Around 5:00pm, we pulled into Three Rivers, CA, just outside of the south entrance (or the Foothills Entrance) to Sequoia National Park. We checked into our hotel, then headed into the park. We wanted to visit the nearest visitor center for information that would help us plan our couple of days in SEKI (Sequoia/Kings Canyon).
Sequoia and Kings Canyon are two separate national parks, but they are adjacent and administered together. The parks include foothills, giant sequoia trees, deep canyons, and the highest peak in the lower 48. The one unfortunate thing for day visitors is that the vast majority of both parks are wilderness. Only a quarter, at best, of each park is accessible by road. Since Jason and I are not experienced backpackers, we were relegated to seeing what we could get to by car.
We got a good run-down on the parks at the Foothills Visitor Center. We learned that each of the four visitor centers across the two parks were an hour apart. We also learned that there was road construction between the foothills region and the Giant Forest, and delays could be expected on that particular stretch of road. When we were finished at the visitor center, we decided to drive a little further into the park to see what we were dealing with in terms of construction. That was an experience in and of itself.
First, we stopped by Hospital Rock to see some Native American petroglyphs.
Right by Hospital Rock was a short trail that led down to the edge of the Kaweah River. It was made abundantly clear that this river was dangerous.
It was here that I started to fear this park a little. A dangerous river. Precariously perched rocks. Crevices that seemed just right for a rattlesnake sighting. But the nerves were just getting warmed up…
The road construction spanned only about two miles, but that was two miles of tight switchbacks along a stretch reduced to one lane. Steep cliffs were on one side, and a serious drop on the other. There were two traffic lights set up, one at the bottom of the construction area and one at the top. We waited at the stop light for the traffic coming down to get through. Then we got the green light to go up. Jason had a strong grip on the steering wheel the whole way. Once we were through the one-lane stretch, we continued just to the beginning of the Giant Forest and then turned around so we could get our butts back down before dark.
It was at this point that I realized that Sequoia National Park was nothing like I thought it would be. We were viewing some serious mountains here, much more intense than anything we had experienced in Yosemite.
By the time we got out of the park, we were starving. We decided on the River View Restaurant in Three Rivers, a recommendation from our friend in the visitor center. A view of the mountains, a patio overlooking the rushing river, good music, and good food. It was wonderful!
After a long day of travel and shot nerves from our first jaunt into Sequoia, we were more than ready to settle into our hotel for the night. Unfortunately, this was not in the cards for us…