It’s a long drive from Pinnacles NP to Sequoia NP on the foothills of Sierra Nevada on the eastern side of California. The scenery changes from hills to dry semi-desert to hills and mountains again.
So we drove and drove and drove, stopping only for ice-cream and fruit stands. OK, actually we also had our breakfast on the side of a highway. I guess it was a pretty unusual sight for the locals to see someone have a makeshift kitchen by the side of the road, so quite a few stopped to ask if we needed help. Most probably they really thought it was Jamie Oliver making a new cooking show and wanted to ask for an autograph!
We had planned to see the 3 big national parks, starting from the south – Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Yosemite, sitting side by side in the Sierra Nevada like the three tenors. Before getting to the parks we decided to see their little nephew – Sequoia National Monument.
Tunnel Rock tunnel was dug out by workers to attract visitors to the park
Driving in the mountains in the spring is like playing Family Feud (Rooside sõda) – you know some of the roads are going to be closed, but sometimes there’s an odd one or the one you forgot. We checked the road closures, but missed the fact that a little strip had a different number on it, therefore making it perfect for fooling us driving into a dead end. The good thing about the dead end- the drive was scenic and it had a hot spring at the end of it – all to ourselves. So we soaked in the warm pool and laid in the sun for a while before heading back the way we came.
After a while we were back on a road that looked just like the one we had taken to the dead end. This time it took us to the Sequoia NP. We enjoyed the sunset and the starry sky just outside the park to start with the big trees early in the morning.
The giants are either picky, shy or clever – they grow in the few groves between altitudes of 1500 – 2100 m in the Sierra Nevada mountain range and it took the white man quite a while to find them and start cutting them down. Cutting most probably just because of hurt egos of their small human bodies, because sequoia wood isn’t the best type of timber nor does it make sense to spend a week to cut down a tree that doesn’t fit in a lumber mill.
Some of the trees lost their lives just to prove they were real. People on the east coast called the stories and pictures a “California hoax” so the westeners sent a sequoia log for the US centennial expo in Philadelphia in 1876 to prove themselves.
When it comes to our experience, we must say we had high expectations and that is never good. When we arrived at General Sherman, the largest living organism in the World, we weren’t too impressed. It didn’t stand out in any way nor was the forest magical in a way the Redwoods had been. The never ending line of tourists didn’t help in creating the pure nature feeling neither, but gave a good perspective of how big the sequoias really are.
The Grant Grove further up north, however, was more awe inspiring. General Grant is like Cartman from South Park – the fattest kid on the block. He and his mates really make you look up and go “wow”.
Our favourite part of the day was on the hiking trails, though. We started with Moro Rock, a monolith overlooking the way to sequoias. It’s 350 steps up and 350 steps down – nice and easy. And pretty crowded. We asked for something harder and with less people from the visitors centre and Tom suggested Little Baldy, warning that it may still have some snow patches, but excellent views from the top.
Sounded like a plan. We knew from the beginning of the trail that it’s going to be lonely on top of the hill, because there were no fresh footprints on the snowpatches. Tom had mistaken on the amount of snow, though. Basically the whole trail was covered in 40 cm of snow. We got our “Frozen” mode on and glided on the snow like Elsa and made it to the summit in no time. After taking an hour to soak in the beautifully aligned photons (views) from the scene we headed down and found out that at least 6 people had foolishly followed our footsteps into the snow. We gave everyone a challenge and slid down one of the slopes on our butts. Too bad that we’ll never know if anyone took the bait! Next up – the famous Yosemite!