Our final week in California was filled with great scenery, warm weather, and loads of fun at two incredible national parks. Here are the details:
Yosemite: Saturday was our last day in Yosemite National Park. With plenty of sunshine, it was a beautiful day for hiking in the valley. Our morning destination was Mirror Lake, a seasonal pond that forms at the base of Half Dome. The reflection of a few thousand feet of granite towering above was truly impressive. After a picnic lunch and a quick trip to the visitor center for Junior Ranger badges, we set out for Vernal Fall (a fitting destination for this first day of spring). The hike was another steep one, but the view of this thundering waterfall was a great reward. Yosemite is a magical place — our favorite national park thus far — and we hope to return here again.
Sequoias: A few hours south of Yosemite, Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park is another highlight of the Sierra Nevada mountains. With names like General Sherman, Sentinal, and President, it’s trees that are the rock stars here. Giant Sequoias are the largest living organisms on the planet. They can reach heights of 300 feet and form a base circumference of over 100 feet (that’s 36 feet in diameter — large enough to park our RV on!). Walking through the Giant Forest is like walking back in time; some of these trees are 2,500 years old. Giant Sequoias can only be found at 6,000-8,000 feet in elevation. Our campsite was in the valley at 800 feet, so the drive back and forth to the groves was an adventure in and of itself.
Other Sights in Sequoia: Along the way (a.k.a. straight up the mountain) we made a variety of stops: a picnic lunch near river rapids, a hike through an alpine meadow, a visit to the tree museum, etc. One of our favorite side trips was Morro Rock, a granite outcrop which afforded great views of the High Sierra peaks, as well as the San Joaquin Valley below. What made this most special, however, was our first bear sighting. We spotted the mama bear and her three cubs on a hillside not far from the trailhead. Downwind and quietly, we watched for about 20 minutes as they foraged through the brush and fallen trees. Eventually, they cuddle up together for a snooze (we were told they were still groggy from the light winter and a short hibernation). Altogether, Sequoia was another incredible national park.
Camping: Rounding out the rest of our week, we slowed down a bit and enjoyed some good old-fashioned camping. Our campground sat in the foothills just outside the park and was surrounded by orchards and horse ranches. Our actual campsite sided up against a pretty stream, providing lots of privacy and the relaxing sounds of nature. The weather was warm enough to be outside in the early mornings and late evenings. Jen enjoyed her cup of tea by the gentle stream and the boys loved making campfires each night. This campsite was one of our favorites thus far, a good place to take a deep breath, enjoy a slower pace, and reflect on our many good fortunes.
We’ve seen a lot of California this month: deserts, coastline, cities, mountains and forests. It’s been a terrific adventure and we’re sad to say goodbye, but it’s time to start heading back East. Nevada and Utah are coming up next, and both look just as promising. Stay tuned!