My next stop was Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks. The drive was about 9 hours and took me from Utah through Arizona and Nevada and finally into California. It was my first time in California so I was happy to finally visit the state.
Upon crossing the border I saw a HUGE solar farm. It turned out to be the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility. This facility collects enough energy from the solar panels to power 160,000 homes.
I also drove past the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm. The wind farm had over 3,000 windmills!
After that I drove through the desert for what seemed like an eternity. I did see my first Joshua Tree but then proceeded to drive past another million of them and they somehow lost their charm.
As I got close to the park I drove past orchard after orchard. The orchards were irrigated so it was nice to say something was growing well during the drought. Before entering the park I filled up on gas, ice and a six-pack of Sierra Nevada beer for the cooler.
I entered the park and then proceeded to climb in elevation until I was high up in the mountains. It was so dry in the lower elevations that it was hard to believe that I was about to see the largest trees in the world.
I was heading towards Lodgepole Campground and Visitors Center and arrived around 6pm. Before they closed the visitors center for the evening I was able to catch the park video (which focused on bears) and a pick up a few items in the visitors center. Next I drove into the campground to see my camp site. It was perfect but before setting up camp I wanted to hike a bit after such a long drive.
I wanted to go see General Sherman which is the largest tree in the world. It really blew my mind to see such a huge tree. I then took the Congress Trail which is a nicely paved trail that takes you by a large number of huge Sequoia Trees.
Here is a cool video I found that shows you the difference between a California redwood and a giant sequoia.
I was walking with a nice couple I met in the parking lot while I was making my quick and easy meal option of the night (peanut butter and banana tortilla wrap). I really enjoyed seeing the trees as the sun set but eventually said my goodbyes and headed back to the campground to set up my campsite. Once back, I set up my tent, cooked dinner then loaded everything into the bear box. The park requires you to put anything that smells (food, deodorant, chap stick, coolers, etc.) into the bear bin located at your site.
A number of years ago the park used to dispose of old food into a dump. This would bring in the bears and then people were able to see the bears eating. Well… bears are territorial and as you can expect they fought with each other. They also started associating food with humans so they frequented the campgrounds. All of this behavior led to bad behavior, attacks and record number of bear who had to be euthanized each year. So…. this is why they are so strict on using your bear bin!
Being that I drove all day and hiked all night I passed out quickly in my tent. Three hours later I was woken up by a man screaming “Who’s in that tent! You have to get out of here! There’s a FIRE!” Being that I was just trying to wake up I thought there was a bear lurking around. I poked my head out of my tent and saw flames about 50 yards from my tent! Being that I didn’t know how big it was or how quickly it was traveling I threw everything in my car and went to find a payphone to report the fire to the rangers. They came and in about 3 hours had the fire put out. It was not that large. In talking with my neighbors it sounded as if the campers the previous night had just covered up their campfire and not put it out.
The next day I was on the trail early. I was off to hike the lakes trail. What I didn’t realize was that I was planning on going 10 miles. I went about 4 miles (all uphill) and realized I was getting altitude sickness. I have experienced that before and was not interested in my condition worsening so I started back down the mountain. In hiking down I passed a guy that said, “Just a heads up, there’s a bear down the trail a bit.” I have always wanted to see a wild bear but was a bit uneasy since I was hiking alone and I had to go down the trail to get to my vehicle. Eventually I found the bear and it was only about 20 yards away. It was breaking a branch and sticking his head in the logs to find bugs to eat.
My next stop was to Crescent and Log Meadows to hike 2-3 more miles and see if I could find another bear or two. I didn’t find any bears but I did run into a nice guy who offered to take my picture at the tree that you can drive under.
After hiking I went back to the campground, took a nap in my hammock, went swimming in the great (but extremely cold) river that runs through the campground and organized my car. After the previous nights excitement I had made the decision to leave the park early and start working my way up the state to Redwood National Park and (if I have time) another String Cheese Incident concert in Eugene, OR.