Back in March when Emily and I began making our initial plans for California, one of our first steps was to book our campsites in the National Parks we were visiting. Unfortunately we quickly discovered that we were a bit slow in entering the reservation race, as most campsites had already been booked. With only two spots left in Yosemite and a handful in Sequoia, there wasn’t much choice or time to dilly dally. Not wanting to risk having the last few sites swooped up, we quickly chose two locations, paid for the booking, and that was that. We were both most excited to see the Giant Forest in Sequoia National park, and as the trip came closer and closer, our excitement grew and grew.
Now let’s fast forward to May when we finally made it to California. After our first few days in Santa Monica, it was time to head off to Sequoia! We picked up our rental camper van from Lost Campers, drove right out of the city and quickly found ourselves in a hot and dry, yet spectacularly interesting desert. We made a quick stop in Lancaster to get our groceries, beer and wine at a massive airplane hanger sized Walmart, and continued on.
It was an easy flat drive, and we were off to a great start. However as the distance to our destination slowly counted down on the GPS, I began to wonder where the heck these giant sequoia trees were. The desert was filled with cacti and thorny bushes, but no sign of a Giant Forest anywhere. I strained my eyes, peering into the horizon, searching for signs of a developing forest, but it never came.
“Where are all the sequoia trees?” Emily and I wondered out loud. We even wondered if we were lost, but with a quick crosscheck of the map and GPS, we confirmed we were on track. When the GPS got to 15 minutes away, and we were still surrounded by desert, I was convinced we were not on our way to the Giant Forest. Our suspicions were confirmed as we pulled up to the Lone Pine Campground, there was no forest here. When we checked in with the camp ranger, I sheepishly asked, “So…where are the Giant Sequoia trees?” He was a very kind not to laugh when he said “You’re on the wrong side of the mountain,” (cue blushing embarrassed cheeks). The truth is, we knew exactly where we were, we just didn’t know where the Giant Forest was.
Well we learned a very important lesson, just because you are in Sequoia park (or in our case just outside the park border,) it does not mean you are near the Giant Forest. We were on the east side of the mountains, and the forest was on the west side. It was a silly mistake, but in the end, it was a positive occurrence. We got to see the beauty of the Mojave Desert, and camp in the foothills of Mount Whitney, the highest summit in the contiguous United States (All the states minus Alaska and Hawaii). I like to call such an occurrence a Pleasant Mistake. When such things happen, the best thing to do is embrace the unexpected change of plan and adapt to the unique experience.
There were only three other campers at the secluded Lone Pine, including our ranger, making it a drastic contrast to Los Angeles. We nursed cold bottles of Shock Top beer while cooking a flavourful pene bolognese on our camping stove. We watched the sun set behind Mount Whitney, and a luminescent full moon rise to fill the desert with moon shadows.We weren’t lost… we were just wandering
The best part is that we still made it to Sequoia the next day, and the drive there was incredible!