In my previous entry, I had left my trailer in a pull-out just below the snow-line on the mountain climb to General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park. I didn’t want to spend too much time away from it since I was paranoid about it being stolen or towed (small trailers are easier to snag). It wasn’t about the cost of replacing it. Instead, its disappearance would have put a huge dent in my timeline for getting my mother’s stuff. I was burning PTO (paid time off) in the hole (negative balance) and wanted to minimize any disruptions. Realistically, had anything happened to it there or elsewhere, I was prepared to just buy another trailer and get my mission completed. Still, the park ranger assured me that it would be fine. My first stop along my way farther up the mountain was to shoot the “small” Sequoia in my previous update (shown here). From there, I went to the Fallen Tree Tunnel. The road was closed because it is unmaintained during the off-season since the plows cannot fit. I could have hiked and saw the tree. But shooting it without the car was not part of my plan. Plus, I was on a tight schedule because I needed to pick up my wife from the airport soon.
Because of the time-suck of dealing with my trailer fiasco, I also didn’t have much time to see General Sherman Tree before having to descend the mountain for Fresno International Airport. I found a parking spot and started my hike. Being on the look-out for how far I’d have to hike, I found a sign that said it was 0.4 miles. “Okay, that seems doable in decent time.” I got to an overlook that showed the tree. It was a halfway point. Progress was slow because there’s absolutely no snow removal on the trails. I did shoot the tree from there, but it’s easily lost among the surrounding trees. Instead, I’ll share this marker.
I considered bailing on the rest of the hike so that I’d get to Fresno early. But then I thought, “What if the roads are still icy and I can’t return with my wife? What if this is my only shot at seeing this?” I kept going. I snapped this photo of a fallen tree cross-section. It looks big, but it’s dwarfed by General Sherman Tree. It’s nearly impossible to photograph General Sherman Tree in its entirety, not with the lenses that I had with me, anyway. I had packed 24-70mm and 100-400mm lenses. But they were too long. The photo at the top of the page was shot with my smartphone. It has an 18mm focal length. Not packing my 10-14mm lens was my only regret on this trip so far.
This photo does not do justice for displaying General Sherman Tree’s full size. I took more photos, but I’ll share them in a follow-up post. I began my hike back to the car. The return hike was all uphill and in the snow, just like my Dad’s apparent walk to and from school as a kid! 😉 I’m out of shape! I could feel my heartbeat pounding in my face! Something I didn’t share in my previous post: I had filled a water bottle before leaving the hotel, but I didn’t bring it to the car. So, all of the exercise that I was getting, both during the trailer’s recovery and during this hike, were without water. I was thirsty enough in the morning. Now I’m feeling it more! I made my way back to my car and headed toward the trailer.
My tires had a few slips on the descent. They were brief and didn’t seem too bad. But it was easy to notice that some sections of the road seemed very close to the edge of the mountain and lacked a guardrail to keep cars from going over. No worries: there are plenty of trees to stop cars from falling all the way down the mountain! 😀 I descended to the area where I had been stuck. The ranger was right in saying that it would clear up soon after the sun began to hit the road. It still had patches of snow and ice, but was MUCH better at that point. I drove another half-mile and found the trailer. It’s always nice to find things where I left them!
I coupled the trailer and began my race to Fresno. My offline navigator said that I’d reach the airport “just in time.” But I knew that I still needed a fuel stop and a bottle of water. Could I minimize that stop to the point that I’d still beat my wife to the passenger pickup area? I stopped at a gas station in Three Rivers and went inside. I needed a restroom, but I couldn’t find one. The attendant said there were no public restrooms. A small part of me understood his decision, not because of COVID, but because of the high volume of park traffic that likely blows through that small town, trashes his restrooms, and moves-on without giving him any business. Still, I’m not giving money to a store that won’t let me use a restroom. I left without saying anything and stopped at the fuel station where I had fueled that morning.
With my tank full, my bladder empty, boots exchanged for sneakers, lunch, and two bottles of water with me, I continued on my way. I had reconnected with the Internet along the way. My phone blew-up with text and voice messages from my wife during her Dallas layover and from my office. She told me about some difficulties during her trip. The office? Who cares? I’m on vacation! Unfortunately, Google Maps now said that I would be 20 minutes late. OOPS! I was sure my wife wanted to just get off the plane with her carry-on bag and walk out to a car with a friendly face. Instead, she was getting MY face and a late ride. 😉
I stopped in the “cellphone lot” and was surprised that I hadn’t already heard from her. I looked up her flight information and learned that her plane was 30 minutes late. Instead of her waiting 20 minutes for me, I’d wait ten minutes for her… PERFECT! I picked her up, told her about my day, and we agreed to NOT visit the park that day. Although the ice had subsided, the park was full of visitors. Instead, we returned to the hotel and made early dinner plans. We ate at a local pizzeria… good stuff! We decided to focus on visiting my mother’s storage unit and then returning to the park after we had packed what we wanted. I’ll share the rest of the weekend in my next post.
Safely Off the Mountain,