Jeff and I have spent the last 2 weeks camping in California and exploring couple national parks. The mountain lands of California are absolutely beautiful with ferns growing everywhere, the giant trees towering above and wild flowers blooming on the hills. We first found ourselves camping in the Sequoia National Forest right in the middle of Sequoia NP and King’s Canyon. The spot we found was what seemed to be an area for cross-country skiing in the winter, however it had a big turn around and fire pit so we made it home for a few days. We hiked around on the ski trails several times, we even found a few patches of snow still melting from winter. Our camping spot also offered great privacy so we were able to use our solar shower and get cleaned up after hiking.
We camped there for a couple of days before we had decided to go explore Sequoia NP, however one evening we did drive down to Crescent Meadows to search for bears. We had met up with some Rangers to get our fire permit and asked where we may find bears. Cresent Meadows in Sequoia NP is a frequented spot for brown bears he said. So, we headed down there around dinner time and set out for a walk around the meadow. Within 5 minutes of our walk on this paved trail, we came up to a group of people stopped, whispering and snapping photos. To our left in the meadow was a cinnamon colored black bear eating her dinner of grass roots and flowers. Upon seeing Jeff’s giant camera, people were shoving him toward the front of the crowd so he could get better shots. As we were standing there watching her and taking photos, one of the ladies around us say, ‘Oh, there are two cubs over there on the trail’. She said it so casually as if the idea of a mama bear with cubs was no big deal. We were both worried about being so close to her, but she didn’t seem to notice us, at least not for a while. The cubs kept barreling out from around the corner, wrestling with each other and then one of them notices all of us staring at them and he comes towards us. I just wanted to yell at the little thing to go away but there was nothing I could do as mama realizes he’s just several feet from us and she makes a few leaps forward onto the path. The people around us unaware of how to react, start running… Jeff and I stay at the tail end of the group and go behind a tree and then continue walking on the path as mama bear went back to eating. After calming down from the excitement, we walked to the other side of the meadow to set ourselves at a safe distance from the three bears and continued to watch them until the sun went behind the mountains.
The next morning we left our camping spot and headed to the park. We spent some time lurking around the visitors center, chatting with Rangers, and enjoyed a nice nature trail around the visitors center surrounded by giant Sequoia trees. We walked the steep trail to view ‘Sherman Tree’, one of the largest Sequoia trees in the world. Jeff helped a sweet lady needing gas to make to the nearest gas station 30 miles away. We carry an extra gas can with us and still had a few gallons on board. She insisted on paying us for the gas, so we used the extra cash to buy us lunch when we reached King’s Canyon later that day.
At King’s Canyon we drove down to Hume Lake and watched families fish and swim about. We also found ‘General Grant’, another one of the largest Sequoias. The forests within these two parks were so lovely, the giant trees with moss covered branches were just like a painting. Ladybugs filled the air too, everywhere you looked these little beetles were flying or landing on your shirt.
We weren’t able to do many of the hikes at Sequoia or King’s Canyon as my back just wasn’t cooperating. I feel bad on days like these when my pain is too much to overcome and I can’t do anything. I know Jeff wants to go out and hike but I know he also wants to stay with me. So, we ended our day early and headed back to the spot we had camped at before, crossing our fingers no one had claimed it for themselves. We were just in luck and had that great spot yet again.
After going down into the valley to refuel, do laundry and get groceries, we headed toward Yosemite NP. We made into the forest surrounding the South entrance by evening and found a spot for camping. The spot we found we were certain no one had driven on the road in months except maybe one car or atv. It was strangely quiet there but it would do for over night. The forest had gotten even greener than before and if this was a glimpse of Yosemite, we were excited.
Jeff and I got up the next morning, made breakfast and coffee eager for what the day would bring. As we drove into Yosemite, then into the Valley we couldn’t believe our eyes. People were passing us on the two lane highway as we drove slowly with our eyes in the sky and our mouths open wide. We hadn’t even made quite to the beginning of the Valley before we stopped to start taking photos.
Yosemite Valley is a small village with the visitors center, an art gallery, market, museum and so so much more. We meandered around a bit in the village before taking the free shuttle around the valley. Mirror Lake is where we first stopped that day, an easy hike and such a rewarding one too. (less than 3 miles roundtrip).The lake was very stunning and appeared to be a great spot for a little dip, however we didn’t leap in. Our second day in the Valley we took Manko on a walk to Lower Yosemite Falls. The trail was built up over the creek and runoffs making for quite a tranquil walk. We also spent some time exploring a nature trail and at a nature center.
After another night of camping we drove up to Tioga Rd / Toulumne Meadows area where at some of the highest peaks it can reach elevations of 10,000 feet. Snow still covered much of the mountain tops although in the afternoon the temperatures reached well over the 70’s causing runoffs in every direction you looked. The Olmstead Point was remarkable lookout, allowing you to look for miles and miles. We sat at Tenaya Lake, a serene lake on Tioga Rd surrounded with beautiful landscape. There are many hikes both day and over night to take along this road, however this first day we just drove up and down taking photos as we couldn’t believe our eyes. Everywhere we looked it just seemed to get even more beautiful.
Our last day in Yosemite we returned to Toulumne Meadows for one last day hike to Soda Springs, a naturally occuring mineral springs coming up from the ground. It was a pleasant little morning walk to end our stay there with pocket gophers and ground squirrels popping up to greet us as we walked through the meadow. Yosemite NP has to be the prettiest place we have visited thus far and encourage you to add it your bucket list.