Tag Archives: driving

Into the trees – Sequoia and Kings Canyon NP, California


Sequoia

Sequoia

Trees hold a supernatural quality for me and the sequoia’s did nothing for my childish daydreams of magic forests carpeted in ferns and inhabited by goblins.  In the case of the sequoia’s the goblins do not have to be very small as some of the trees are as big as my old flat in England (but that’s not saying much).  This is really two national parks joined together by some national forest so sometimes it gets confusing as to what area you are in.   This park hosts Mt. Whitney which at14,496.811 feet is the tallest mountain in the “lower 48” states however, you cannot really see the mountain from the entrance to the park on the west side.  You can see it and access it from 0.7 mile (17.1 km) trail from Whitney Portal, 13 miles (21 km) west of the town of Lone Pine which has the great Diaz Lake Campground with about 200 sites including space for large RV’s down by the riverside.  It’s cheap at $10 a night and looks out at the eastside of the NP.   However, we were more interested in camping in the park and discovered that getting to Sequoia and Kings Canyon NP by vehicle was a little tricky as there are no roads running though the park.  If you are in the east side of the mountains then you have to drive around the park to get into the westerly entrance.   But getting there is worth it to see what little remains of these majestic groves of Sequoia trees and access to Kings Canyon.

The largest tree (in terms of volume) in the world is General Sherman which is located in this park and is a site to behold, but it is hard to really get the scale of these giants of the forest as you stand there staring up into the sky at them.   I can’t help but feel sadness too that we have hacked down so much of our old growth forests although there is still alot of campaigning with Campaign for Old Growth amongst others.

Due to the relative remoteness of the park it is easy to get away from the few people that are there who are mostly looking at the more famous trees on short hikes or driving through the park.

View into Kings Canyon

View into Kings Canyon

A beautiful trail for hiking or running is the Ridge trail, this was one of our top runs as it gently undulates up and down on single track and some forestry road.  Another stunning trail which you can get on direct from the Azalea Campground which was our favourite camping spot, is the Sunset Meadow trail but be ready for alot of downhill and then uphill.

How to get there

Nearest airport is Fresno

To enter Sequoia Park: From highways 65 or 99, go east on Highway 198 to the park entrance.

To enter Kings Canyon National Park:From Highway 99, go east on Highway 180 to the park entrance.

The main park road, the Generals Highway, connects these two entrances.

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Ensenada to San Quintin, Baja California


Driving from Ensenada to San Quintin (3 hours), and locating what has to be one of the most spectacular campsites so far on our entire trip – El Pabellon Rv Park , was different again. The small towns off the highway had no paved road at all. The streets looked like Serge Leone depictions of the wild west. Cars and trucks drove alongside the highway on the dirt roads and then jumped up the ledge to get back on the roads. Shops and houses were situated off the highway down desert roads which on this day had low visibility due to the winds that were whipping along the streets and the cars leaving dust trails. The air around us was at times quite dense with dust which looking at the locals seemed to be a normal occurrence as they had the hats and scarves wrapped around their faces for protection. This is the desert. Some of the land is farmed with an extensive looking tomato growing operation with greenhouses and a sea of plastic stretching out onto the horizon. Some of the land is left fallow due to the limitations on the water supply into Baja. Some of the water is sourced from the Colorado River in the US which is over a thousand miles away. The campsite was down a dirt road off the highway about 200 yards from the Pacific ocean set on the edge of some sand dunes. When we arrived there was only one other trailer which had about 8 OHV’s parked up next to it. These were promptly jumped on by a bunch of local teenagers and adults and ridden over some fantastic looking sand dunes. The beach itself was more like a road with vehicles driving through the campsite onto the beach and then alongside the ocean. So with the waves crashing, the sun setting and the full moon rising I cooked a surprising salty potato, lentil and split pea soup (saltiness came from the brackish water) which we ate whilst cooing at the various local dogs who came to sniff the strange soup.

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Driving Baja Highway One, Mexico


Driving in Baja has improved substantially over the years with access along the peninsular only being possible since 1973 on the opening of the trans-peninsular highway. The furtherest point that people could drive with anything other than off road vehicle was to San Quintin . The highway has opened up Baja to tourism but it seems concentrated in certain towns. Driving from Tecate to Ensenada took us through smaller villages along the way which consist of low rise settlements with the usual mixture of homes and brightly coloured one room shacks used by hairdressers, taco shops, garages and the like all with hand painted signs which gives the place a look that is so un-American looking is almost brings tears to my eyes. This road is relatively busy with many large trucks hurtling past us on this single lane highway which has just enough room for the trucks going in either direction but with no hard shoulder at all. The drop-offs vary from a few inches to a few feet so I am still adjusting to the fear of falling off the edge which is akin to how you feel walking along a precipice with a 100 foot drop as oppose to how steady you are on your feet and in your mind when the drop off is only one foot. Christopher suggested I sit a little more snugly beside him to ease the fear.

There is also a little trick which we have now mastered and that is the use of the left indicator. This is not used to indicate that you are turning left (well sometimes it is) it is mostly used to inform the car behind you that there is a clear road in front so that they can overtake you. Indicating with the right indicator means do not overtake and the uninitiated are in for a rough surprise when they make the silly assumptions that the car wants to turn right or pull in. Overtaking in this scenario is likely to lead to you being blocked until you learn the rules…

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