Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Parks, and an abrupt change of plan…..

The drive down from Yosemite was uneventful, with an overnight stop in Fresno to break the journey.

We arrived at Kings Canyon and, having four nights to spend exploring we gathered information so we could plan our stay.

Following the winding road through the forest to Sequoia we stopped and walked the short (but steep) trail to the General Sherman Tree, the biggest tree in the world. It’s pretty darned big!

As were quite a few other trees around it. Whilst they were very impressive we felt that the Redwoods National Park with its giant Redwoods and Sequoias was somehow more impressive, perhaps in that you could get up close to them, without the huge fences around, and that there were substantially more of them.

Anyway we made our way onwards, both upwards and downward, through the forest and then came to a stop at the roadworks for about half an hour. huge construction work going on on the only road in and out of the park to the south. Talking to the park ranger she told us to expect at least one hour delays for the next couple of days, which was not good news.

The saying ‘the best laid plans of mice and men’ could not have been more apt for this particular stay.

We checked into our cabin for four nights and were immediately disappointed at the condition of it. Checking out the BBQ which had been high priority, it was not in a condition that we were prepared to use it. So after a quite trip into the local town, which we found was …… to be honest a bit of a dump, we set about making dinner. Only to find equipment sparse, not clean and ants crawling in the drawer! Stiff upper lip and all that, we cleaned the pans etc and made dinner, planning on sitting outside to eat, only to find the table and chairs dirty! We were both putting on a brave face, so were planning on how to best use our time in the national parks when I went into the bedroom, only to find we were not alone, a mouse was having free reign around the bedroom. Last straw for me! The brave face was lost in the scream I let out and Amr legged it to the reception to tell them there was no way I was staying here!

They initially offered to set a trap, laughable, Amr informed them that that would not be good enough so they contacted the owner to come and sort us out! By the time the owner had arrived and the mouse had been crawling over the bedcovers, I had the car packed again and locating a hotel to stay for the night. He got the full force of my exasperation and too be honest looked a bit like the mouse by the time I finished! We agreed that we would be given another (bigger) cabin for the night and a refund on the rest of our stay.

In fairness the next cabin was quite nice, and we then had to think about what we were going to do for the next four nights. Deciding that we didn’t fancy staying anywhere around the same location, or facing a couple of hours each day in a traffic jam we looked further afield. Those who read this blog may remember at the early days of our trip we called in at Santa Barbara on the coast and failed to find what everyone raves about. So we thought maybe we would give it another try.

Fortunately we found a hotel right in the centre of town, booked it thank goodness for the internet!

Setting off the following morning we found a route that would avoid interstates and take us through the Los Padres forest to Santa Barbara. After about a hundred and fifty miles of fruit orchards, and yes of course we had to stop at one of the fruit stalls for cherries and peaches… the terrain changed abruptly to plains. Miles and miles of them. We passed a couple of towns, well a small collection of buildings and lots of agricultural work. Then we passed through huge oilfields. Fascinating to see all the pumps gracefully turning round pumping the great resource through huge pipes.

After the oilfield we came again to orchards, but of trees we have not seen before, we stopped to take a look, the roads were deserted so not a problem! Turns out they were pistachio trees.

After a couple of miles we spotted a store, where we thought we could grab a welcome cup of coffee. As we entered, Amr’s eyes lit up! The whole store was bags of pistachios. With bottles of samples of lots of different flavours to try. From hickory smoke, garlic, lemon and others I forget, we chose, obviously he couldn’t resist, plain old salted. Telling the lady in the store we had never seen pistachio trees, she told us she had people coming in not believing they grew on trees! She also told us that they actually taste at their best straight off the tree, and that come harvest in September you can go and ‘pick your own’ right off the trees. However perhaps the most important things she told us was that just about a mile down the road was a restaurant which serves fresh coffee all day!

True enough, a mile down the road we found The Place, great name for a restaurant in the middle of nowhere, but she did have fresh coffee ready for us. Sitting at the bar, just like in the movies, we looked at the menu and decided it was time for lunch as well as coffee!

Eventually on our way again, the plains began to fade away as we entered the ‘forest’, the one without trees! Amr kept looking at the sat nav and worrying that we had gone wrong somewhere as the map showed a huge lake to the right of the road, and there certainly was not one. When we looked closer though, you could clearly see the river bed, totally devoid of water.

However it was the most beautiful road, with so many twists and turns climbing ever higher across the mountains. We had to stop frequently to look back at the road we had driven, view the fascinating rock structures, and yes a few trees but more bush and gorse in full vibrant flower.

Slowly we made our way back down out of the mountains and eventually hit the interstate, and it’s queues of slow traffic all heading the same way as us.

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