Day 115 – 12/23 Sequoia National Park

We had a nice day checking out Sequoia National Park and some of the biggest trees on earth.

Well, it’s still a foggy morning, but not even close to as bad as all the other days.  Today so far, at 8am, looks more like an overcast day and visibility looks good enough to be safe to be out and driving.

Our windows are looking decent too, most of the windows are clear with a bit of condensation around the edges, and almost no dripping.

I slept in Bia’s bunk, which was the top bunk this week.  It’s not as comfy as our bed, but it’s pretty decent.  Temperature was good, mattress was fine.  Only challenge was that I had a few beers before going to bed, and woke up in the middle of the night to pee.  Then coming down from there is always a bit of work, but not too bad. hahahaha… 

Everyone else woke up on their own time, but all around 8:30-9.  The girls woke up and were on their electronics.  Carol woke up, had breakfast and worked on packing our food for today’s trip.  I got one post done and got ready to go, got all the shoes out and loaded the truck.

We left around 10:45 I think, and it was an easy ride until we got to the park, which was within 45 minutes.  From the park entrance on, we were basically climbing the mountains, and the road was an uphill massive zig zag all the way to 7000 and some feet. 

As you can imagine, average speed was pretty low, so it took another 45 minutes or more to go the last 16 miles to the top.  There were a lot of pin needles, switchbacks, all over, so it was slow!  There was a line to get into the park, like maybe 8 cars or so ahead of us, not bad.  A few would go in and turn around and leave, we guessed why, and confirmed once we went through…. Chains Required!  Way up in the mountain there were areas with enough ice that they were in status R3, which requires all vehicles to have chains when getting there, so the park rangers won’t let you in at all unless you have chains.  Well, we do have chains now hahahaha, so we got in, and that’s why others were not getting in, they likely didn’t have chains.  I must say now though, even though we didn’t go past the General Sherman tree trail, which is the last mile or so where we got some ice, there was no ice anywhere else.  I’m assuming all the ice was past the point we stopped and towards Kings Canyon.  So, depending on where those people were going, they could have made it, though having no chains and getting stuck will get you stuck with a $5k fine.

Anyway, we took our time and drove up in the zig zags, and as we went up we could see the weather improving, no clouds, no fog, just clear blue skies… we could see the view improving, valleys and mountains… and the trees were getting bigger.  We didn’t make any big stops on the way up, just one as we got in to use the restroom, and Carol talked to the Park Ranger there to get some tips.  The drive was pretty good and no ice until about the last mile or two, then there was some ice, but easily visible, and they had put sand over it, so no issues with traction.  I didn’t put the truck in 4×4 at all, and since we were going so slow due to all the turns, we had no issues.  We did see a few cars with chains.  We were lucky again with parking, and found a spot right by the trail entrance as we drove in.  Our plan was to have lunch there, and then hit the trail.  We found a spot in the sun, where we could look into the valley and had our lunch.  The empanadas were delicious!  We all ate, Carol had Maggie with us out, and then took her back to the car when we were done eating.

The trail to General Sherman Tree is not very long from that spot.  Right away, there was a big fallen tree in the path of the trail, and a hole was carved so we could go through (and under) the fallen tree.  That was pretty cool, and gave us a feel for how big those trees are. 

After that the trail turns left, and there’s a sign that says “This is it” and has a picture of a tree.  The sign is pretty faded, and so it was hard to see exactly what we were looking for.  Right in front of it there was a pretty big tree, so I looked at it and thought, oh ok.. that’s the biggest tree on the planet?  Ok, well, that’s not much bigger than the Redwoods we saw before, but cool.  We took a few pictures and kept going.  The trail then turns around a bend with a few big trees on the edge, and opens into a circle around one tree… that was it… HOLY SHIT!  My jaw just dropped, almost literally…. That tree was IMMENSE!  I don’t even know how to explain it, and the pictures give a good idea, but it’s not like staring at that massive tree live.  WOW!  I was truly impressed by the size of that 2200 year old tree.  The base circumference of the tree is over 100ft, it is the biggest tree on the planet based on total mass and weight.  The size of that tree is something you have to experience… WOW again!  We took some pictures, but none showed just how big the tree is.  Ok, enough on that, but you got the point… it’s a massive tree, and according to Bob, you could probably make a few hundred homes with the amount of wood that is there. (Disclaimer: this is for entertainment purposes only, no trees were or will be harmed).

We kept walking through the trail, and saw a few other pretty big trees.  It is a cool area, there’s this awesome feel about it, the air smells great, soft pine smell.  I would have done another trail next to where we were, but the girls were already wanting to go back, and I know how that usually goes.  So, we walked back to the truck, enjoyed the views, and one last look at General Sherman as we exited the trail.

