Monday, October 08, 2007

the road to Sequoia

It took years of intending, but we finally made the journey from our humble end of Route 198 to Sequoia National Park at the other end. When you look at the map, there is this remarkable latitudinal line that runs roughly west through Las Vegas; Death Valley -- lowest point in the continental US; Mount Whitney -- highest peak in the lower 48 states; Sequoia National Park -- home to the world's largest trees; King City; Junipero Serra -- highest point in the Santa Lucia coastal range; and the scary-ass cliffs of Big Sur. It's as though this line had some geological and spiritual significance, such as a runway for extraterrestrial spacecraft, in which case Route 198 would be a good place to land.

Interestingly, our lodge in the tiny town of Three Rivers was the easternmost establishment on all of Route 198 prior to the park entrance. While the drive was only 3 and 1/2 hours and the altitude gain only around 1000 feet, the darkness, the cold, and the unknown left me cursing behind the wheel. But the initial blast of creepy vibes subsided the next morning when I realized what a fine view our room had of the boulder-strewn Kaweah River.

Saturday was a beautiful, warm, sunny day, and I realized that if we were ever going to make it to the giant Sequoias, this was the right opportunity. But at the entrance they were checking cars for snow tires, and advising certain vehicles against the narrow, winding 5000-foot ascent to Giant Forest. Thanks to Lisa's fearless and competent driving, all went well. The snow was beautiful and added charm to the famous, cinnamon-colored Sequoias. The museum was also very well done.

Below the Sequoias the terrain was dry, consisting of the same drought-resistant plants we get in the Salinas Valley, plus the of the ubiquitous Redbud tree, whose distinctive leaves resembles Bauhinia, its exotic Asian relative.

Our hotel room, which at first glance was nothing extraordinary, slowly grew on me, and toward the end I became almost attached to it. Cats would spontaneously appear outside our window. We milked Three Rivers of whatever subtle charms we could find. There were also bad restaurants and a sense of forgotteness, but for a weekend getaway, it worked.

On Sunday we stopped in downtown Visalia for lunch, the snow-dusted Sierra hovering in the background. It was a good time of year to pass through the Central Valley. The sky was actually blue, and the smell of cow poo poo was at a minimum.


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