Just fifteen miles outside of Vegas was an artistic development Seven Magic Mountains, seven stone cairns about 25 feet tall halfway between Jean Dry Lake and the bustling Vegas energy. We had missed it going in so made it a point to drop by before really setting off towards Sequoia.
Painted of bright neon, each boulder about as tall and wide as a 6 ft human and misshaped, stacked five to six high these beaconed to any passerby. Not really a hike or anything, just a parking lot off of I-15 that you could swing in but definitely cool.
Back on the road we pushed forward into the nearly next six hours of driving. The first few hours weren’t too bad as the terrain became more interesting heading into eastern California. In and out of mountain passes with a little bit of snow opening up to endless rolling hills, mostly of frosted grass and sunny blue skies giving the allusion of warmth but the wind reminding that it was the comfort of the car keeping us warm. Our music selection ran all over the board as we played offline Spotify playlists that we would never update. 90’s pop hits, RHCP’s, deep house and Brasilian funke music got us through most of the way until hitting Bakersfield when we began to finally head north. Then came the reggaeton which was key to the push as the rains came gradually harder and harder with oil walking beams or donkey pumps for miles and miles before being replaced by orange groves. I felt like we were driving through an early 90’s racing video game where the scenery looped for the entirety of the track.
As we edged nearer toward our destination the clouds became more apparent sitting on the winding road that hugged Lake Kaweah as steep incline led us to the last town, Three Rivers before the entrance to Sequoia. A what seemed to be wonderful little town with only a few businesses, churches and residence was a little difficult to know what lay beyond 50 yards as disability was low. We cruised through making haste to get into the mountains before dusk but were turned around at the entry gate as we hadn’t any tire chains. Not a totally necessity at any other part of the trip so far and not necessary for the first six miles of the park but to see the sequoias which were just after you’d need to have handy to proceed. Heading back into town we found an all-in-one stop. A restaurant, clothing store, deli, chain rental and much more would’ve rented us chains for $45 with a deposit returned with the return. As we’d still need to rent again in other mountainous parks as well as backtrack to return the chains we ended up buying for $100 used, (you can buy ahead of time on amazon for $40) convenience uncharge included.
The first six miles were intense. Climbing 3k vertical feet quick on a twisting steep grade and with a weathered transmission had us on our toes all of the way. Visibility continued to lessen with a few openings of clarity but for the most part a feeling of driving in a dream with the snow banks building as we continued. This added to the magnificence and mystery of some of the sequoia as they towered into the heavens with no end. Their enormous foundations large enough to fit a small house inside. Within a few miles of what seemed to be the highest point of the mountain was pulled over and wandered a path that brought us to “General Sherman,” an infamous singular sequoia that was absurdly large, larger than the others, showcased behind a fence, ironically built by its predecessors. Before getting to the tree another fallen sequoia was turned into a hollowed out entry point through the side that a tall adult would have no problem walking through.
After another 45 minutes of driving we began the slow and slippery decline that became the next two hours journey down the side of the mountain and out of the park. The mist, lack of light and snow kept us at a slower than usual pace. Our initial plan was to make it towards Yosemite NP afterwards and to camp outside of it. At this point in had been about an eleven hour driving day and hungry and looking for a reset we decided to head towards Fresno.
An hour west of where we were and an hour from Yosemite made our next destination. An hour flew by as our hunger increased. Comfort food at a local casual dining fried chicken spot hit the spot and a last minute decision to get a room at a local cheap hotel using points was a relief to get from behind the wheel and decompress before heading out the next morning…