M y journey to Sequoia National Park was the culmination of three months of planning, training, and the occasional panic attack that I was going about it all wrong. To put everything into perspective, the trip began as just a whisper of good intentions that eventually snowballed into three days of camping.
What I found on the trip though was a sense of connection to nature that only grew stronger with each day. I found myself not worrying about the trivial things in life and instead choosing to enjoy the time I had adventuring and taking photos.
Sequoia National Park, my Prime Adventure, allowed me to step back, relax, and concentrate on the here and now.
An almost five and a half hour drive from the scorching heat of the Mojave Desert had exhausted us, but we remained thrilled at the possibilities the next three days of camping would bring. Surreal would be a nice initial theme to describe what it feels like to finally drive through the entrance of the park. It’s a unreal combination of sights, smells, and sounds that a desert dweller such as I was astounded by.
Although the moist morning fog had followed us into the park , nothing could detract from the utter beauty of overlooking the Kaweah River valley. Hearing the roar of the powerful river is the first indication you’ve made it.
A scene of absolute green guarded by towering sentinels of the Sierra Nevada Mountains give the sense of entering a completely different biome.
As we got settled into our campsite for the night we hoped the next day would bring better weather for our hike to Marble Falls. Going in early May meant most of more popular campsites in the park still had yet to open. In fact, ours, the Potwisha Campground was filled to the brim every night we stayed there. Despite the usual weekend traffic into the park Sequoia was all but empty trails. Luckily for us too our campsite was literally connected with the trail to Marble Falls.
At ten in the morning the second day we set off into what I can only describe as dense Sierra Nevadan jungle. The previous day’s fog had set in once again, this time dissipating midday of the long, inclined hike.
Our position from the top of trail would rapidly transition from high up mountain views covered with loose rock to thick patches of dense forest. The going was tough for someone unacclimated to the elevation, gaining over two thousand feet in the course of four miles was definitely challenging to say the least.
At the top of the falls is a image that will forever burned in my memory, a roaring series of white rapids cascading downwards for what seemed like infinity. Taking a small rest at the high point of the falls allowed the entire scene to be taken in fully.
Miles of river guarded on each side by some of the greenest mountains I’ve ever seen. Stopping occasionally to snap photos I would often find myself staring into the green abyss of the valley below. Through this thick forest we ventured for the rest of the day, exploring the higher parts of the falls until we decided to head back.
There was something completely serene about the whole situation. In the hours we trudged uphill to see the falls my mind was completely clear. No doubts, no fears, just pure concentration on the goal ahead. It’s something that I believe is contained in the spirit of anyone willing to venture into the uncertain grasps of nature: the ability to form a connection.
Although this was my first time ever doing the trail it felt natural to be there, like something that just had to happen for the experience, not just because I wanted it to. It equalized the part of my mind that wanted to be there strictly to hike and focus on getting good photos, instead giving way to the openness and joy of finally being in nature. That feeling is something I chase every occasion I can afford, the clear mind and quietness that washes over you as you finally crest a giant hill, look on for miles at a beautiful landscape or in my case, capture the perfect photo after hours of working.
The small amount of suffering you have to endure is minimized by the fact that you’re physically in a place that’s without a doubt special. Something that can’t be replicated by a tale or photo, it has to be physically felt. Although I’m pretty new to this hiking thing the feelings that I’ve experienced in nature so far have done nothing but motivate me to pursue what I love further. It’s an addictive feeling of freedom and quiet that has to be sought intensely with a passionate attitude.
Nature has taught me many lessons about my limits as a person, how to push them along with the rewards that come with them. Furthermore, it has allowed me to become more attentive to the smaller things in life I often take for granted.
As we made our way back to our campground that evening I wanted to take that feeling I’d experienced and apply it to the next day's adventure : the gigantic Sequoias themselves. Up the road about twenty miles from our campsite laid on the crown jewel of Sequoia National Park: Grant’s Grove.
A packed weekend crowd had erupted out from their cars, spilling out to the narrow walkways around the park’s most coveted attractions. The huge crowds didn’t last forever, the high altitude and two mile loop trail sent many of them packing, including myself at one point.
My first time experiencing altitude sickness was freaky, even when I knew it was going to happen. Being a slightly bigger person myself it hit me like a freight train after about the first 3/4 of a mile. The thing about altitude is it can take any person unprepared enough down with it and I would certainly categorize myself in that area.
No matter how much running, hiking, or working out I did before Sequoia, going up the high altitude loop absolutely destroyed me. It felt like the very first time hiking, my lungs were heaving while the back of calves were on fire. Although my inner macho hiker told me to keep pushing, my body was giving me a huge and emphatic no.
Sometimes though it’s in these small moments of in between that gives us the biggest pieces of perspective however. As I sat down to relieve my burning legs I finally began to take in the surrounding atmosphere. I realized that no matter how much my body hurt right now I was in a place that was extraordinary special. I was surrounded thousands of years of history in the form of towering trees.
It was something straight out of a tale of adventure, but vividly real in the moment. As I headed back up the steep incline to the parking lot I considered how lucky I was actually was to walk that trail. Considering the trip itself started out as a well meant idea and eventually snowballed into action. I felt extremely happy just for the opportunity, the three days and two nights I spent in Sequoia is an experience I'll never forget.