Sequoia National Park August 2014 Trip Report
© August 2014 Adam Helman

Note 1: All coordinates use the WGS84 datum.
Note 2: Mouse-click nearly all images for detail.


My mother Blossom has not enjoyed a vacation in over a decade because she took care of her husband as he slowly succumbed to the ravages of Alzheimers disease. With his passing in January she now allows herself short trips of mutual interest - and the big trees of Sequoia National Park was first on the list.

It is a two day journey lasting from Sunday through Tuesday morning. Years ago we stayed at fancy Wuksachi Lodge within the park, and we had reservations for early June to that end. However a minor illness postponed the trip - yet with no openings on the rescheduled dates. Hence we stay in nearby Visalia a pair of nights.

tree rings
Cross-section with tree rings and mother.

Sunday, August 3 - Drive to Visalia

fresh peach pie

I arise at 6 and drive north from San Diego to retrieve mother at her home in the San Fernando Valley. As it's only 170 miles to Visalia we are there before 1 p.m. well before check-in time. So we eat "lupper" - our term for "lunch and supper" combined, at Marie Callenders. Since they specialize in desserts we have a difficult time deciding which whole pie is purchased (buying by the slice is not sensible since an entire pie is roughly twice the price anyway). The fresh peach pie wins.

Mother is up by 3 a.m. at home, having gone to bed by 7 or 8 in the evening. It's impossible for me to follow this schedule, and I lie in bed until midnight unable to sleep. I did, however, mentally extract the cube root of 13 with 6 digit precision.

Monday, August 4 - Sequoia Park

When I do sleep it's only until 4:30 a.m. since we've decided to use daylight and drive without squandering it by attending the hot hotel breakfast from 6 to 9. Mother has cereal and pie, I have iced Starbucks coffee and a cinnamon cookie while driving.

Highway 198 enters the park after 39 miles and then begins a very curvy and slow ascent of 6,000 feet to the park's big trees. These 17 miles are unwelcome, yet surely more tolerable than had it been dirt. Near the top end there is road construction, forcing the early bird tourists to wait several minutes.

Our first venue is Moro Rock with its spectacular views atop 300 vertical feet of concrete stairs. Although there's a railing the entire way my mother is scared by the exposure, and decides to stop soon enough. She waits for me in the car as I hurry to the top and return in short order.

Moro Rock auto log
Moro Rock and mother Auto log and mother

Now we drive to an auto log where the vehicle goes through a hollowed-out portion of one enormous fallen tree. I stop (illegally?) right inside the tree for pictures.

Soon after we park at a picnic area and trailhead where I have found a hill to our northwest so I can claim a new summit (and hence write a trip report). Mother follows me up the gentle grade cross-country, yet stops after maybe 100 yards citing concern about her holding me back.

The highest ground is capped by a boulder at coordinates (36.55692° N, 118.75139° W), measured elevation 6,861 feet. I call this place "Huckleberry Meadow Hill".

hilltop boulder

We drive back and park at an enormous fallen giant, Buttress Tree, that I cannot resist climbing because the presented opportunity is SO UNIQUE!.

One appreciates how tremendously massive these
trees are only by actually visiting them.

Buttress Tree Buttress Tree
Adam atop the root system
(mouse-click image to see him).
Evidence of the tree's full scale

We return to the main highway and have a bathroom break at another parking area just south of the former General Sherman trailhead (now for handicapped only). I christen the outhouse-enhanced hill "Toilet Top", with another boulder as its highest ground (36.57393° N, 118.76572° W).

Toilet Top
The boulder at "Toilet Top".

General Sherman is one of Earth's largest living things, an unparalleled sight that is must-see for all park attendees. Shown only as dirt on my topo chart, a paved road leads east and then south from the main highway to a new trailhead for able-bodied hikers. From there we walk south 0.4 mile downhill to General Sherman - one of mother's cherished "friends".

General Sherman
General Sherman's base and mother.

I know she will not appreciate returning uphill. To myself the solution is obvious: we walk downhill 0.1 mile to the handicapped zone and take a free shuttle bus to our vehicle at the upper, main trailhead. Remarkably, nobody else exercised this ploy - either because they did not mind returning uphill or because they did not conceive of it. Mother calls it "brilliant" - I call it "experience".

We drive north a few miles to the main ranger station and visitor center at Lodgepole. While mother attends the gift store I enjoy the indoor natural history displays.

Suddenly it's 11:20 a.m. - and the Wuksachi Lodge restaurant is open for lunch at 11:30. We are seated and enjoy fairly good food. I have fish and chips with garlic French fries.

It's now early afternoon, and we have the option of continuing northwest through adjacent Kings Canyon National Park for seeing the General Grant tree. However mother decides to head back our "ascent" route - even though it's known to be hampered by road construction. Sadly we wait three times in line, wasting as much time as the Kings Canyon option would have consumed relative to our chosen route. A mistake.

There are now dozens of cars going uphill the other way, just entering the park at latecomers. Few of them will find parking spaces.

We are back in our room just after 3 p.m. - a full day lasting 10 hours. After showering and a delicious cinnamon cookie-and-milk snack I fall asleep exhausted from both the early awakening (a form of jet lag without crossing time zones) and the unwelcome winding road.

Around 7 p.m. I arise and, not being particularly hungry, we decide to eat food in the room rather than a restaurant. Mother's peanut butter and strawbelly jelly ("Goober" brand) sandwich is delicious - plus we have much leftover peach pie.

Unable to agree on televised programs we sleep by 9 or 9:30 p.m., again hours before my normal time.

Tuesday, August 5 - Return Drive

The original plan was having the hotel breakfast and driving at 7 a.m. so that I'd be passing through Los Angeles at 10 a.m. after rush hour. However as mother cannot sleep after 2 a.m. we arise at 3:36 and are gone by 4:30, driving south on Route 99 in darkness.

We stop just north of Bakersfield for gasoline and breakfasts at Denny's. My strong coffee is enjoyed with sinfully rich chocolate cream pie, then followed by a "Philly Cheesesteak" omelet with prime rib, melted swiss cheese, and a wide assortment of veggies. I won't need food until this evening.

Mother is deposited around 8:15 a.m. and I suffer through rush hour traffic which was not so bad as I had envisioned - arriving home about 11 o'clock.


Mother had a wonderful time! We will visit Yosemite National Park in earliest September.

The trip odometer read 736.0 miles upon returning home.
teddy bear
Mother and a new friend inside the Wuksachi Lodge.