Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks

Day 22 (June 18): We made a couple additional stops this morning: we needed groceries, so went a little out of the way to find a Walmart, and then swung by a roadside stand and bought figs and avocados. This meant we were later than planned entering Yosemite, but it couldn’t be helped. I REALLY wanted to buy figs on the side of the road.

Then Yosemite! We have always wanted to see Yosemite. Most people looked at us skeptically when we said we were only going to be there for four hours, but, hey! Anything is better than nothing, right? I wonder how they will feel when they find out we actually only spent two? And anyway, they didn’t have any camping spots left when we looked in January (FIVE MONTHS EARLY!!) so we decided to split the difference, stay there for less time, visit an additional national park, and camp further away.

Also, I would like to note that Yosemite is the only national park we are visiting that required a day pass. So, when the passes opened on April 21st, I sat on my computer with the button ready to click fifteen minutes before. The instant my clock struck 11:00 AM (8:00 AM there), I refreshed and hit the reserve button. Nope. Nothing. Hit refresh and tried again. Still too much traffic. I hit it over and over again, and couldn’t get through until inspiration struck. The day pass is valid for three days. So I selected Thursday instead of Friday and voila!, had my reservation. Whew. Close one.

Anyway, we finally got to see it. We picked a few of the bigger sites, and drove back and forth along the same road a couple times to see them. The roads were really weird, with a bunch of them closed, and under construction. But the sights were beyond amazing. We saw the tunnel view, which was a massive, long tunnel cut through the rocks:

El Capitan, a granite cliff about 3,000 ft high:

Half dome, at least from a distance (No, we did not climb it. But we did get to take pictures from a couple different viewpoints.):

Yosemite Falls – a sixty foot waterfall. They were the third set of waterfalls we saw during our drive, and by far the most extraordinary. If we had had any extra time, I think we would have made the hike to see them up close.

It was a little sad to leave so soon, but we were also really excited about the next park. Apparently Yosemite also didn’t want us to leave because this guy wasn’t going to move the stop sign anytime soon.

But eventually, we got to… Sequoia National Forest! Which was a comparatively short drive from Yosemite, but still quite a hike at three hours. I can’t say this was originally on my bucket list, but I think it would have been had I known it existed prior to planning this trip. The second half of the day was spent here, and, again, it was totally worth the visit! I would love to come back and spend more time someday. The giant sequoias were simply incredible. A different type of incredible from the redwoods, but I can’t quite say how. I think the perfect word to describe them is majestic.

We didn’t have a ton of time there, so we went straight for their main attraction. The General Sherman tree, which is the largest tree in the world (by MASS, Daniel wants me to clarify).

We then meandered through the “giant forest” surrounding the Sherman tree, and gaped up at the other extraordinarily huge sequoias.

On our way to the third site, which I’ll tell you about in a moment, we drove through the Giant Forest, and I think that was even more amazing than seeing them up close. I know, weird, but there was something about driving in between those giants, and seeing them around every corner that just made you feel like you were in some sort of fantasy land.

The third site we went to see, and by far the one I was most excited about, was the tunnel log! Yes, it is a giant sequoia that fell across the road, and they literally cut a tunnel through it. I can’t even tell you how excited I was to drive through a tree. I can’t tell you why I was that excited, but I was. I mean, come on. How often do you get to drive through a giant tree?

The sun was setting by the time we started making our way to the campground, and seeing it through the trees was one of the loveliest sights ever.

Of course, the descent from the mountain was its own adventure. Filled with hairpin turns like we’ve never seen in our lives, and descending thousands of feet… Daniel had to take over so he could drive it in lower gears because the brakes started smelling horribly. Poor Jack (yes, I named our rented SUV and yes, he’s totally a boy) was struggling so hard to get us down safely, we figured he could use a break.

The view, though, was breathtaking! The deepest, biggest, most gorgeous valley I’ve ever seen in my life.

Part of the road we were taking… As we descended thousands of feet

Anyway, we finally pulled up to our campground around 10:15 p.m., and had our tent set up in 15 minutes flat. We are getting really good with this. Tomorrow we head back to the coast!

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