Our next stop was Bakersfield, California – northeast of Los Angeles, and a little southwest of Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park. We skipped the route taking us through or past LA, just because the traffic is notoriously bad; that meant taking the 247 out of Joshua Tree and getting on the 58 into Bakersfield. It felt like the scenery changed dramatically really quickly… flat earth, dusty, dry with scrub brush everywhere suddenly turned into green rolling hills with lots of trees and even flowers by the side of the highway. Much more cattle pasture land and we started seeing wind turbines and small oil wells a lot more as well.
We made good time – we got into Bakersfield at the time we agreed with our Couchsurfing host and him & his girlfriend were super nice about making us dinner that night. 🙂 Everardo is an engineer for a company that does fracking, so it was interesting to hear the controversial debate from another point of view, and I don’t know enough about the chemical side of fracking to really talk about it meaningfully, but we had plenty of other good conversation as well.
We spent most of the next day in Sequoia National Park, riding the switchbacks through impossibly green, lush mountains and climbing in elevation til we saw snow not too far above us. It took about an hour to get towards the center of the park attractions but it was a fun drive. We saw deer a couple of times by the side of the road and even a little pika on one of the trails. We weren’t even very far into the park when we started seeing the sequoia trees, not the giant ones yet (they’re higher up the mountain), but the sun already had a couple of layers of foliage to get through before hitting the road. It got a bit chilly, but it is so beautiful that chill didn’t really factor into it. The first thing we did was drive deep into the park to the General Sherman Tree which is, by volume, the biggest tree in the world. There are a bunch of walking trails in that area which connect with trails in other parts of the park and giant forest. Standing at the foot of some trees you can only barely see the top; the trunks are massively wide at the bottom and tapering out at the top, which just adds to the perception that the tree goes on forever up into the clouds! 🙂
We followed a looped trail through Crescent Meadow too; read as it got later into the day. The weather was so nice, it was easy to hang out and outside the whole day. The ranger told us that it had been snowing in the park just a couple of days before, but luckily the road was completely clear.
A friend in Fresno suggested we check out Moro Rock so on our way out we parked at the trailhead and made our way up. The trail is really short (we walked it up in about 30 minutes), though it’s steep up the rock. It’s nowhere near as steep or exposed as Angel’s Landing – it had rails on either side and the whole trail was made up of carved steps. Only at the top of the rock, looking down at the valleys and forests surrounding you is there a flatter walkway across the Moro Rock. It was quite hazy and misty by the time we got up there, so we couldn’t see very far, but the view of the sequoia forest is beautiful! Apparently the vault toilets at the foot of the trail have quite a reputation, because not only did we notice the noxious smell entering and exiting the trail, other hikers who have been there before commented on it when they heard we did the trail. 🙂
The road we took to the park and back (CA 65 & CA 198) took us past rows and rows of vineyards and citrus groves, where I swear I could smell orange blossoms and other flowers all along the way – so refreshing. Despite getting back to our Couchsurfing hosts a bit later than planned, we had a big dinner together (Kiernan and I misjudged and ended up making about double what we needed) and got ready for an early start in the morning.