We left Wheeler Gorge Campground and drove through more of Los Padres National Forest, climbing our way up on the 33's many twists and turns.
We later decided to stick to the 33 and stay off the freeway for a while longer. The landscape in front of our eyes kept changing; from forest to desert, then fields, plains dotted with bright yellow wildflowers, orchards and vineyards. We even passed oil well pumps, which looked so surreal and out of place in the midst of Nature. But then again, I guess all forms of exploitation of the earth by man always feels like an ugly violation.
I loved the soft hues of these bare hills!
We then hopped back onto the highway until we reached our destination for the day; a town called Three Rivers located a few miles before the entrance to Sequoia National Park. After our boondock adventures we figured that we needed to spend a couple of days enjoying the luxury of a motel room (read: I had tons of things to do online and was dreaming of a long hot shower!) The Western Holiday Lodge had some great reviews, promising to be the perfect environment to ease ourselves back into 'the world'. The East Indian family that runs the place is very kind and the man at the desk actually gave us one of their deluxe rooms at no extra costs to us. Yay! It had a mini kitchen, a fireplace and a balcony from which we could enjoy our meals while listening to water gushing in the distance. The motel was right on the highway but at night it quieted right down and we could even hear the frogs. Don and Kylo discovered a nice trail nearby that lead to the riverside.
It turned out to be a challenging couple of days; so much work to do and so little time! I was virtually glued to the computer trying to figure out our itinerary as we'd make our way to Washington state. Unfortunately this proved to be a rather complicated task but, as always, it did work out in the end.
Sequoia Here We Come
With the last of our travel plans finally outlined we headed towards Sequoia National Park. Rows and rows of orange trees lined the way followed by green hills.
Once we entered Sequoia National Park everything looked so lush! The landscape around us screamed of Spring and the new life it brings.
We made our way along the winding General's Highway among a tapestry of shades of green inter-spaced with lovely purplish tree blossoms, gushing rivers and streams, and snowy mountain tops.
We kept zigzagging our way up and up, one sharp hairpin turn after another. It sure gave our trammy a good work out! Sequoia is known for protecting a spectacular elevational range, from 1,300 feet to 14,494 feet - the highest elevation in the lower 48 states.
About 15 miles into the park we hit road construction. We were warned that we could expect a 2 hour delay, but thankfully we only had to wait about 20 minutes.
As we kept going up in elevation it got very cloudy and for a while we didn't have much of a view. We even reached a point where we were completely swallowed by clouds. Then at the summit, after climbing close to 5,000 feet in a short time, we suddenly found ourselves amid snow and the famous giant sequoias. These are not to be confused with the giant redwoods found on the Northern California coast. (You can read comparative facts about these two species here.) Giant sequoia trees live at a much higher altitude than redwoods and grow naturally only on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada, most often between 5,000 and 7,000 feet.
On this site I learned that giant sequoias don't grow quite as tall as redwoods "but can still reach a very impressive height of up to 311 feet (that's still the size of a 31 story building!). While not the tallest, giant sequoia trees are the largest trees in the world. Their base can be up to 40 feet in diameter and a mature tree can weigh as much as 2.7 million pounds." Wow! I was grateful for the wide angle feature of our camera which allowed me to capture some of these giants in their full majesty.
By the time we reached the Giant Forest - one of the park's main attractions - the sun had finally come out from hiding. Yay!
We paused in order to pay homage to the world's largest sequoia, known as The General Sherman. That's him in the distance in this next pic. Doesn't look so imposing but wait til you hear this!
Standing next to him we felt like teeny specks of life. Imagine that this guy was around back in the time of Jesus and maybe even when Buddha walked this earth!
We left behind the Giant Forest and its wondrous ancient trees and continued through Sequoia National Park.
For some time we admired the sunlight playing on the white snow between tree trunks. Such a lovely sight!
The snow eventually disappeared as we made our way down.
Being wintertime, the road through the neighboring Kings Canyon National Park was closed so we headed straight towards Sequoia's Big Stump entrance. We were hoping to get a chance to stop and walk on a trail but everything was still covered in a thick blanket of snow. (So I suppose that technically speaking this post should have been entitled "Driving in Beauty"! lol)
At some point we got caught in clouds so thick that we could hardly see ahead of us! It was slow going for a while but then it cleared up once we were outside of the park. As we headed towards Fresno we saw more rows of orange trees, vineyards, and green pastures and hills.
To be continued...