Saturday – March 20, 2010
The weather outside looks great and I’m feeling kind of spontaneous early on a Saturday morning. After weeks of rain, cloudy skies and cold temperatures, it has been hard to get out and do some quality hiking. So, I asked my two teenage daughters if they wanted to jump in the car and head up to Sequoia National Park with me for the day.
They are feeling antsy too, so before the last word is out of my mouth, my older daughter is on her cell phone with her “boyfriend” asking if he wants to join us. He does. Who would guess there would be so much interest in a long drive outside of texting range, but my kids pleasantly surprised me.
Its about 4.5 hours from where we live on the Central Coast to Three Rivers, California. A small town just outside the South entrance to the park. We left at about 7:30 a.m. and took Hwy 101 north to Paso Robles where we cut east on Hwy 46. We then transitioned onto Hwy 41.
We made a rest stop in Kettleman City, the exact halfway point of our trip. Kettleman is a perfect break point as it has a row of fast food joints and gas stations. Back on the road, we pass Hanford, California and cut east on Hwy 198, a clear shot to Sequoia and Three Rivers. The kids entertain themselves listening to music and gazing out the window at the millions of wildflowers that paint a canvas of unending green grass shades of blue, orange and mustard yellow. The heavy El Nino rains this winter have created a springtime paradise for us to drive through. Its shaping up to be a perfect day.
We arrive at Three Rivers at about noon and I’m proud of myself for making pretty good time. I wasn’t planning on staying the night, but I thought since everyone is so relaxed and in good spirits, I’ll see if there is any room at the Comfort Inn. I’ve stayed at the Comfort Inn & Suites, Sequoia Kings Canyon before, and found it to be clean and the rooms well appointed. The staff are always very courteous. What I like the best about this Inn, aside from the fact that it is pretty inexpensive, is the free breakfast. I’m in luck, they have a room with two queen beds and pull out couch for the “boyfriend”.
Anxious to get into Sequoia National Park, we quickly claim our territory within the hotel room, drop our bags and head for the car. A short 10 minutes later, we are at the entrance to the park. Stopping for pictures at the big entrance sign, we marvel at the beauty of the Kaweah River that is swelling with snow run off. While the ranges are covered in snow, its a nice 75 degrees where we stand. We feel like we just entered heaven. I see a sparkle in my 13 year old daughter’s eye that I have not seen in awhile…I could turn around and go home now happy.
The kids want to see snow and so we are in the car again and driving up the long winding road to the “Giant Forest”. At about 6,000 feet we begin to see patches of snow. By 7,000 feet, we are in a winter wonderland. More snow than you could imagine…not inches, but feet high. The roads are clear and no chains were required on our trip, but you should always carry them just in case.
We decided to go to Wolverton, about 20 miles from the entrance to the park. I know this area from a previous hike (posted on this site), and knew there was a snow park for the kids to play. I forgot our sleds and was a little bummed about that. But, there is something different about people in the mountains. Within a couple of minutes of arriving at Wolverton, as we were walking toward the snow park, a woman approached me and said she was leaving…and would I like her sled. They were done with it. I thanked her and told her we would put it to good use.
A half a day of sledding for the kids and back country hike for me left us famished and tired. We headed back to the parking lot, passing a mom with a small boy, we passed forward our sled and began our drive down the mountain. Stopping for dinner, we ate hamburgers at the Riverview Restaurant & Lounge on a large patio right on the edge of the flowing Kaweah River. A great way to top off the day.
Back in the hotel room that night, we watched t.v., went outside to look at how bright the stars were, and then all drifted off to a deep sleep. The next morning, the kids had their pick of breakfast items, with me choosing the buttery waffles and syrup.
We decided to head back up to the snow and then make a turn around at about noon for home. We spent most of the morning taking pictures and even had a contest for a Starbucks Gift Card on who could take the best picture. After each of us had 5 minutes of camera time to take a walk and find an interesting subject it, was my 13 year old who won the Gift Card…another rare sparkle glimmering in her eye.
Cost breakdown for our weekend in Sequoia…4 people:
Hotel: $85.99 plus tax
Park Entrance: $20.00