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2019 - West Coast USA - Day 17

Our last day visiting the National Parks had arrived. Today we were visiting Sequoia National Park and it was somewhere we were both really looking forward to seeing.

As we had cancelled our final night at this current Hotel we packed up before breakfast, which was the usual fare and the scrambled eggs top notch again.

By 9am we had loaded up the car and were on the road to the park. This time the Sat Nav sent us the sensible and easiest route. After about 15 minutes or so we came to the park entrance and for the first time our annual pass was examined and I had to show ID as well. I wanted to say ‘Don’t you know who I am?’, but the I figured that they probably didn’t. Karen just rolled her eyes.

It was another long twisty drive again to the part of the park where the Giant Forest was situated and took another 30 minutes where again we climbed over a mile in height. I really think they should have put these parks in more accessible places, they just didn’t think it through properly. Disney would have had a nice train ride up to the top accompanied by a Goofy soundtrack.

We had a kind of plan today and thought we would do what we thought what would be the most popular trail first. Again we had read the car parks filled up quickly and then you were forced to use the shuttle to get from trail to trail which we wanted to try and avoid.

So our first stop and walk was to the General Sherman Tree. This is the largest tree in the world. It is not the tallest, nor the widest. The true measurement of the tree is apparently done by volume. The trail started at the top of a reasonably sharp incline, whereby you were actually taller than the infamous tree itself and wound its way down to below its base. The trail was paved and had steps at various points. It was a lovely walk down even though at this early hour it was already quite busy.

The tree itself was enormous. The sheer size and age really does beggar belief. I would love one at home but the footprint alone would take up the whole back garden. It deserves all the care and protection it can get. None of our photos can ever do justice to these trees. We both complained that we felt we were getting cricks in our necks trying to look all the way up them. The climb back up was another steep one especially in the thinner air at this altitude.

From here we went on a few miles to the Lodgepole visitors centre where we had a hot drink. The signs everywhere and all the chats the Rangers were having with everyone left us in no doubt we were well and truly in Bear Country. The films being shown were all about Bears, showing how they break into cars if they can smell cars and what to do if you encounter one. Just seeing the warning Bear signs on the roadside is enough to freak Karen out, but now she was on hyper alert.

We then drove back to the Great Forest Museum. The car park was full and so we drove to the overflow section. We planned to eat our lunch here, however Karen was on edge as she felt that at any point a Bear might knock in her door and ask for a bite of her sandwich.

In the end she decided she wasn’t happy either leaving the car here as we still had a few snacks in the car that the Bears might smell and asked me to move it back onto the main car park despite the fact we knew it was full. Fortunately I only had to drive around it twice before we came across someone leaving. A happy wife means a happy life. Personally if any Bear could open a bag of crisps from within our cool bag then I think they were welcome to them. I’m not even certain they like Ready Salted.

The museum was very interesting and we learnt quite a bit about Sequoias, all of which I have almost entirely already forgotten. From here we walked to the Big Tree Trail, another one from the terrific naming standard committee. As we went along I started singing ‘If you go down to the woods today’ to take Karen’s mind off her almost certain encounter with a hungry bear. I reminded her that it was a case of who could run faster me or her, as to which one of us the Bear got.

The trail was stunning, absolutely stunning. Set around a wet meadow it was idyllic. It did indeed have many very very big trees but equally some that had fallen and others in different stages of growth. The ones that were only a few hundred years old looked like saplings to the really old ones. We sat a while in the sunshine. As we were again 6500ft up the temperature was not too hot, just perfect. Again the smell in the air was clean, fresh and full of pine. We loved it and neither of us were looking forward to leaving this behind to hit the lights of Vegas tomorrow.

Back at the car which hadn’t been broken into by Bears, we drove up another very steep road to take us to another Tunnel Tree. This one was on National Park property and approved of by them. The difference was this was a fallen tree where a tunnel had been cut whilst it was lying on its side to drive through. These giant trees take hundreds of years to rot down when fallen so it will be around for sometime. There was a small queue to drive through which I did whilst Karen waited to take a photo.

It was then the long drive back down and through the park. If they made the twists and turns into a ride you would think it to be too far fetched to be real.

The road out of the park took us past the Hotel we had checked out of earlier and then we drove on another 40+ miles to a town called Tulare where we were staying for the night. This time it was a Holiday Inn Express we stayed in and this was a top notch new one. After unpacking we went and sat outside near the pool for 45 minutes just reading and catching on on things.

For our meal today we thought we would finally try a Black Bear Tavern that we had seen many times on this trip in different places. It promised proper home cooking. It was nicely themed and very reasonably priced. Gordon Ramsey would not approve of the menu as it was enormous. Karen went for one of the Breakfast items they serve all day - Eggs Benedict, whilst I had a steak at a cost less than an appetiser at other places. My steak was not bad at all. Karen was not enamoured with her choice as the muffins were soggy from the water the eggs they were cooked. But being the patient and determined person she is, she never mentioned it once.

To complete the night we had to pass the first Super Target we had seen this trip and thought it rude not to pop in. Pleasingly we left with no new purchases and ended the day with a glass of wine in our room.

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