I had sprained my ankle very badly 3 weeks previous to this trip, so what would have been a backpacking trip turned into a car camping trip. No big deal, because there was plenty to see near the road, and Sequioa is such a BEAUTIFUL area! Warning. I kind of ramble on in this trip report, partly to refresh my memory, but partly because I happened to be in a rambling mood!
Up front, so you don't have to listen to me babble on, here are the pictures.
We unfortunately chose the wrong way to get there, so we were stuck for hours and hours and eventually got a hotel in Gilroy for the first night. The 2nd day was slow going as well, but we eventually made it to the buckeye flat campground. Really pretty area! There was a stream roaring just down the hill, swollen from the rain that had happened the previous day or two. We set up the tent and walked up a trail for about a mile and took a few of those dark pictures which are at the start of the picture album as the sun set. The atmosphere was cold and foggy and dark and spooky. Very fall. Lots of trees with their leaves falling off and all sorts of pretty colors. It was kind of odd, though. Normally, the foothills which we were camping in were fairly dry, so there were a lot of deserty type trees and plants, but it was all wet and drippy from the rain, so it was kind of a strange world. But this was good, because Steph was interested in starting our camping down in the Mojave and then driving north to Sequoia, but we ran out of time to make it down there, so she got her fill of dry plantlife.
I'm not sure if Sequoia NP has a worse bear problem than Yosemite, or if they are just taking precautions to make sure they don't get in the same predicament, but they had bear warnings everywhere, and bear boxes, etc. That was kind of nice, though, because it meant that we had a place to store all our food out of the rain... But I get ahead of myself. :-) For food, we had (this being Thanksgiving after all) turkey fajitas, with fresh turkey, onions, peppers, and some of our favorite hotsauce, cooked on a big-ass skillet with all sorts of toppings. Mmmm! Car camping sure is nice! We even had our pillows and a real cutting board, spatula, etc. Truly a luxurious camping trip!
The next morning, we drove up to Lodgepole, at 6700 feet, and set up camp there. There were obviously more folks there than they had expected. The camping was free, but you had to walk in from the parking lot because they didn't want to maintain any roads out in the camping loops, I believe. But everybody else was driving in and around the sign, so we did as well. But even with this surfeit of people, the place was virtually empty. That was nice. We set up our tent and bags and everything in case it rained on us, because that was supposedly called for in the not so distant future.
We then drove back down to the General Sherman tree and Moro rock. Supposedly, the General Sherman giant Sequioa is the most massive living thing on the planet. I heard that this was fungus, because those mats of fibers under the soil supposedly go on and on and on, but perhaps they discount this because they are a bunch of cooperating funguses, and not one huge plant or some subtle distinction like that. Well, that tree was big. Supposedly, there are trees that are taller, and some which are wider, older, etc, but this one has the most mass, and is 2700 years old or so. Pretty incredible. There are a few pictures of this tree in the album. The Sun was out and super nice there.
But just over the hill, the land was engulfed in clouds! Moro Rock was where we decided to eat lunch, but we should have done it back with the big tree, because it was cold and foggy. It was amazing. We just drove through the big sequioa forest and BAM, here was this wall of fog which we drove into, and it was a different world. Very pretty and spooky and cool. We parked, ate quickly, and walked up the stairway to the top of Moro Rock, which is a granite dome kind of like Halfdome in Yosemite, but not split in half, and smaller. And they've built a staircase up it, so pretty much anybody can make it to the top. The view from there must be quite amazing, but most of the time, it was engulfed in clouds, so it wasn't easy to see anything. But every once in a while, the clouds would part, and we'd see some of the 14000 foot mountains off in the distance, covered in snow. Breathtaking! It was like being in a plane, we were so high.
We then drove to the Sierra trailhead (I believe that was the name), and walked a couple of miles up the trail through the clouds and the forest. Super pretty! I wish we'd been able to backpack into there. It was a nice trail, and it looked like it went some amazing places. And it was so quiet and peaceful in the fog. But perhaps it was best, in light of the next day's events... But again, I get ahead of myself. :-) The trees were condensing lots of fog and dripping it down, creating an eerie dripping dark forest where the clouds were, and a nice quiet and damp forest outside of that. I got a few pictures, but it was difficult to capture the mood of the place. It was like a place out of Grimm's fairy tales.
