Winding roads, take me home

Sequoia IV

Sequoia National Park, man. That place is no joke.

We arrived in Three Rivers, Calif., after a four-hour drive from San Francisco. The road was long, the sun scalding . . . the day young. After learning we couldn’t check into our hotel quite yet, we set off for the park in search of the famed giant trees.

We made it.

Kind of.

Please observe:

winding road

There’s a road in there.

I have exactly one photo from our time climbing switchbacks up mountains in Sequoia — mostly because I’ve never been so terrified in a car in my life. My dad was behind the wheel with Mom beside him, and Spencer and I were clinging to life (and the door handles) in the back.

I should note that Dad is a very good and cautious driver (as evidenced that I’m alive to write this post), but there was only so much one could do on those treacherous roads. Families seemed to be happily sailing along next to us, and all I could think about were the unbelievable drops immediately to our left and right. Drops off a cliff. Into the abyss.

Despite the fact that I’m a well-known scaredy-cat, I vouch you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who wasn’t a little shaky driving through Sequoia. It’s awe-inspiring, yes — unbelievable, crazy, gorgeous. Brother (or sister?) to the mighty Yosemite.

But it’s scary as hell, too, and there’s just no way around that.

Whether through lack of research or information ahead of time, we had no idea the hour-long drive from the park entrance to the grove of Giant Sequoias was going to be filled with endless hairpin turns. I’m talking serious, no-joke, terrifying angles — many without guard rails — as we climbed into the sky. The temperature was a good 30 degrees cooler at the apex than it was in Three Rivers, where it was breath-stealing hot.

That was one good thing.

As we made our way up, I had to roll my window down because I was pretty sure the motion sickness was going to result in actual sickness . . . but that meant not even a plate of glass was separating me from certain death should one minor thing go wrong.

The views were pretty spectacular, though.

Sequoia

Sequoia II

Sequoia III

Pretty enough to make up for a near-death experience? I guess so. We did eventually get to the sequoias, where we paused to breathe in that cool, clean, crisp mountain air. But this was only after one member of our party did become ill and every member of our party came down with the jitters.

And we almost ran out of gas.
On the side of a mountain.
Without a shoulder.
And no cell phone service for miles and miles.

Never. again.

But the trees? The trees were nice. Impressive. Tall.

Spence and trees

Tall tree

Sequoias

And we got a stamp for our crisp new passport book, which makes me feel like a giddy 8-year-old collecting neon Lisa Frank stickers all over again.

I’m kind of obsessed with it.

And by “kind of,” I mean I now carry it around with me “just in case.” Just in case I happen upon a national park during my work day in suburbia.

Passport book

It’s the little things.

And I’m just thankful to be alive, so #stampsforeveryone.

Sequoia, you did not defeat us!

(But I’m never going back there.)

(I have white hair now.)

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22 thoughts on “Winding roads, take me home

    • Absolutely, Erin! I couldn’t believe that the metropolitan area was given its own region in the passport book . . . though with so many local sites, I can see why! I’ll have to backtrack on many of the places I’ve already been to get my stamp, but that’s okay. I never mind visiting gorgeous places! Who could? πŸ™‚

  1. I foiund your blog initially while researching wedding planning but have stayed because I love your writing. I never comment, just read. But, I loved your comparison of your new National Parks Passport book to collecting Lisa Frank stickers. I one time collected Lisa Frank stickers and now I am just as obsessive with my National Park Passport. Like you, I carry mine around ALL THE TIME, you know, just in case. Rarely do I need it, but that one day you do, you will feel so prepared. I live in the same area as you, and while the DC area of course has fantastic national parks (and stamps!) the Hampton House (http://www.nps.gov/hamp/index.htm) just off the 695 near Towson is a nice day trip. Visiting there, it is hard to believe you are just minutes outside a bustling city. And of course, there is a stamp there! Happy stampt collecting!

