“The mountains are calling and I must go.”- John Muir
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
We entered Sequoia National Forest early mid-afternoon after departing Joshua Tree NP and making a quick stop at Kelso Dunes in the Mojave Desert. My boyfriend and I had discussed the best way to enter the park and I had suggested the route to bring us in on one side that looked closer. A few hours after driving winding roads with switchbacks, we both realized we weren’t going to be able to find a ranger station that was open. We stopped about 6 PM to learn that no stations were open. Wanting to camp, but not finding anyone to talk to, we headed to the other side and to the nearest town for the night.
Arriving early, we ventured into Sequoia National Park with enthusiasm. The day before had been long but we knew we saw a part of the forest not many people venture, and we were grateful for the misdirection (I more than my boyfriend). The park is home to dramatic landscapes with huge mountains, rugged foothills, deep canyons, vast caverns, and the world’s largest trees. Sequoia and neighboring park Kings Canyon, lie side by side in the southern Sierra Nevada east of the San Joaquin Valley. Weather varies a lot by season and elevation, which ranges from 1,370′ to 14,494′.
Our first stop was the visitors center to get information on camping for the night. We discovered a new term (to us) called dispersed camping. Basically you can camp anywhere in the park if it looks like a space people have camped outside of the designated campsites, which were already fully booked. After securing a map and stamps for our passport, we headed off into the park to discover the giants who call this place home.
After spending most of the day walking and driving the park, we searched for a campground suitable for spending the night. We picked up some dinner on our way. One of the reasons we rented an SUV for our trip was so that we could explore dirt roads taking the scenic route, off of the main paved, heavily traveled highway. As I held onto the “oh shit” handle above the window, we drove over bumpy rocks and narrow less-traveled terrain, we found our perfect campsite for the night. Deep into the park, where only bears and bighorn sheep live. We set up camp and relaxed in front of a fire ring – with only our flashlights lighting the night sky. The fire ban prohibited us from lighting a match, but we still had an enjoyable night.
After my battle with the camera at Joshua Tree NP trying to create night shots, I was determined to have more patience and work to capture the night sky at Sequoia. My boyfriend, Zeus and I talked as he helped me with my settings. I felt much more calm and relaxed this time. Mostly because I enjoyed the trees much more than the open expanse of the desert, and I wasn’t fearful of scorpions. (Although I woke up Zeus several times through the night at the sound of a twig breaking, thinking it was a bear. Thankfully it never was, but Zeus had his machete, just in case of a chance encounter.)
Waking up early, we headed for some breakfast at the visitor center for Kings Canyon on our way out of the park. We had wanted to visit Yosemite National Park but learned that due to the pandemic, we weren’t able to enter without a pre-purchased ticket. The window for getting a ticket expired two days previously from when we researched visiting the park. It was a somber moment but we realized that we can return to California and give that park the the time it deserves.