We drove back to Lodgepole and drove through a huge tree that had fallen down and been cut into to make a roadway, and then we cooked a super yummy dinner of pasta with peppers and red sauce and then had hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps and tried to make a fire and then went to bed. It was scheduled to rain that night, and it did. It started by a brief snowish type thing, and then just got right down to cold rain, and lots of it. Then, it really started to rain. And then it started to rain even more. And even more. And it was just pouring! No letups. Just constant insane amounts of rain, for all of the rest of the night. We were all snug and warm and dry in "The Oven, double burner version", and our tent. But the next morning, it started to rain in earnest. Steph got restless and got up to make some tea and maybe breakfast. She succeeded in making the tea after fashioning a rain screen for the stove from the wind screen. Luckily, we had anticipated rain, and had stored all our wet weather stuff in the tent with us. So we didn't get wet at all after we got up and going. For a while. Despite us both treating our boots with this great waterproofing stuff, they both, in a matter of hours, soaked through. My boots fared a bit better than Steph's, but we didn't feel so invulnerable after a while.
It was so wet and difficult to cook that Steph decided that we should go eat out. There was some sort of a fancy restaurant/hotel thing further up the road, so we went there and had a super yummy breakfast buffet and watched the rain come down. It was really pretty. There were sheets of it floating through the air, and every once in a while, a big huge roar of wind would rip through and push those sheets around and cause the trees to shake and wave. We took off just ahead of the crowd trying to get in to the small dining room to eat breakfast and went back to the visitor's center, where we thought we'd look at the exhibits out of the rain for a while. The power was out, so we used flashlights. We then asked and were told that the rain was scheduled to turn to snow later in the day, so we decided, with a bit of reluctance, to return to lower elevations, because it was raining so hard that were it to snow, it would probably snow a foot or so an hour, and they said that they wouldn't be plowing where we were camping, so we'd probably be stuck, not having a big high clearence vehicle or anything.
And it was a good thing that we made that decision! For upon returning from the visitor's center, we noticed that the creek we were next to had risen dramatically, and a lake had appeared around our tent platform, which was almost overrun. We packed everything up in a hurry, and just sort of removed the poles and rolled up the tent rather than stowing it properly because of INSANE amounts of rain and mud that was still on/in the tent. We left to head south, but ran into a big log blocking the road, so we all turned around and went back to the visitor's center who told us that all roads were closed because of fallen trees, rockslides, etc. We were trapped! And it was still bucketing down rain.
We dawdled about for a bit in the rain and the visitor's center, then discovered a laundromat with working dryers meant to serve campers! We pulled out our sleeping bags and socks and gloves and other wet things, and dried everything out quite nicely. I even set the tent out in the rain to rinse off the mud (which looked pretty wierd), and then put it in a dryer and cooked most of the water off. A nicely washed tent resulted! We were about to pull out our stove and start cooking lunch when all of a sudden, somebody radioed the visitor's center and told them that the road to the south was mostly clear, and that we should all go. We all did, and the drive down to 2600 feet was amazing! There were trees pulled off the road everywhere, branches and mats of tree stuff covering the road, rivers of mud and water flowing across the road. We had to drive through what looked like a mudslide in progress, around rockslides, through deep water, etc. It was quite amazing. But we made it out!
We debated camping again, but we were exhausted, so we went to Hospital Rock and looked at the indian stuff there, and then drove down to the nearest town and got a hotel. We slept soooo well. The next day, there was a bunch of snow on the hills above us. We were pretty sure that it would have been even more extreme had we stayed. Which would have been challenging and fun, but we were pretty tired already. Then, we drove home. What an adventure! So, I'd recommend Sequoia National Park. It's really beautiful. Just be prepared for some exciting weather if you go on the off season.
Back up to backpacking...