    • Thanks so much for your kind words, Jenn! Hampton House looks awesome — definitely will plan a day trip up there. I love “vacationing” right in our area, and day trips are the best. So glad to know I’m not the only one obsessed with the passport book . . . it’s just so fun! And yes, the Lisa Frank stickers will live on in infamy. My favorites were the ballerina bunnies. πŸ™‚

    • Absolutely, Natalie! I’m very glad we made it, though I don’t think I’ll find myself in that neck of the woods again (literally!). But California’s trees really are awe-inspiring . . . nothing like we have here in Maryland, that’s for sure.

  2. I haven’t been to Sequoia National Park yet but ohmygosh that drive does look scary! There are lots of scary, winding, “I’m going to fall of the side of a mountain” roads through Yosemite and Tahoe but no matter how many times you drive them, you just never quite get used to it. The views are totally worth all the anxiety though. πŸ™‚

    • For sure, Stephanie! We had our share of scary moments heading into and around Yosemite, too, though nothing made me quite as nervous as this drive through Sequoia. Our lodge outside Yosemite in Groveland missed last year’s wildfire by, oh, a breath. Much of the surrounding property was still very badly burned and in the process of being cut down, so we combined hair-raising turns through the mountains with burned forests as far as the eye could see! It was . . . very interesting. A story we’ll tell for years to come.

  3. Sequoia National Park became my young family’s annual get away: we went camping there every year. It’s a wonderful place. I hope you overcome your fears and return, because I know you didn’t see all of the wonders in one visit. And … did you get that Kings Canyon National Park stamp, too? You were RIGHT THERE!

    • I’m sure we missed so much, Henry! The views were just spectacular, though I think you’d be hard-pressed to get me back in the car in those mountains. πŸ™‚ We did not get the Kings Canyon stamp, sadly — it was enough to return to terra firma, haha! But thank you for sharing your memory. I can see why you’d return to camp there — it was beautiful!

  4. These photographs are SO breathtaking & gorgeous. I’m glad you were able to brave the drive to see it all. I’m not a good car passenger, I won’t “backseat drive” but I’m secretly terrified, I have motion sickness(sometimes it’s full blown vertigo) and I’m afraid of heights-so I’m not sure I’ll ever make the trip myself but your pictures are unbelievable and the next best thing. Have you ever heard of the Million Dollar Highway in Colorado? If not, just google it. I was on it, my brother drive our family, when I was maybe a sophomore in high school and I STILL get shaky remembering it sometimes, it was just scary!
    Where’s you get that passport book? I’d love & I visit enough parks to put it to use. Great post!

    • Thanks for the kind words, Susan! I’m afraid of heights, too, which added another component to the scary drive. But it was amazing to be up there, taking it all in. Just looked up Million Dollar Highway — wow! Gorgeous, but definitely akin to this scary ride.

      I got our passport book from the welcome center within Sequoia, but they also sell them online. I’ve seen them at most national parks within the gift shop (which seems to be where the custom stamp for your book is, too), and I’m sure the park rangers could guide you to them! The book is really useful and cute, too, with tons of photos and information on all the national parks. I recommend it!

      • Heights are terrible! I can usually force myself to do whatever it is anyway but I feel sick & weird the whole time. Always glad I gave it a go though.
        Thanks for the information, I’m no doubt getting the passport book but I wish I’d had it years ago to start collecting. Have a nice day!

  5. I need one of those passports! I’ve somehow found myself on a huge parks kick. Going to them all is on my bucket list. These photos make me so homesick. My family lived near Redwood National Park when I was preschool age and some of my first memories are of standing, looking up, and trying to see the tops of giant trees.

  6. Just saw your blog. Have you ever been over Trail Ridge Road in Estes Park Colorado? I think it’s the highest pass in the the United States. Estes Park is beautiful and a National Park. The pass is narrow and straight up on one side and straight down on the other side!! Scary for sure and snow year round! Beautiful!!!

  7. National Park Passport stamp book? SIGN ME UP. This sounds pretty terrifying, but also lovely. AND a great story, of course πŸ™‚

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