Recently I have been in need of an escape- a trip away from work, concrete, and the metropolitan hustle and bustle of Orange County. I wasn’t surprised when I found myself agreeing to a spontaneous three day getaway to the mountains when my also spontaneous travel bug asked me to accompany her. I was ready to hit the road, to explore and breathe some fresh mountain air. We decided to go to Sequoia National Park, because it was only four hours away from Orange County, and I had never been there before. As a National Park enthusiast, I was more than happy to add this beautiful place onto my list of frequented parks. We stopped by the dollar store and stocked up on some camp food, loaded our tiny car to the brim with bulky camping equipment and camera gear, and set out on I-5 North towards the Sierra Nevadas. The drive went by fast. We left around 2 pm and entered the park around 6. We didn’t have any camping reservations, but luckily when we rolled in, there were many vacant sights. Next time, we will definitely make sure there’s a camp sight for us, though.
We were welcomed with towering mountains that mimicked cathedrals of grandeur. The mountains were tall and snowcapped. As we arrived, the sun was just dipping over the horizon, so we raced as fast as we could up the windy road to Moro Rock- our first destination of the trip. Moro Rock is a giant craggy rock that juts out of the hilltop, providing a spectacular view of the mountains above and the valleys below. To the east lie the Sierras, and to the West- seemingly endless farmland dotted with rolling hills and golden fields of swishing wheat. It was euphoric. This moment on this rock, surrounded by fellow sunset chasers, was just the beginning of our adventure in this park. After the sun went down and we were blanketed in darkness, we scrambled down the rock as fast as we could, dodging spiky rocks and cliffs. We reached our tiny car safely, and navigated our way to Lodgepole- our campsite for the next two nights. We unloaded quickly and in the dark. Within twenty minutes, our campsite was assembled. Our tent stood tall and proud, we had a roaring fire, and found ourselves smashing cans of chili open with an axe because bringing a can opener escaped our minds. Soon, everything was covered in chili, but we had a warm meal and rewarded our efforts with smores around the fire. Around 11 pm, we let the burning embers die out and we turned in for the night.
The next morning the sun hit our tent and we were awake- after we hit snooze through our myriad of alarms. We awoke, got dressed for the day, and went on a four mile hike up the Tokopah Falls trail. The trailhead was just past Lodgepole campground- within walking distance. We packed sandwiches and water. We took multiple breaks on the side of the trail to take photos of the ever-eager marmots, who we first mistook for beavers. The two of us were surrounded by large, monolithic, grey mountains that towered over hikers, fisherman, and wildlife. We were so high that we soon surpassed the tree line, and shade was not to be found anywhere. Two miles in and we finally reached our destination- Tokopah falls. This roaring falls was especially prolific this year due to the snow melt. I highly recommend this trip to beginning hikers- it was a mild hike with a moderate incline. It was super easy and refreshing. After our brief hike we turned back and headed for the car. We headed to the Giant Forest Museum and walked around the perimeter of the Giant Forest’s Big Tree Trail. The towering sequoias provided ample shade as we walked. We gazed up at the red bark and the thick tree tops. Interestingly enough, we learned that sequoias are the thickest trees in the world, while their cousins, the redwoods (along the coast of Northern California), are the tallest trees.
After our brief one mile hike around the trail, we piled back into our car and headed to the infamous General Sherman Tree. Next, we went back to the Wuksachi Lodge for the wifi and general comfort of sitting next to a roaring fire, surrounded by mounted antlers and other lodge-like decor. Visiting the lodge was in preparation for our sunset hike- the 3.3 Little Baldy trail. An hour before sunset we reached the base of the mountain and scrambled up as quickly as we could as the sun dipped lower and lower on the horizon. By far, this my favorite part of the entire trip. The hike was heavenly, despite the steep incline, and the fact that we were on a bit of a time crunch. We didn’t want to have to hike in the dark. We climbed higher and higher, gaining altitude and enjoying every moment. We stopped and took pictures as we did. It was all so beautiful. Finally we reached the top, just as the sun turned a vibrant shade of orange before disappearing from sight. So, case and point- go on the Little Baldy trail at sunset. It’s spectacular. We didn’t quite reach our goal of not hiking in the dark, as we had to turn our flashlights on and scramble down the mountain in complete darkness. It probably wasn’t the safest thing I’ve ever done, but I’ll definitely remember it.
Sadly, this was our last day at Sequoia National Park. We woke up early- but not as early as we had planned. We had planned on waking up at sunrise to take another hike, but we both were so incredibly exhausted that we decided to sleep in for another hour. When we finally rolled out of our tent, we packed up quickly, stopped by the Lodgepole visitor’s center so I could grab some well-deserved coffee, and we went back to the Giant Forest’s Big Tree Trail. We took one last stroll among the giants, took a ton of pictures, and listened to the birds chirp, the branches swish in the breeze, and other nature-like things before we headed back to civilization. Although this trip was short, we felt it was entirely worth it. This trip was a much needed retreat. I finally got to read East of Eden by John Steinbeck as I reclined underneath the most beautiful trees. That’s what I call vacation.
If you visit the sequoias this summer, tag us (#gracebelleexplores, #IAmTheAdventurer, or #gracebellecommunity)! We would love to see pictures of your adventures.