Wandering West, Day 13, July 6, 2021
Today we visited Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park. I will admit, during the planning phase of this trip these parks have confused me. Everything I was reading was saying you could easily see both of these parks in the same day, yet they offer vastly different landscapes. Also, why in the world are two national parks side by side? You literally have to drive through one to get to the other. They even share a webpage on the National Park Service website nps.gov/seki. So, overall I was very confused and had no idea what to expect. What I found though, were trees so old and large that it amazes me they are still standing and then a canyon so vast and beautiful it made me realize, yet again on this trip, how magnificent our God is.
We started out our morning driving into Sequoia National Park. Keep in mind that we are staying in a valley in California that is full of scrub brush, dry grass, and orange groves. As we approached the park, and even after we entered the park, Kevin was convinced someone was pulling something over on us. There is no way we are about to see giant sequoias based on the landscape all around us. Well, about 20 minutes after we passed the gate to the national park the landscape changed dramatically. We were suddenly in a forest with massive trees all around. A few in our party even saw a bear!!
We took a walk through the Big Trees Trail which was a mile-long loop around a meadow and through a grove of giant sequoias. This was a great way for us to really see how big these trees are. We tried to have the kids hold hands and wrap around one, all nine of them didn’t even make it halfway around! There were also several fallen trees, some of which you could climb through the middle of or “slide down” the middle. I wasn’t willing to do either!! After finished this walk we went down the road and found the General Sherman Tree. This tree is the largest known tree in the world! It is definitely huge but by the time we got to this tree we had already seen so many giant trees that they all just looked big. It was worth the stop, and even the half-mile uphill walk back to the truck after we’d seen it. Now we can say we’ve seen the lowest point in North American (Badwater Basin in Death Valley) and the largest known tree on the planet all while on the same trip.
We continued along the General’s Highway to the next visitor center to see what was next. It was at this point that our group decided to split up and go our separate ways. We were pretty much at the end of Sequoia National Park and were entering Kings Canyon National Park. We talked to a ranger who told us that it was about an hour and a half drive to make it to the end of the General’s Highway which would take us along a steep, windy road. Some of the group was tired and ready to get back to camp rather than continuing on with driving, while some of us wanted to go ahead and drive on to the end of the General’s Highway to see what was next. So, JKLMN went on and the rest of the group headed back.
I am so glad we decided to press on and see what was ahead. It actually ended up being our favorite part of the day. Yes, the giant trees were really cool but the deep canyons are what truly amaze me. Remember earlier I said that the landscape changed drastically within a short period of time? Well, it happened again. We were driving along the very windy highway and then suddenly we were looking at a massive canyon all around us. The best part was that the highway took us all the way down to the floor of the canyon where a river was winding its way through. The drive did get a bit scary at times, you definitely had to take it slow going around the hairpin turns. Thank goodness Johnny was driving, I would not have handled it nearly as well.
We were about halfway down the canyon when I spotted a sign that said: “Warning, Ice Cream Ahead”. What, ice cream in the middle of nowhere in this canyon??? Did we stop??? You betcha we did! We had been looking for a good place to get ice cream this whole trip, now we finally found it. So, several scoops of ice cream later we were back on the road headed to the end of the road.
We did make it to the end of General’s Highway then looped around to start our trek back up. We thought we’d be retracing our steps the whole way back but Google Maps had a different idea for us. We ended up on a back-country road that took us through the neatest cattle land and again through steep, windy, and now much narrower roads. The 17 miles through this section took us almost an hour to drive! We weren’t complaining though, part of what we love about traveling is finding the road less traveled. We sat back and took in all the sights around us, we had no reason to get anywhere fast today.
Overall, Sequoia and Kings Canyon ended up being a surprise gem in all of our national park travels. I did not expect to see the beauty I saw today. Johnny said he’d probably even put Kings Canyon in his top five or six national parks so far.
Tonight we are preparing to start the trip back home. We only have 1,724 miles to go from here! Don’t think the adventure is over yet though, that leaves us plenty of miles to find something interesting along the way and another National Park to visit…Petrified Forrest National Park!