Getting away from life to go camping in the woods is something Mr V. and I try to pursue every summer. We have a great collection of supplies and both of us grew up exploring wildernesses in our respective areas of the world. With my Girl Scout troop, I went tent camping to a bunch of different local sites in San Diego, while Mr. V grew up following his dad from lake to lake in Michigan catching fish. Between the two of us, there’s little a campsite can throw at us that we can’t handle.
Over the 4th of July holiday we decided it was time for a break. Mr. V hadn’t had any days off for months and I’ve been in a funk with my health concerns. So Tuesday night we packed up the car and at a stupid hour of the morning Wednesday we headed north. Around four or five hours later we arrived a the Sequoia National Park/Kings Canyon National Park. I highly recommend anyone who can make the trip to these parks, do so. The forest is beautiful, of course, but the trees… oh my lord the trees.
There is simply no accurate way to describe how large these trees are. They’re called giant sequoia for a reason. The largest tree by volume* on the entire planet, known as General Sherman, grows here. They’re so massive that a cross-section transported from this forest to a museum back in the 1800’s was considered a hoax until photography was a thing. Probably the oldest known pics or it didn’t happen.
Most of my photos are vertical simply to try and capture the sheer height of these monsters. And often even at a distance they were simply too tall to contain in a single photograph. Sometimes I managed to get Mr. V in the photo, to help with a sense of scale, but even then it’s hard to conceptualize an organic structure anywhere near this size. Seeing them in person fried my noodle. I could observe atmospheric perspective at work from the forest floor to the tops of the trees.
The parks are high in the sierra mountain range, from 6k to 8k feet above sea level. I live AT sea level, which made anything more vigerous than walking around something of a chore. I could breathe just fine, but it always felt like my legs were full of lactic acid after a workout, burning because I was making them work without sufficient O2. I never adjusted to this. Infuriatingly, Mr. V had no issue with the altitude.
There are several campgrounds, museums, visitor centers, and specific, named trees to check out at these two parks. All the important places have paved roads and walkways. There are miles of great hiking if you can tolerate the altitude and a couple of different lakes/streams in the area if you’re into water. The campgrounds on the eastern side are packed with people since it’s the primary entrance from Fresno and easy enough for people living or visiting there to day-trip into the park for their tourist fix. We stayed at a campground called Azalea in Grant Grove further to the west, which was quiet and half-empty. Perfect for us. Grant Grove’s visitor center was less than a quarter mile from the campground, so we walked up there for wifi and beer when necessary.
We had a great time. There was a lot of walking (so much walking), some fantastic water for fishing, and we discovered several summer camp lodges for kids that would have been so epic to experience as a child. The weather was perfect, upper 80’s at the peak, which left us with beautiful shady lounging siestas. We have a hammock in our camp gear that saw a lot of use. Wildlife included deer (both male with new antlers and female with fawn), chickarees (photo below), jays, robins, ladybugs, ground squirrels, and ravens. There are black bears in the area but we saw no signs of them.
And of course, we brought the rats along for the ride. This is the first time Widget and Gizmo have gone camping and boy, were they confused by the whole process. We purchased a larger carry case for them to lounge in, which they chewed on immediately, and the first day/night in the park they never came out. Day two I bribed them with yogurt and after that they were bold enough to explore both their playpen (another dog-tool converted for our use) and the camp table.
Widget, the more adventurous of the sisters, decided she wanted to return to the wild and harass squirrels. She got to crawl around on a tree stump and investigate the leaf litter under intense supervision. Gizmo, on the other hand, made it clear she was a city rat and would have nothing to do with the outdoors if she could help it. I convinced her into my sweater sometimes, but only with extra treats. They both had a very unique experience and based on their constant bruxing I’d say they enjoyed themselves. They were, of course, delighted to return home.
Mr. V and I returned on Saturday so we could have a day to rest, unpack, do laundry, and otherwise prep for a work week. That day was very required. Everything in a camping trip needs to be washed, rinsed, or otherwise brushed clean in order to be packed away for long-term storage. And since it’s early summer, all the pine trees are dropping their pollen, so we came home with a car, tent, and easy-up yellow with pollen. There’s pollen on my new car’s touchscreen. There’s pollen inside my water bottles!
I’m back at my café now, working on mpreg stories. I need to wipe down my entire car after lunch, and find a car wash, but that’s the usual cleanup after a camping trip. We’re excited to be back and already planning our next adventure out.
*Largest Tree By Volume, not to be confused with tallest tree, oldest tree, biggest tree circumference, etc.