Friday, August 10, 2012

Third Time's a Charm

I haven't felt a whole lot like blogging over the past month or so, but if I put it off for any longer, I might well miss out on writing about one of our best trips of the summer. For three years now, I have booked a campsite at Sequoia National Park. Yet, last week was the first time I'd ever been. Back in 2010, Smunch was selected for a travel all-star team that played right when we were supposed to be camping - we went to Lassen in August instead. In 2011, the park called in June and told me there was too much snow and our reservations had to be cancelled. We went to Prairie Creek Redwoods instead. But 2012 was the year we finally made it.
I always have high hopes of writing a single post to describe a camping trip and somehow that's never quite enough. There are always far too many photos to share and too many stories to tell. This time around, we hiked to several waterfalls, toured a big cave, climbed a rocky dome, watched an awesome sunset, got wet in the river (it was a tad low to actually swim)and saw all kinds of wildlife, including several bears, lots of deer, a marmot, a pine marten and a big ol' rattlesnake.

We arrived on Sunday and got the tents up just in time for a nice little thundershower. It was hot, humid and sticky that day. Aside from setting up camp, we didn't do much besides visit some of the most touristy of the big trees...

and play in the river. And that was enough. We got tickets to go to Crystal Cave in the morning.

I hadn't really given it a lot of thought, but the kids had never been to a cave before. It was an obvious "thing to do", but I was really glad we did. The kids were mesmerized during our tour, where they learned all about stalagtites, stalagmites, curtains and cave bacon. They even got to see their first-ever bear on our drive to the cave trailhead.

(This bear wouldn't look so much like a little mammal if it hadn't been walking by a giant sequoia at the time!)

It was a hike down to the cave, but we arrived so early, that we actually joined an earlier tour and made it down to the mouth of the cave just a few minutes before the tour began.

The hike back up the canyon from the cave made for a couple of whiney kids. It's relatively steep and it was lunchtime. Thank goodness they'd enjoyed the cave so much. I can't imagine how they would have put up with me taking a bunch of time to appreciate all the waterfalls on the way up otherwise!
We made it though and had some lunch in the parking lot before heading back towards the campground. We took an afternoon hike around some meadows. We made it up to a point called "Eagle View" where we finally got to see some of the amazing views the park has to offer. This first one includes Moro Rock, which figures in this trip a few times.
This one is Castle Rocks. If I'd been on a more adventurous sort of trip, with taller companions, this would have been a fun peak to explore!
We headed back down, around more meadows. The tiger lilies were blooming, which means I took a lot of flower pictures.
Pictures never really did these pretty meadows justice though. They were full of wildflowers and butterflies and surrounded by huge trees.
Just as the kids were getting particularly impatient, we passed Tharp's log, one of many fallen trees that were once used as summer homes or lodging of some sort. At least it was curious enough to warrant some attention.
By the time we got back to our campsite, Smunch was looking a little like this:
So, I fixed dinner and we made some ice cream.

I was feeling a little frustrated with parenthood about then and decided that although the kids had no interest in climbing to the top of Moro Rock (not a particularly difficult task with the 300-something stairs they've installed), so I opted for a quiet little journey to the top of the rock to watch the sunset.

As far as I was concerned. This was just the way to end a long day. The mountains of the Great Western Divide lit up beautifully and well, Central Valley smog always makes for a stunning sunset!

Sanity restored.

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