Road tripping in Southern California


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September 14th 2013
Published: September 19th 2013
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Road tripping in Southern California

Our plan was to drive from Mini’s place in Fallbrook all the way to Sequoia National Park during one day, but Mini and Kristin told us about a camping site along the way, which would be right by the sea, so you could sleep next to the waves. As it turned out later, we had also once again underestimated to required travel time: it would have been impossible to reach the Big Sur scenic coastal road in daylight and get to Sequoia during one day anyway. Well, we could not camp on the beach, since we would have needed a 4WD car to drive to the campground along the sand (seems we are that much americanized by now that walking the one mile there with our camping gear did not even occur to us as an option). We settled for another nearby campground instead, and just walked to the beach in the morning to have picnic morning coffee. If you thought California is hot all year (or at least in summer), you would be disappointed at the beaches; even though it's mid-September, which can still be considered late summer, every beach we visited was chilly, windy, and the water was cold; the few surfers we saw were all wearing wetsuits. It was worth it to wander to the beach anyway that morning, because while sipping our coffees we saw to dolphins swimming along the shore quite near us.

We spent most of that day driving along the Big Sur coastal road making our first stop to see an elephant seal colony, several more stops at scenic spots, and took a picnic lunch break in the town Carmel by the Sea. We lost big part of our lunch, the croissants, to a greedy mean squirrel, though. Actually it just nibbled a bit of the corner right behind our backs, but they were anyway garbage after that. We took a brief walk on the Carmel beach too, but again it was quite cold due to the wind, so swimming was not an option; even walking there was not that comfortable in our summer clothes.

It was already 10pm when we finally arrived to Sequoia National Park. Luckily campsites were available. Btw, didn't I mention in one of the earlier posts that I would have to get used to nastier and nastier bugs as our trip proceeds? Well sure enough, when I went to the ladies bathroom that night, I saw a huge tarantula sitting on the roof. Ugh. And no, I did not use that bathroom after that. Needless to mention, Leo eagerly went to photograph the creature. Even though, tarantula actually is not that dangerous, or at least the kind that lives in Sequoia Park, but it certainly looks quite scary.

Sequoia National Park is home to some giant trees, called sequoias (surprise, surprise). We originally planned just to see the trees, but learned that the place also has a quite interesting crystal cave, where they give guided tours, and decided to take one of those. But first we drove to the Giant Forest where we took a short walk to see the trees. They were giants indeed. The largest one, called General Sherman, has 11 meters diameter on the widest part of its trunk (right on the ground). And they are 2000-3000 years old! Quite weird to imagine that 1000 years ago those trees have already stood there as giants. General Sherman is actually the largest tree of the world if measured by volume. We wonder if is then also the largest living creature on Earth..probably, unless something lame like a huge mushroom spawn exceeds its size..

Next day we drove to Death Valley, where we expected to be faced by temperatures in 40s Celsius during the days, and 30s during the nights. I don’t know how we could have managed to sleep had our campground not been 2000 feet above sea level and thus a little cooler – it was hot enough in our tent at night as it was. Exploring the valley was mostly possible thanks to our air conditioned car. It was beautiful, though. And it indeed seemed totally dead, apart from some brownish, dry bushes here and there, it was just sheer desert. And salt. We spent one day driving around, and managed to see pretty much all we wanted to see, even if the national park is actually huge. At the end of the day we drove to the nearest town called Beatty in order to find some more reasonably priced gas and dinner. It was definitely the closest thing to an old fashioned Wild West town we have seen on this trip, with local old men in their cowboy hats. And they were not dressed up for the tourists; it seemed like their usual outfit.


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