Wednesday, July 13, 2016

2016 Grand Adventure, Days 11-12: Sequoia and King's Canyon National Parks

You can find links to any other 2016 Grand Adventure posts at the "home page."

Day 11: We woke to a misty morning at Sequoia. We hadn't noticed any bears, but there were mule deer wandering through the campground. We visited the Foothills Visitor's Center which had only a few small exhibits and rather unhelpful rangers. We wanted to know the grade going up to the see the giant sequoias. Kansas Dad was a little worried about the van making it up the mountain as sequoias only grow above 4,000 or 5,000 feet. However, Kansas Dad insisted we had promised the children they would see giant sequoia trees and it seemed silly to have driven so far and miss them. So up we went!

It was damp and chilly with low clouds, but the trees still looked magnificent. The Giants Forest Museum is larger than the Foothills Visitors Center with lots of attractive and informative displays. Then we walked the Big Trees Trail, which is an easy short paved trail.

It's always a little sad to me when they pave trails, but I understand that it not only allows access to visitors of all abilities but also protects the environment. The paved trails often visit the most famous sites and this one also provided evidence of all sorts of information about the sequoias so you could see exactly what happens over time.

It appears the trees don't really die; they just eventually tip over, leaving exposed enormous roots.

Sadly, the trip down the mountain was more exciting than Kansas Dad would have hoped. The van's engine struggled for a while then made a large clumping noise before dwindling to a whine. Kansas Dad carefully steered us slowly down the rest of the mountain amidst our prayers we'd at least make it to the visitor's center, desperately hoping we wouldn't be stranded on the long winding road, blocking the path for other visitors and (horrors!) having to walk down that busy highway with our four children.

We did make it down, which was good, but then Kansas Dad spent hours trying to use the pay phone (no cell service) to communicate with our insurance company for the tow service, our mechanic back home (because he knew the problem was the same we had last year and the part should be covered by the warranty company), the warranty company, a rental company (failed on that count and had to find a rental later), and a number of different area mechanics before finding one that would have time to look at the van that day (Friday afternoon).

Finally, he made arrangements and a tow truck came for the van.

Kansas Dad rode along with him and the kids and I waited at the visitor's center. I didn't want to go on any trials or wander far because Kansas Dad had no way to reach us, so we sat outside for a few hours. The kids were terrific. We had a deck of cards and played lots of games. They taught me the first taekwondo form. When the visitor's center closed, the nicest ranger at Sequoia asked First Son to help her fold the flag. (The other rangers had been no help at all when we were trying to find a cab. No one offered a phone and they couldn't even find a recent phone book to look up a rental car company. We were surprised and disappointed.)

They read their own books, and finally, we managed the last few minutes by reading from a book I had on my Kindle.

Kansas Dad had rented the last minivan in the area, booked the last hotel room in the city, and rushed back to Sequoia to pick us up. The mechanics had promised to leave the van where we could get it, but when we got there, it was locked in the garage. So there we were without clothes or toiletries. Sigh.

We did find a terrific Chinese restaurant thanks to Yelp and then found a superstore for some t-shirts and toothbrushes.

Total driving for day 11 - 40 miles (not counting the miles the van was towed or the miles in the rental van).

Day 12: Kansas Dad picked up our bags first thing in the morning. Since we had to wait on the mechanics, we decided to drive up to King's Canyon National Park, originally not on our itinerary. We didn't have time to drive to the actual canyon because we wanted to be back to town in time to pick up the van before the mechanic closed (praying it would be ready and we wouldn't have to stay the whole weekend!).

We walked to the General Grant Tree and then drove a bit in the park before heading back.

This is one of the trees people have lived in over the years. They even stabled horses here at one point.

It was still misty, of course, which is a regular weather pattern where sequoia thrive.

Our mechanic was terrific and finished the van in time for us to pick it up. We had just enough time to stop and buy First Daughter a new pair of shoes since hers were literally falling to pieces. Then we started our drive to Yosemite, glad to have at least half a day there.

Total driving in the rental van - about 140 miles. (The kids discovered reading lights in the rental and have declared it's the one "need" we we finally replace our van.)

The drive to Yosemite would have been more beautiful in daylight, but we were glad to find a place to stay overnight near the park for less than $200. (We had given up our camping site the day before.)
Total driving in our van - 145 miles.

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