From Santa Barbara, we had a lovely driving day through farm country… until we got near our RV park destination where we came upon agri-business farms- one after another with loads of cows in pens lying in muck and eating grain out of troughs. No grass in sight. No room (or reason) to roam. Given our recent focus on paleo eating and continued desire to eat local and organic, this was eye opening for the kids. I’ll get into food in another post but the visual of this was a great opportunity to talk about our choice to eat meat and where we get it and why.
We stayed at Sun N Fun RV Park in Tulare, CA because of its proximity to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and decreased cost with our Passport America membership. There isn’t a whole lot to the RV park but it made a nice place to stay- safe, quiet, near enough to stores that we needed, a picturesque drive to Sequoia NP, and a tiny little pool where we spent some time each afternoon that we were there.
I couldn’t take enough photos in Sequoia NP to satisfy my desire to capture its beauty. The first day we were there, the kids picked up their Junior Ranger workbooks at the Visitors’ Center and worked on them there a bit with the information provided. Then we proceeded into the park from about 1,000 feet of elevation to 6,000 to see the Sequoia trees. It was interesting to note the distinct differences in the elevation zones. Snow! The zone with the sequoias had snow! I think the kids were more excited about the snow than the trees. Maybe we played them up too much… Oh well, at least there was snow. It was funny (growing up in New England) to see our kids look like Bambi on ice walking on snow. We gave them a few tips. The trees are extraordinary. They are the biggest trees in the world by volume (not the tallest). The diameter of the largest (General Sherman) is over 36 feet at the base and the massive girth continues to the top. We came prepared with jackets but it was still pretty cold so, after walking the General Sherman Trail (very crowded- it was Good Friday) and taking turns with other tourists for photo ops, we headed back down the mountain.
The kids worked on their Junior Ranger books at home and we went back out to the park on Monday for hiking, exploring, on-site Junior Ranger work, and their swearing in back at the Visitor Center.
Waiting for a free RV spot at the Thousand Trails park near Yosemite National Park, we stayed 10 days in Tulare. It was a relaxing time for decompression after so much busy Legoland/family time/etc. since leaving Tucson. The drive to Yosemite was thrilling as a passenger, nervewracking (I’m told) as the driver- twisting and turning up, down, and around the sides of mountains with long sprays of snow-melt waterfalls visible on the opposite mountainside. Sadie lost her lunch into our stock pot and we pulled over one other time to put out two random rest area fires. Who starts fires (and leaves them burning) at a California turnoff?
I considered that maybe Yosemite wouldn’t live up to the hype. We’d been hearing about this national park for… ever. It’s so huge. Maybe we’d see the ‘wrong’ stuff and miss out on the greatness. The Yosemite Lakes Thousand Trails is located 5 miles from the entrance to the park. 5 miles. That is fantastic. From the main entrance, it’s 24 miles to the Yosemite Valley Visitors’ Center. And, oh, what a 24 miles it is – views of Half Dome, 2 feet of snow on the ground, driving directly under the base of Bridal Veil Falls, and right next to El Capitan. The parking area is about 1/4 mile flat walk to the Yosemite Valley Visitors’ Center (there are others but they were closed this early in the season). We talked with a Ranger who gave the kids their Junior Ranger worksheet (much less involved here in the way of puzzles, word finds, etc. This one focused on experiential learning which worked out well so we could really make the most of our time in the park.) and talked with us about available hikes. The kids requested a ‘rugged’ hike (sweet!) so we headed off for Upper Yosemite Falls. Rugged, indeed. It was about 4 miles roundtrip with a 2,600 foot elevation gain and well worth it. We spotted a bobcat during our hike! After viewing the upper falls, we were pointed to a little offshoot of the trail that took us down to a breathtaking view of the upper, middle, and lower falls. Wow. Elijah talked most of the way down about how eating paleo has made a tremendous difference in his wind, strength, and endurance. Huh. OK. The hike wore us all out and the descent took its tolls on Chris’ knees. The kids were intent on getting back to the Visitors’ Center before they closed to turn in their work for their badges. This was the first park that had a sign-in book. The kids liked that and were taken aback by the standing ovation preceeded by an announcement of their achievement. It’s a little different everywhere we go!
Chris’ knees took a few days to be up to extended walking- never mind hiking. Our second day in the park was lower key and it felt great to already have Upper Falls under our belts and to just meander around the park. We walked up under Bridal Veil Falls (wet, wet, wet!), picnicked under El Cap, and walked the paved path to the base of Lower Falls. While much of the park was closed, we felt like we’d landed in one of the most awe-inspiring, spirit-filling places on earth. The waterfalls flowed fully and loudly with snow melting in ribbons off the tops of the mountains.
The excitement doesn’t stop…. We were on our way to San Francisco! Stay tuned…