Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sequoia National Park (part 1 of 3)

Guess what I did last month?? If you guessed saw the biggest tree in the world, almost ran into a bear (literally), went wild caving at night, had 1 mild panic attack while doing said wild caving, stayed up til 3am drinking Canadian beers and talking about life's mysteries with a long time friend while we laughed at my husband falling asleep at the table, went on some awesome hikes (including a 7 mile one), ate the most refreshing apple I've ever tasted, and then drove 5 hours home.....you'd be correct!!

What......a weekend.

Where were we to enjoy such fun adventures, you ask? Sequoia National Park. My buddy Billy lives and works there as a Cave Tour Guide at Crystal Cave.

I should preface this (long) story with the instructions we received from Billy about our upcoming adventure. There is no cell service in the park. Billy has to drive about 10 miles to get a good signal. Most of the time when I hear from him, it's by a quick text or email. Here are the communications we had to each other about coming to visit :

Email to Billy from me :
Hello lover! Chad and I are trying to figure out a weekend we can come visit. Thought I'd run our options by you.... (gave him dates)
Email from Billy :
hello back my love,
any of those weekends work for me. i do have to work obviously, but we'll plan a tour or even special tour for you guys. i'll point out some good spots to check out in the park and meet up around a campfire at my place when i get off work. cant wait to see you guys. just drop me a line when u figure stuff out. love ya
Email to Billy from me :
How about October 7-9?
Email from Billy :
That works good for me. Just so u know, my schedule is kind of up in the air. Nxt week we start our weather permitting schedule. This is the same for housing. We will be moving back down the mountain if/when the weather changes. I'll keep u posted though. Nights r getting cooler so be prepared for that. Also bring some clothes that can get muddy in case u guys want to do some caving. Talk to u soon!
(end of communication)

So we took the map Billy left us the last time he was visiting and headed out early Saturday morning. It took us about 4ish hours to get to the park and a little over an hour to drive in. Turning off our cell phones for the weekend was GREAT...I could use a little more time without that thing. When we got there we weren't sure of anything, including where to meet him and if he would have enough room for us to sleep in his place.

We got there around noon, picked up our 4pm cave tour tickets, and headed to the first spot we could find to get out of the car and into the beautiful mountain air for a hike. That spot just happened to be where the biggest tree in the world was. Now before you get all technical on me...let me just say there are taller trees and wider trees in the world...but this is the biggest tree in overall size. His name is General Sherman.

There he is...

Bam! That's a big tree. Pictures just don't do this tree (or any of the others) justice!

The General

I like this one of Mr. Sherman...pretty.

The General is the middle tree of those giant sequoias. 

Sadly...I did not get a good picture of Chad in front of the General so you're stuck with me.

There are ginormous trees all around the General as well as everywhere around the park. It's so awesome and SO beautiful. The "hike" to Mr. Sherman was a paved path with quite a few people on it. There were a couple of trails you could take off the path so having some extra time to kill, Chad and I went off on one. We weren't about 20 yards off the main path when we came to an older European couple standing in the trail. We thought they were taking a rest so we said hello and passed them. We went a couple more steps and the woman said quietly "We stopped because we saw a bear over the hill." Excuse me? Were you planning to wait for us to be attacked by the wild animal before you told us? So we backed up and the 4 of us went to higher ground a few feet away to see if we could see the bear over the hill. Well turns out the bear had moved since the couple had stopped and it was in fact behind a tree next to the trail. The very tree that we were about to wrap around when they told us there was a bear. We would have literally been within 2 feet of the bear before we saw it...and more importantly we would have been that close before the bear saw us. Billy sees bears all the time in the park and they're often hanging out just outside his doorstep at his place. They're super mellow and used to seeing people and they don't really have any interest in the visitors. I wasn't scared of seeing a bear during our time there, in fact I was hoping we would, but I was not interested in surprising a bear AND being within a paw's reach of the thing. So the other couple left, and while holding our bear spray in one hand, Chad took a few photos with the other hand. (Yes, we have bear spray...we lived in Colorado and hiked a lot and we don't leave home without it! It's basically a REAL strong pepper spray. Like strong enough to hurt a 400 pound bear and make it run away. At home, we keep it in a drawer on my side of the bed. Just in case you were thinking it would be funny to scare me at night while I'm asleep.)

Bear butt.

Hi buddy.

"Ughh...humans are so annoying, get out of my park."

We didn't get great pictures of the bear but decided it was time to leave after a twig snapped under Chad's foot and we made eye contact with the "little" fellow.

After hiking around some more and taking a little meditation break on a rock in the sun....

....we drove to our next stop...Crystal Cave. Little did we know, we were about to do something that was by far the craziest thing we have ever done. And as Chad describes the experience "life changing."

I'll leave you hanging with that...stay tuned for Part 2!

More pictures below from our afternoon hike.....

Probably my favorite picture we took all weekend...

We got super lucky with the weather...it didn't snow and was sunny all weekend! 


What do you do with a fallen sequoia on the walking path? Leave it there and make a hole in it!

General Sherman specs....(that's for you, Dad)


1 comment:

Tracy Gastineau said...

Brooke- if I didn't already know most of this story, I would be angry to have to wait for parts 2 and 3. I do not see how Harry Potter fans waited all that time for the next books to come out! Not comparing you to JK Rowling (you are my sister and I do love you, but come on, JK you are not) Again, you made me laugh out loud (refuse to do the acronym for that). It's even better because I know your voice and can actually "hear" the tone as you tell this story.
Love you, Tracy
Ps I am very jealous of the pics with the big trees. Last thing to cross off my list on my next visit.