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Published: August 19th 2010
Towering over an SUVI
Just to give you some perspective
must admit, there is a slight guilt that has swept through me for not writing a travelblog entry for almost 10 months now. A yearning to put down some memories and thoughts of my return to US, the re-igniting of a career and a relationship which had kindled at my time away, and continues to burn. It is not that trips have not been taken within this time lapse. One spectacular drive cross country which has let me see a whole other side of the United States and a few places in between. All the while setting up shop one block away from the beach facing the Pacific ocean. Not till now, had I wanted to pick up where I left off. Writing about some phenomenal experiences which I will never forget, and ones which clearly shape me. Not till now, had I experienced the nature of California
Camping has been ingrained in American society for generations, and something which I only recently have began to truly marvel. Kids had spent the summers at camp (us British people are well aware of Bug Juice), parents had taken their kids into the woods and taught them how to fish. I
was new to this, but damn it was fun getting by out there. Sequoia National Park
was the destination, and only a quick 4 hour jaunt stood between me and some of the largest trees to grace this earth. Having bought a two man tent from a guy on craiglist the weekend before, and had finally requested and received the broken buckle to my Gregory backpack (busted in China
coincidently), I was raring to go.
Losing the ability to breath doesn't happen too often to me. Yet driving into this forest has to be one of the most exhilarating escapes to the realization that we live on the most amazing planet. A land of giants, a fairy book, a fantasy land only imagined in James Cameron's world. That is the land of the Sequoia's. I felt as petty compared to these monsters in my Honda Fit as I would have been in an F150, but obviously way less manly. The sun was eclipsed by towering trees from both sides, and each turn of the road was rewarded with a taller, thicker, more gargantuan example of the power of life to sustain itself. As I would learn later, constant fires
Flowers in a meadow
kill off the lower branches of the trees, giving the truck an elevated feel which is ever growing upward and outward. If you do one thing when going to Sequoia, drive in during the day, you will not be disappointed. After a night at the delightfully deemed Azalea campground, the next day was to be the moment of reckoning. My clash with the wilderness. I was truly excited.
A 7am start began the day with clear blue skies and the walk to the bear bin to attain my food, deodorant and any other sweet smelling items which you are prohibited to leave in your car overnight. Easy precaution, but it does make you think into actually meeting a bear on the trail. A little frightening, but none the less. I had chosen a 14 mile round trip hike to Alta peak which is the easiest way to get up to the Sierra's and many perform the trail as a day-hike. I was in no rush, so after gearing up my pack and renting a $5 bear canister, I began the ascent. (With no bear bins on this trail, a bear canister is a hard plastic case you carry to
hold your food in. Again, a little frightening. Starting at 7000 ft, the goal was to reach 11200ft and camp somewhere near the top. This was as far as my research had taken me.
Thoughts of trekking in China
flooded back with each step except there were fewer Chinese people...figures. Even though there are not too many of the biggest sequoia's on this trail, walking through the forest provided many sights and sounds. Chipmunks scurried, rivers flowed and mozzies buzzed. Carrying a 30 pound pack molded quite nicely to my back as I took each step to climbing the mountain range which had given me beer drinking pleasure for so many years. Thank you Sierras
, I am re-paying my debt by climbing you. And a sight these mountains are. After a few hours, the trees clear and you are left overlooking a mountain range of epic proportions. So epic, I ate my lunch on the first rock overlooking them.mmmmmm jerky, apple and Sierras. I had read that the last two miles are the most grueling of the hike. 2000 ft in a shadeless rock desert will take you to the peak and grueling it was. A mental battle began
Reaching the top!!
to form in my head to convince my legs to take 50 steps, then 60, then 70 until each muscle in my body ached. Towards the last half an hour, each step up onto a rock produced sharp cramps sent through my calfs and hamstrings but it wasn't time to quit.
On a lucky day, you can see the highest peak in the Sierra's, Mt Whitney
from Alta, and a lucky day it was. Towering at 14500ft, she looked back at the half dozen people who had all shared in climbing Alta and reared her head in our direction. What was left, was to sit and swim within the beauty of the mountains building the backbone of California and Nevada. The snow had subsided to only topping the peaks, so no cramp-ons were necessary, as they might have been a few months ago. We sat, we shared some stories and laughed at the guy who was scared of heights.
Another hour downhill left me at the spot which I had selected on my way up and assumed it was the location known only as Panther Gap. There were certainly no panthers, but there was a fire ring, and
Can't really ask for a better place to spend the night
just enough space for a tent with a view to kill for. I started a fire, and let the darkness swell around me. I couldn't tell you the last time I experienced such silence. Such, nothingness. Only the hoves of a male mule deer broke the aura as he munched on some grassy undergrowth nearby, seemingly dis-interested in my presence. The magic came a few hours into the night, after the twilight had recessed, a most starry of nights came out. A village named Pai
in Northern Thailand had held my record for the best stars, but a new league was opened up that night. Laying on a rock, hearing the crackling of a fire and watching the remains of the Perseid meteor shower really sums up this place as the my first and certainly not the last delve into the tranquil nature of California National Parks.
In case you were wondering - no bears. Well, one, but she was little
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