From there, the plan was to start heading back, stop at any lookouts we wanted, and make a stop at the Sequoia Museum, and walk around that area.  There are some “famous” trees there too, and a trail to Moro Rock, which we were told is awesome, but long (may be for a different day).  We took our time driving back, and I slowed down or pulled over quite a few times to enjoy the views and take pictures.  It is amazing to be up there, and see the sun setting in the horizon.    As we drove down, I prepared the girls for our stop, they didn’t want to go walking again, so I got them to agree to go down and check out these couple of trees that are near the parking lot.  When we arrived, Bella saw the area had a bunch of snow, so she wanted to go towards the snow and play a bit.  I told them we were looking for a tree called Sentinel.  We walked around, saw a few big trees, saw the three big trees together, which I cannot remember the name… but it’s quite something to see three of those, lined up, next to each other, looked like you could put a big “tree building” there.  We had a nice walk around, Bella was a bit off the paved path, and went to touch one of the trees. 

Very cool experience as well.  The bark feels dry and sounds hollow.  We then crossed the street towards the Museum, and there was Sentinel Tree.  I guess the story is that that’s the only tree that is lit up in the park, so that’s the sentinel.  It’s a pretty big tree.  We got some pics and kept walking around. 

We went towards the Moro Rock trail, the car path is closed, so to get there you need to walk, and that was not happening today.  We’ll need to come back for that.  We crossed the street back and as we walked towards the car I saw a path that led to some rocks, and it looked like there was a nice view of the mountains.  I started walking there, the girls didn’t want to go, so they went to the car, and Carol came with me.  And I’m so glad we went there… WOW!  Another amazing spot, we had an awesome view of the mountain range, all covered in trees, with the sun in the horizon, and some fog covering up parts of the valleys.  Amazing spot… amazing feeling to be just there looking at that.  What a privilege.  Carol and I took our time enjoying the view, taking pics, trying to notice all the little things that made that spot so special… a solo tree on the rocks on the path of the view, a tree that was bigger than the other, the fog covering some parts of the valley, the different colors in the sky by the sunset, and the light pine smell in the air.  Wow… 

As we walked back to the truck, Carol picked up some pine cones on the way, and said those were the perfect ones for her project.  I told her I didn’t believe it, as she’s been hauling pine cones for weeks now. hahahahah… She said those were perfect because they were dry, and open.  More to come on that :).

As we drove down, we saw more awesome views of the valley, and when I pulled up to the first stop I could, we told the girls to look out.  They were impressed with the view.  So, I “taught them” to take “mental pictures” of the view.. hahahah… I said what they had to do is to look at something amazing they want to remember forever, pay attention to all the details and feelings they have as they look at it, and then blink their eyes, like a camera shutter.  And they did that.  I heard Bella do it a few more times as we drove down, she could go “click click” and when I looked she was staring out and blinking.  AHAHA.. so cute.  In all honestly, I have done this many times… some memorable moments when I was in places with no camera, and was just feeling something amazing and wanted to remember it forever… like being in Belgium at Tomorrowland, with my brother and my sister, in the middle of 100k people, having an awesome time. Or when my hole immediate family was at home in Wisconsin for Xmas, all together.  It’s always amazing to be with my family, but some moments are more special than others.

We enjoyed the rest of the drive out of the park.  We saw some deer by the last picnic area, I’m sure they were there looking for leftovers :). The drive back after we left the park was nice, we enjoyed more great views of the sun setting.  There’s a river that runs along the road at some point and the area is beautiful.  All the rivers and bodies of water in the area are extremely low, and you can visibly see the signs of where the water levers normally are, and they are like 15-20ft lower in many places, it’s crazy.  We saw lots of fruit plantations too, looked like oranges, limes, grapes and strawberries.  Before we went back home, we stopped at a grocery store to get some stuff, and Carol had an Amazon package waiting at a locker at a Rite Aid store.

We got back, the girls were playing inside, playing basketball with the hoops and balls they got from Santa a few days ago.  I started a fire outside and Carol joined me later.  I ate a few more of the empanadas.  The girls had left over soup for dinner.  Not sure what Carol had for dinner :). The girls were watching a Fail Army tv channel, which is all tumbles and falls videos, really funny stuff.  Carol and I were outside for a few hours, enjoying the fire, having some beers and chatting.  It was a great time for just the two of us to be chatting, talking about life, making plans, etc. 

When the fire was almost out, we went back inside and joined the girls in watching those funny videos.  Carol and I had planned a prank on them… before we went outside, I told them to shower and they had not.  So we planned we would just go in, quietly shower (without calling it out or making a fuss), and see if they noticed and took the hint.. .and if not, we’d quietly go to bed and see what would happen hahahahahaha.  Well, we walked in… Carol got her stuff and went to the bathroom, came back showered… I did the same next…. And nothing from the girls.  It was like 10pm, and we didn’t want to go to bed just yet, so we decided to prompt them… I just asked if they realized if anything had happened… nope… and we kept going… eventually they got that we had showered and were ready for bed, and if they didn’t go, they’d be on their own.  And let me tell you, they do not sleep without a good night from us 🙂 hahahah so they hurried up and showered.  Then, we watched a bit more TV and went to bed.

We had a nice day visiting Sequoia National Park, amazing place.

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