A Week in Yosemite & Sequoia National Parks

A post long time awaited as the end of summer approaches, but still daydreaming in awe of being able to explore one of the greatest natural monuments in North America this past month! You forget just how beautiful this country is when you've been isolated to the great plains for over a year. Seeing it in pictures never does it justice, but I thought I would share a few snapshots of our much anticipated family vacation of the summer. 

Yosemite National Park
My dad was invested in this trip, so much that he had planned three separate days in both Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks which are located just outside of Sacramento, California. With mid-90 degree days, we were lucky enough to have a well air-conditioned house so we could reset and recharge for days of hiking, swimming, lots of sight seeing, but unfortunately—no bear sightings. Although, maybe it was for the best? 

My absolute favorite moment was when we first arrived and drove through Tunnel View which gives you an insane panoramic view of El Capitan and the Half Dome as your drive through the inside of a mountain. We were truly expecting crowds as everyone and their families had planned outdoorsy vacations this year, but to my surprise, we had the view to ourselves. It was like looking at a painting and I think we were catching flies because all of our jaws instantly dropped. 
The altitude and thinner air, not to mention driving around curvy mountain ranges, was definitely not something we were used to. I would say for the average person who doesn't stay active (or live in the mountains) on a daily basis might struggle a bit with all of the strenuous hikes, so I was grateful that all of us were able to trudge up to some of the more steep viewpoints. Not to mention the epic waterfalls we were able to scale—maybe not like Alex Honnold free soloing El Capitan, but close. 

Vernal Fall was definitely the most difficult hike we took because you had to hike up about an extra 1,000 feet from the footbridge which was already 400 feet from sea level. With rocky, slippery stairs and trails, I felt like Lara Croft sitting on my hands and knees basically hoping I wouldn't just fall into the abyss and rocky waters down below. I was proud of my sisters and even my dad for thinking it was a good idea to hop the safety rail just to get this amazing picture of us all conquering the waterfall. My mom was smart and waited for our return at the bottom. We were all definitely ready for a drink after that. 
Sequoia National Park
We saw and did as much as we could in Yosemite and said goodbye to the stellar Tunnel View as we made our way south to the Sequoia National Forest. Our journey took us to what was the more conventional and traditional abode—a cozy cabin! A step up from our normal tent we use, so I can say that it was a bit of luxury having a more updated cabin (with running water and electricity wow!). Apparently those who booked cabins only weeks in advance got the cabins without either, so I was grateful my dad knew what was up. 

Just when you thought you've seen a really big tree in your neighborhood...this doesn't even compare. Our first destination was Mariposa Grove which is a mile hike to this meadow of massive redwood trees. We were joking that our kitchen was not even the width of these beasts. The General Sherman Tree was like looking at something from Avatar. It was the world's largest tree by volume, 275 feet tall and 36 feet in diameter. There was a very big windstorm recently that had taken a couple unlucky redwoods out from under the ground and caused a lot of damage to the grove. 
The rangers are particular about letting natural disasters occur on their own without manipulating the grove unless it obstructs pathways, so there were a lot of huge tree trunks lying on the ground which was devastating. Preserving these giants has been an ongoing feat because their bark is very durable and is actually waterproof so a lot of construction companies like to use redwood for decks, patios, and roofing. I can't even imagine what it was like trying to transport these bad boys during the colonial era when logging trucks and cherry pickers weren't around. 

Holy Water
After long days of hiking more than we expected (I wasn't complaining), it was about time to cool off so we headed to Hume Lake for a much needed beach day. The water up there is incredibly clear—so much you can see the minnows breezing past your toes as you enter the water. 

Hume Lake in Kings Canyon was actually a part of a Christian camp, which we only found out after we got there, but it was open to the public and I swear it was like the place to be! We were able to find a secluded little beach and picnicked while kayakers and paddle-boarders passed us in this little inlet we found. 

As for food during the trip, we were thankful that the campground we stayed at had a little market for us to pick up pre-made salads and sandwiches for us to take on our hikes. There were some families who brought coolers of food and were able to use gas-powered skillets to cook due to fire laws, but I knew my parents wanted to relax and not worry about preparing meals while we were up there. 
Giddy Up
Our last adventure of the trip was booking a spontaneous horseback riding tour because when is the next time you'll be able to ride horse back in the Sequoia? I was hysterically pleased that both of my parents were in for the ride. 

So, we headed to the Horse Corral Pack Station for an hour long trail ride. Luckily, we have all had some riding experience (thanks to Girl Scouts), but you always have a little nerves when you're riding a random horse that knows the trail better than you do. 

Thankfully, the horse I rode was an award-winning American mustang named Coffee. 

He was a trooper and like him, we both wanted to just gallop away from our single-file line and be free, but alas we all did our jobs of guiding our horses up and down the mountain—for the most part. We were more worried about crossing paths with rattlesnakes or bears, but again, we got lucky on that front.
More to Explore...
Being with nature has a special place in my heart. Not only because I am passionate about the outdoors, natural conservation, and of course animals, but over the years nature has brought me so much joy and nostalgia from all of the fun memories I've had with friends and family. There's nothing like being able to experience wholesome moments with them in beautiful places. 

The simple life is waking up and trudging out of our cabin just to watch shooting stars at 3 a.m. or discovering secret dunes at our special campground. I knew I've always had a connection with the outdoors and being able to share that with those I love made it all the more worthwhile. 

There are many national parks on my bucket list and more scenic beauties I want to discover. I wouldn't ever want to limit my future family's exposure to our nation's beauties, but also being able to allow others to appreciate and value it just as much as I do. I live in the city, yes, but my heart yearns to just create a lifestyle that is surrounded by nature all the time. 
My hope is that we can continue to respect and value our protected parts of nature, and I know this post wasn't about my stance on the climate crisis (don't worry I can dedicate a novel to it later), but seeing these places in real life makes you wonder about all of the ridiculous politics that controls whether or not we get to see these skyscraper trees or if they actually turn them into concrete skyscrapers. So, my advice to you is, go out and explore.

“Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”- John Muir

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