In May this year we travelled to Joshua Tree. The wildlife, array of plant and fauna, geological significance and spirituality of the desert was inspiring. When we had the opportunity to return to California and enough time to venture further from Los Angeles, the natural inclination was to travel north. The Sierra Nevada had long intrigued. An adventure, climbing and hiking enthusiast, Yosemite had for a long time been on bucket list. As my partner Kit would need to be in Ojai and Big Pine during our trip to the US, a quick online mapping exercise showed that Yosemite, King’s Canyon and Sequoia might also be doable during our short stay. Time to see what else California had to offer…
It’d been a busy Summer with work and family commitments, and we were soon meandering between coffee spots in a no-place-to-be kind of way. We had one night in Highland Park before we set out on our adventure and were making the most of civilization whilst it was on our doorstep. Whilst we could have stayed on in the comfort of this leafy LA suburb, the lure of wild was calling. It was time to hit the road.
First up was a stay in Ojai at the foot of the Los Padres National Forest. Not quite the wilderness we were in search of but beautiful all the same, the setting a valley in the Topatopa Mountains. I needed to find my legs as consecutive days of running and hiking were looming large, so headed for the Sulphur Mountain Road with its sweeping views over Santa Paula and the Santa Clara River Valley, with hot sun and hot spring abundant.
Tip - if you are travelling North from LA and your destination is the Western Sierras, travel on Route 33 through the Los Padres. It’s a stunning drive even if you soon arrive in the baron wasteland of Maricopa and Bakersfield oil fields in the San Joaquin Valley. We decided to drive as much of this as we could and overnighted in Visalia on route to Sequoia.
Up real early the next morning keen to secure a pitch amongst the giant trees, we were soon barreling through Three Rivers and into the park, Moro Rock looming over us. Despite being larger than neighbouring Yosemite, Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks are less frequented, with half the visitor numbers annually.
Lodgepole Campground was still bustling despite being end-of-season, but we got a pitch overlooking the Kaweah River, with Wolverton Creek high behind us. We were soon off exploring, ambling around the Big Trees Trail and visiting General Sherman. Our day was cut short as the wind picked up, and we made it back in time to camp before a storm rolled over, lightening flashing through the dark clouds as they rolled over us and on into the night.
The next day, we were woken by a family of deer coming down through the forest to drink from the river. We spied on them through a gap in the tent, keen not to emerge too early into the cold elevation air, but we kitted up and followed them to the Kaweah, and then along the river bed to the Topokah Falls, before heading back to pack up and drive North into King’s Canyon.