Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park and adjacent Kings Canyon National Park are both accessible from the same main entrance. After entering we got a little confused at the fork in the road. Which way to turn for a camping area? There are two prime campgrounds for RVís. What to do? Turn right, because the sign points to Lodgepole in Sequoia, or turn left, and go to the area of Grants Grove and the Azalea camping area in Kings Canyon? We turned right. Lodgepole is much farther away but much closer to the big trees.
Park roads are narrow, scenic, loaded with switchback turns, have very few places where you can turn around if you need to while towing a 19 foot trailer. We were so happy our gas tanks were topped off before entering. They donít sell gasoline in the park.
Well, it did not take long for Murphyís Law to kick in. I got nervous about continuing on down to Lodgepole, because the road to it (Generals Highway) is a very long drive. Generals Highway goes on well past Lodgepole, right out the southern end of the park. This suited us, but the roadís last leg, we found out, is ominously marked as not recommended for trailers over 22 feet. That was a flag. My passenger began showing signs of switchback road shock. Itís a really big place, with very few signs to guide and comfort the newbie visitor, or their passenger. I decided instead of going down to Lodgepole it was best to turn back and go up, to Kings Canyonís Grants Grove Village, and Azalea, to make camp. We would do the tour thing without towing our 19 footer. We then came upon an intersection and road turning left to Hume Lake, which on the map indicated it would loop back to General Grant Grove and the Azalea campground. We took it.
Hume Lake, it turns out, is a privately run complex of lodges, a little ďtownĒ with a lake, of course, etc., that has some kind of arrangement within the national forest. There are several such places. Hume was big, but had no directional road signs to help me out. Oddly, no one seemed to know how to get out of there. Met folks in another car, visitors from Spain, equally lost. Finally found the road to Princess tent camp and from there continued around to the Azalea RV site.
Azalea Campground has plenty of available spots, is self-sign up, no hookups, nice open spaces amongst the tall trees. Water spigots did come out of the ground at roadside, but I simply could not find one until we broke camp. Restrooms were a notable cut below my expectations. Outside the rest room a deep back sink for washing dishes was clogged with deep standing water. Nearby General Grant Grove is very nice, has a general store, restaurants and gift shop, ranger station. The trees were nice too.
It turns out Lodgepole is much bigger, has a visitor center and extensive amenities, run by a private company with some religious affiliation. I saw signs oddly proclaiming first amendment rights, which seemed to be justifying something somebody must have been sensitive about. In late September the separate campgrounds were a quarter filled.
If I knew then what I know now I would have continued on down to Lodgepole in the first place. It seemed prettier and it was much closer to General Shermanís Tree, Big Trees Trail, The Giant Forest Museum, and Tunnel Log, which I didnít get to. But what the heck, in our tour saw a nice buck, a bear foraging on the side of the road, all the big boy Sequoias, even walked through one. Sadly, the biggest disappointment remains: that giant sequoia you see black and white pictures of with John Muir driving his Model T through it? It is long gone. As in really Gone! Not much can kill a Sequoia, but big as they are they have a shallow root system and will topple over. On our way back out of the park we opted to not take Route 180 west to the interstate. Instead we drove state road 245 south.
That was an endless meandering drive filled with switchbacks that took longer than forever. But Iíll count that part of the rolling, hilly California countryside as wonderfully beautiful. Yes, next time we go weíll stay more than a couple days, and do the place a more proper visit.