This is part of a series reflecting back on the self-described Great American Roadtrip that David and I took in July. See our itinerary here!
Also check out Albuquerque, Tucson, The Grand Canyon, and Los Angeles!
We choose to not spend our last Los Angeles day in Los Angeles. We’ve still gotta use this ATBP like an unlimited credit card, and up next is Sequoia National Park.
I figure, who knows when I will be back in LA and have this opportunity again? For years I’ve been envious of friend’s photos hugging redwoods or camping along mountain lakes. Plus, it’s not really a secret that I am obsessed with PCT and JMT hikers and their blogs and their stories. I had to see all of what people were talking about for myself.
So, off we went.
Originally, I had envisioned the drive to Sequoia to be a gradual transition up into the beautiful mountains, with spectacular views along the way. Instead, we’re taken through eons of flat, dry desert, brimming with orange trees. Signs shout at us from posts:
DO NOT EAT THE ORANGES.
DO NOT STEAL ORANGES.
PRIVATE PROPERTY: ORANGES NOT FOR SALE.
I don’t even really like oranges, but all of these rules feel like they need to be broken. The temptation is strong but the Catholic guilt is stronger.
After several more hours of desert-driving logged, the GPS has us hang a left. Gradually a ridge line appears through the haze. Then another. Then another. Soon we are approaching a wall of mountains that has been hidden from us our entire way in. It’s like a magical oasis just appears, only rewarded to those who commit to the journey and know where to go.
Being from Missouri, I was taught about Lewis and Clark in history classes A LOT. I think about them often now, and what they must have thought when they approached the west and the magicalness and the mountains.
“What the fuck?” They probably said.
“Where the fuck are we?” A real quote from history.
The landscape transitions dramatically as we drive to the Visitor Center. Everything is dense and green and speckled with wildflowers. It feels completely out of place in this Californian desert.
It isn’t until we have officially entered the park that I learn we must drive several thousand more feet, up into the air, to see the sequoias. It’ll take us another hour. Pamphlets lay around and remind me that my brakes could fail and I could die. Have fun!
“Why are all the cool trees always on the top of the mountain?” I whine, reminiscent of Joshua Tree.
With now a week of practice under my belt, driving on inclines has gradually begun to scare me less. However, the drive up to see these redwoods proves an exception. Nothing can compare to how horrifying driving to the peak of Mt. Evans was a few years back, but this earns a 7 out of 10 on the holy-shit-o-meter.
The cherry on top was the simultaneous construction happening as we attempted to creep up.
After finally becoming horizontal again, the trees appear and we are able to park. We crane our necks to the sky and can see the trees watching us. Everything is big. Big trees. Big pine cones. Big mosquitoes.
We begin a mild hike around the Big Trees Trail. The terrain is marshy, but we are elevated by boardwalk. It’s an easy hike, so I stop to take approximately one thousand photos. The fat mosquitoes decide this is a great game of tag. They lazily float along with me, until I stop for a photo op, then they snack.
“You want a photo in front of one of the trees?” David asks.
Sure, I say and then pose in front of one of the redwoods. As I contort my body to try and appear as not-fat as possible in the picture, I notice a giant, seriously giant, unidentified bug land on David’s shirt.
“Get it off!”
I try, but then panic and run away. Instead I am just trying to yell, as though the bug can hear me.
After some dancing, it finally flies off of David. But, unfortunately, the real chaos has only just begun.
The Great Sequoia Bug Controversy of 2018 ignites the inevitable fight that comes with spending dozens of hours in a hot, tiny car with the same person. No matter how much you love them. We had both predicted we’d get mad at one another at some point during this road trip, but the resulting argument sure is fiery.
There is sobbing. There is yelling. There is silence. And, in an unfortunate decision, we call the day quits and drive all the way down the mountain… Only to immediately regret this and drive back up the fucking steep, construction-ridden mountain AGAIN.
Reminder – it takes an hour (!!) to drive up to the top. Eye roll.
In an effort to reconcile once back at the top, David offers to take a redo photo of me. I begrudgingly allow it. In them, I look truly miserable. My face is puffy. My make up is tear-streaked. There is no smiling.
Unfortunately, I immediately deleted every one of those classics. Had I kept them, I assure you they would have been posted.
Just so you could see how much of a loser I am.
But – even with the fighting, even with the terrifying driving, and even with the bug bites – I really did enjoy Sequoia. Every single part of what I just saw is what I want forever. Mountains. Trees. Mosquito bite butt. Forever and ever and ever.
I’ll be back.
The drive back takes another 3 + hours and we’re back in LA around 11:00pm. And we are starving. Surprisingly, we are unable to find much in the ways of vegetarian food that is still open near us. We settle for a really mediocre “asian-fusion” restaurant, where a woman sits next to us and insults the chef (to his face!) as we eat.
You ever think that you maybe died in your normal life and are living in a parallel universe now? One where Donald Trump is president and the lady sitting next drinks a whiskey and then thinks it’s acceptable to insult people?
At least there was wine.