From Tehachapi, we headed North to an Army Corp of Engineers campground on Kaweah Lake, just outside Sequoia National Park. It was a great place to stop for two days and NOT try to bring our 30 foot trailer into an old national park. One thing about national parks. The older, the smaller the roads and campground sites.
Once we were in the park we looked at the campground, and were glad we left the trailer at a much more spacious place only a few miles outside.
Sequoia National Park did not disappoint.
The climb up to the grove of Giants was breathtaking, and once you were in the trees, their massive size was also awe inspiring.
You can’t walk about the massive General Sherman tree (the largest living tree in the world) without thinking that the United States entire history has happened in this tree’s lifetime, and it’s still getting bigger every year.
We still had a day to kill before our reservation at Yosemite Lakes so we once again turned to Harvest Host to find a winery where we could park for free…and drink wine.
Twisted Oak winery is an 18 year old place on top of a Sierra Nevada foothill near Sonora, CA. They have a lovely wine shop and three friendly wine cats who want to say hello…and probably “try the Tempernillo.”
Their production winery is open sided, and has a cave for fermentation. The fall crush is going on, so we got to see the winemakers working their open vats. When they are done, they us gravity to drain the tanks down to oak barrels in the cave so the wine can develop.
Needless to say, we found some wines we liked.
Then promptly at 5:30pm, they all left for the day and we were left alone on the top of the hill to watch the Sierra Nevada sunset. A herd of deer wandered by, and whole lot of wild turkeys too. It was magic.
The next day we were off to our first Thousand Trails park. We bought a TT camping pass this year to find out if this system of paying an annual membership once….and no fees when you stay at a park can work for us. We’re not really RV park folk…but the ability to come into parks all across the country and stay a few days (or 2 weeks) to recharge, fill and dump, do laundry, and not pay anything may be a good deal.
Yosemite Lakes RV Park seems pretty nice, though really the camp sites are way too close for what we might actually want for “real” camping. But we’ planned to be away in the park, or gone all day on chores, so who cares if neighbors are close; so long as they are quiet. And camping in the shoulder season means there are fewer campers…and less noise and crowds. So far, this is a good test. The laundry was large and clean. There are all the normal hookups. Wireless coverage is zero, but they have WIFI that was ok. And rather than pay as much as $200 for 4 nights….we pay Zero. So far, Thousand Trails is ok. We’ll try another park on the way home.
Yosemite National Park.
What is there to say really. It’s phenomenal, just as it was 35 years ago when we brought the kids here. It’s also crowded as hell, just as it was 35 years ago. But with all of our recent NP experience, we decided to leave before dawn and arrive in the park as the sun came up. The goal was to beat the expected crowds.
In a word, it worked. We were not alone when we arrived, but there was not a lot of traffic, parking was easy to find, and when we did walk across Swinging Bridge, where the kids saw hang gliders landing 35 years ago, we were all alone.
That big field where the gliders landed is closed now to recover from all the people walking on it. A lot of the work going on now in Yosemite is about recovering the park from all the human damage from so many visitors. It’s great to see paths pulled back from the edges of the Merced River and the riprap pulled out so the river can meander in the spring floods….as it was meant to do. Good stewardship!
As the sun started going higher in the sky, so did the volume of traffic in the park. People were arriving.
We easily got a spot at the visitor center and got to look at exhibits. By the time we were done, the parking lot was jammed. It was only 10am. We had been there for several hours now, and started to get itchy from the traffic.
On our way out of the park we stopped to watch the climbers on El Capitain. As you look at the 3000 foot sheer granite face you can’t see anything. Then you spot a dot along a crack, and think…that might be a climber. When you get your binoculars you can finally confirm, yes. That is a climber. Oh, wait, it’s two climbers, and there’s another one above them.
As you continue up the cracks in the face you realize there are dozens and dozens of climbers on the face, at all different levels. You can see some just getting out of hanging tents where they spent the night, others nearing the top, and still more near the bottom. They are just getting going.
It’s amazing to watch, and to think about going up there willingly.
They are crazy of course. And yes, we’ve seen the documentary “Free Solo.” He’s especially crazy. Amazing, for sure. But still crazy. It’s a good documentary. If you have fear of heights, you may not be able to watch it.
Finally we were on our way out of the park. The traffic coming in against us, backing up at intersections and at the Park Entrance convinced us again that our strategy was correct. Come to the bit destination National Parks early to avoid crowds.
After four days of resting up in the Sierra Nevada mountains, I think it’s time for wine. Onward to the Russian River area North of San Francisco. We’re bending homeward…but it’s raining up there. Along the Russian River it’s in the 80s.