I’d never camped alone with just my seven-year old before. I’d never camped in King’s Canyon before, either. I’d never driven on a crazy, switch back, narrow road with no turn arounds before. I had no choice but to continue up the windy stretch of black asphalt with a black BMW on my tail and national park buses zooming past on my left at what felt like lightening speed.
There was no stopping, no turning around, no giving-up. With white knuckles and sweaty palms that I kept drying in the arctic blast from the air conditioner, I crept along dreading the drive back in four days. But once we entered the park and found the perfect site in the Azalea Campground and I emerged from the Ford Explorer, I was able to relax one finger at a time, breath in fresh air, and began to relax a little. I was still adjusting to doing this all by myself and proving that I could.
Our site gently sloped down into a deep valley but rose on the other side with thick stands of giant sequoias. It was so quiet and peaceful. The campground was nearly deserted, and all we could hear were a few birds and a few kids laughing in the distance. My son, who also loves camping as much as I do, was quick to help setup the tent and put the food away in the bear-proof container.
We made a quick lunch of PB&J sandwiches on Watsonville sourdough bread (my favorite) and small red apples and looked at the scenery in front of us. Neither of us spoke. To do so would have ended some magical spell that befell the entire landscape. I relaxed for the first time that day. We sat in peace for quite some time before our neighbors returned from a hike. Pleasantries were made but our precious time together had evaporated.
An adventure hike was planned. We walked the short distance to the shuttle bus stop; waited a few minutes (so thankful I didn’t have to drive anymore); and were whisked away to one of the best spots to see ancient, giant trees. Now on a barreling bus, trees zoomed by us and curves were taken at what felt like mach speed. But we arrived safely to our destination—General Grant.
The hike was easy and we stopped many times to look at the signs and explore nature that was right at our fingertips. It’s hard to put in words the majesty of it all. You feel like an ant scurrying around from one jackpot to the next. And then you see General Grant. You have to crane your neck to try and see the top but you can’t get the full perspective. Everyone else is trying to do the same and take a picture with the tree. People from all over the world where there witnessing this with us.
But the best was yet to come the following day—General Sherman. Mindblowing. Magnificent. Mesmerizing. The biggest tree in the world stood before us. We, like everyone else, looked in awe at its massive size. And, we waited patiently to take our photo with the giant. It’s a trip I’ll never forget.
If you’re a tree hugger (come on most of us love trees), you’ve got to put this on your bucket list. King’s Canyon is the quiet little brother to Sequoia National Park with clean, large sites and easy access to the store and shuttle. Go make your own memories in this other worldly forest. It was certainly inspiration for Waters Rise.