We had driven for quite a while from Pinnacles before we turned onto Panoche Road. The SUV went off the road almost immediately. I yelled my husband’s name–he had fallen asleep at the wheel and nearly drove us off the road. He awoke with a start and turned the vehicle back onto the pavement. Quickly realizing he wasn’t going to be able to navigate this road, I took over driving duty. What an adventure!–Mimicking the road to Hana on the island of Maui, this road had non-stop curves, dips, one-way bridges and unprotected cliff edges that dropped hundreds of feet into a boulder-strewn canyon. It took quite a long time to navigate this road from hell. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any crazier, I turned onto Panoche Pass. Oh, Panoche Pass, I shall never forget you. This wild ride ended with us following a cattle drive happening in the pass. I wish I had taken photos or video of our Panoche adventure, but our safety was my top priority.
I continued driving–through orange and cherry orchards, past row after row of perfectly spaced almond trees–until we left the valley behind and started our climb upward to Sequoia National Park.
It was misty as we rounded switchback after switchback. We reached the park entrance, paid the entrance fee and were on our way. The grounds here were still snow-covered, and my husband bundled up against the coolness in the air.
We headed south, further into the park. We drove under Tunnel Tree, parked our vehicle on the side of the road, and walked through a grove of Sequoia trees (which was just as impressive as the sequoias in Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove) where I stood in quiet contemplation for quite a while. There were few visitors in the park; I consider myself lucky to have had this time alone with my thoughts.
Back in our vehicle, we turned around, drove to one of the parking lots, parked, and ventured down a paved, icy path to the giant sequoia named General Sherman. He was an impressive sentinel; his circumference and sheer size left me awe struck.
With our appetites sated, we checked into the lodge, sorted through our photos and fell asleep looking forward to visiting Kings Canyon and Death Valley National Parks the following morning.