I'm a lover of trees.
I had been wanting to return to Sequoia and the beautiful Redwood Forest for years. The last time I was a small child.
For my 29th birthday I finally made the trip back to the redwoods.
Setting off on Friday evening, Joel and I drove the 3 or so hours out of the city into the dark and arrived at our adorable lodge on the outskirts of the park just before midnight. We couldn't see much in the dark except for the area of the wooden lodge that was illuminated by their sign. Our keys were left for us in an envelope tacked to the wall of the office. We had spoken to the sweet owners on our way up and informed them that we would be getting in quite late. They left us the keys and brief directions to our room. We wandered up the outdoor staircase with our belongings and entered our room. There was a door out the back with a shared balcony that stretched the length of the building. I leaned against the railing, looking up at the considerably more stars in the sky than can be seen in LA, and listened to the rush of water from the veiled rocky river, trying to judge just how far the water was from our feet.
In the daylight, it turned out that the river was incredibly close.
After spending some time laying on large rocks by the river, we set off to drive into the park and pick out a camping site.
We realized that we didn't have food for camping yet- whoops!- so we stopped by a small market store off the main drag and grabbed a few things. It was slim pickings, naturally. We walked out with some fruit, hard boiled eggs (which was a cool find), cheese, granola, bread, peanut butter and Nutella. Short on vegetables, but it would do for a couple days.
Next to the market was a cute little cafe. Seeing as how food was on our brains, we popped in and ordered some bagels. We sat down at a table with a chess set.
We paused. Looked at the board and looked back at each other. The question lingered. Neither of us had played chess in ages.
We sat there eating bagels, sipping a latte and played an entire game of chess. (Joel would most likely want me to point out that he won. I will point out that it was close.)
Time ticked by. It was well into the afternoon by the time we left the cafe. The joy of having no specific timetable.
It was a slow climb driving through twisting roads as we made our way towards the park's official entrance.
As it turned out, this being the end of April, that up in higher elevations, we were still in the tail end of winter. The park had gotten snow only a couple nights before. The result of this was that chains were still required to enter the area of the park where all of the giant redwoods grow. We did not have tire chains. While we debated for a second the idea of lying about having chains, we chose honesty. When we told the rangers at the entrance that no, we did not have chains, they informed us that there would be police rangers checking for chains further into the park before the giant sequoias. We decided to turn around and take the slow, winding road back towards our lodge and the little town outside of the park where there is a store that rents tire chains.
At the shop, we immediately became part of a rush hour for tire chains. Apparently, there were a lot of other visitors in the same boat, needing chains for the weekend.
We chatted with the locals while we waited and eventually got our tire chains. We didn't want them on the tires yet, just needed to have them on us. As time carried on, we finally made our way back towards the park.
As we got further up in elevation, the fog moved in. Gently coating the mountain and blanketing the entire landscape in white.
There are a number of turnout spots for slow drivers and even designated picture areas. We stopped at a picture place and captured the lack of view behind us.
Now, I suppose we should have seen this coming....
...there weren't any rangers checking for chains. The roads truly were clear by this point and the chains requirement was officially lifted the following day. Still, when we made our way into the heart of the park, there was snow on the ground. Patches of snow all throughout the forest. Not even an hour from our lodge, the temperature had dropped 20+ degrees.
One of our first stops was to see The General Sherman tree.
The biggest tree in the entire forest by mass. They've done the math.
And boy, is it a big tree.
Still, that was not my favorite tree in the forest.
Maybe the General Sherman didn't impact me as much because we can't actually touch it. I'm a literal tree hugger and I didn't get to hug Sherman. It's also not the tallest or widest tree, and I think we humans tend to recognize those dimensions better than mass.
My favorite tree was a beautiful redwood right near one of the parking lots before the brief hike towards General Sherman. It smelled like a mixture of maple syrup and cedar. It may be the best smell in the world. No other tree smelled quite as good or as strong. I sniffed a lot of trees.
Every time we passed, I would go running up to it. Place my hands on the tree and breathe in its beautiful aroma.
We eventually made it to the camping grounds and selected a spot for ourselves. Every campsite had its own tent area and picnic table.
We were borrowing my brother's tent for the weekend. I really should purchase a tent.
This tent was remarkably simple to assemble.
Two cross poles.
That was it. (Plus ground stakes, of course.)
By this point the sun was going down and it was beginning to get colder. We were in agreement: an adult beverage sounded excellent.
There are a few nice hotel-lodges inside of the park. They are, naturally, a bit pricey, so we were camping. Camping is fun. But camping was cold. We walked to the nearest lodge and they had a bar and lounge where we could grab a beer and relax inside looking out the glass at the trees. It was perfect.
Even more perfect was eating a hot meal at the restaurant inside and splitting a Mounds Bar- the bar's name for their hot chocolate spiked with Malibu Rum. I have to say, the bartender was right, the coconut chocolate combination was excellent.
After eating good food, drinking delicious drinks and warming up in the heated interior, it was time for us to venture back into the cold and prepare for the night.
We created a system with yoga mats and my sleeping bag pad as the base. On top we placed an unzipped sleeping bag. The next layer was us. We covered ourselves with blankets and another unzipped sleeping bag. We then burrito'd ourselves inside, being sure to not have any gaps let in cold air. Whenever we shifted at night, we had to be careful so as not to create a hole where cold air would burst through, causing immediate reactions of "Ah! Cold!" followed by laughter and adjustments.
It should be noted that I was wearing several layers including thick hiking socks and my beanie.
I'm always cold.
The next morning, the sun came out and warmed up the tent incredibly. I was on the sun side of the tent and began removing layers as I went from cold to comfortable to sweating. We eventually stumbled out of the tent and had some makeshift breakfast.
The rest of the day was spent mostly going on mini hikes.
We wandered through foggy forest along trails. There were a couple of amazing trees that had hollow bases so we ducked inside and promptly declared that we could live here.
One of the trees was completely hollow all the way up to its missing top.
We also took the trail to Moro Rock.
Moro Rock feels like something out of Lord of The Rings.
It's nearly 400 stairs carved and shaped out of a massive rock peak. It's meant to have absolutely amazing views as you wind up the stairs through the rock formations to the precipice.
To the right is what a section of the stairs would look like on a clear day.
At the top the view would look something like the photo below.
I don't have those pictures.
I'm borrowing those from the internet.
Because for us the view was a bit different.
It was just a blanket of white in every direction.
Still, it was a super fun climb.
On the way back to the city, we pulled over by some orchards and (illegally, probably) picked fallen oranges. There were so many on the ground we just couldn't resist.
We actually made the pullover twice, picking different kinds of citrus. Some were probably oranges, others were perhaps clementines or tangerines. Either way, they were absolutely delicious. We ate about half our stash on the drive home.
Neither one of us wanted to get home.
We loved the forest and its trees.