We relaxed after our drive out, explored the property, had dinner, and spent the better part of the night making s’mores and stargazing. We requested a couple trail lunches to be packed for us to take along with us tomorrow and went to bed at a reasonable hour to get an early start on the next day.

We had quite a few things we wanted to get to and see that day, so we were ready and headed out around 9 a.m. that next morning. I’m not sure I’d ever seen skies so beautifully blue and barren of any clouds quite like it. The air up there was thinner, but crisp, cool, and refreshing. We both love being up in the mountains – it was somehow reminiscent of places we’d visited closer to home – and I couldn’t wait to see what was in store for us. Our first stop was Tokopah Falls. It had been recommended to us by a woman at our lodge as the waterfall was roaring due to the spring snow melt. There was a bridge at the beginning of the trail that provided a beautiful view of some of the rapids, but of course, that wasn’t enough for Tim. So we began the over 3 mile trek to see the falls up close. The views on the way up were breathtaking; it’s amazing to me how much natural beauty is housed in our own backyard alone.

After completing that trail and downing a couple bottles of water and snacks, we headed on to our next destination: the General Sherman Tree. Found inside the Giant Forest Sequoia Grove, the General Sherman Tree is the world’s largest tree. There were what looked like hundreds of giant sequoia trees housed within this grove. We stepped inside of one that had been burnt and withstood a wildfire, and I got to hug another on the trail nearby. The General Sherman Tree was absolutely massive; it was somehow worlds bigger than all of those around it. This one was a lot busier than the falls had been, so we weren’t able to get too many pictures up close, but that really didn’t bother me. For the bulk of our trip, we didn’t have phone service and very limited wifi, and I really enjoyed being able to take it all in in that moment with my own eyes.

Next on our list was the Tunnel Log. No hiking involved in this one, just a very scenic drive. On the way there, we passed the Buttress Root, which provided the most incredible  view of the roots from a fallen over Sequoia. I can’t even imagine what it must be like when one of these bad boys topples over. The Tunnel Log is also carved out of a fallen Sequoia, and simply seeing the size of some of the vehicles that were able to pass through it was awe inspiring as well. It truly is astonishing getting out there and experiencing so much of the natural beauty this world holds firsthand. It’s so often overlooked in modern expansion and the constant hustle and bustle, which made it even more special to get to see and feel for ourselves.

Our last venture of the day was Moro Rock. I was relieved to see that it appeared to be a shorter hike (1/2 mile or so round trip) – until we arrived and found that the pathway there was almost entirely paved of stairs. I’d read that there were about 400 steps up to the top and a tiny part of me wanted to reconsider. The stairs were carved out of the side of the granite rock and were only wide enough for one person at a time in some places, but my research beforehand assured me that this was one we couldn’t pass up. It was a process heading up, but by the end, I was so glad we did it. At its highest point, we were 6,725 feet above sea level. The view from the top was truly unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. It provided the most beautiful and undisturbed view of the Sierra Nevada mountains, various canyons, and forestry all around. There was a railing at the top that outlined the designated viewing area, although some people climbed over and under that to sit on the bare rock’s ledge. That sight alone made my palms sweat as heights tend to make me uneasy, but even that was worth overcoming solely for those panoramic views (though we chose to play it safe and stayed within the landing).

After coming back down from Moro Rock, we pulled into one of the many view points along the highway on the way back to the lodge. We sat on the tailgate of the truck and enjoyed our sack lunches together. By the end of the day, we were exhausted but so euphoric that we’d completed all we did. We headed home on Sunday feeling accomplished – sleepy, but accomplished. The weekend away, especially unplugged in the glorious wilderness, did us both a world of good. I cannot adequately express how thankful I am to not only have someone who encourages me in all of my wild endeavors, but is right there beside me experiencing them all himself, too. He makes everything better and the fact that I get to share in the collection of all of these special memories with him is a blessing unlike anything else. We’ve formally begun tackling our list of must-see major national parks. I’d say it was one hell of a start and I anticipate the rest we take on during the remainder our time out here!

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