Contributed by Outdoor Afro Gloria Knox of Los Angeles, CA
This summer my family took the opportunity to reconnect with nature. In planning the obligatory summer vacation, my husband and I realized we were short on time and funds. We decided that a trip to an in-state National Park would maximize our summer vacation experience and be cost effective. We visited both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in California, and it was one of the best experiences we could have had.
Our initial plan was to rent a recreational vehicle to take to the parks. But there were some maintenance issues with the RV we were going to borrow, so we ended up staying at a hotel just a few miles outside of Sequoia National Park. While it seems like it would be ideal to stay inside a National Park (and we will likely do that next time), I enjoyed staying outside of the park. There was a lot to see and do in the little town outside of the National Park. The hotel seemed to be much less congested than the campgrounds within the park. Also, there was a pool at the hotel that my daughter had to visit each evening after coming off the mountain.
Our first night we had dinner just outside of the park, at a restaurant that was built adjacent to a river. The restaurant was completely open, only floors and ceilings and one could see and hear the water rushing by. It was romantic and the experience of having dinner outside, in the mountains, with the sound of the water washing over the rocks was exhilarating.
The next day we set out for Sequoia National Park. We first visited the Giant Forest Museum. There they provided detailed information about the history of the Park and of the Sequoia trees. There were numerous displays detailing how large the Sequoia Trees were as compared with other common man-made structures such as a football field, etc.
Next we took a self-guided hike on a nature trail. We saw many trees and plants that were native to the area, and a variety of birds. And a passing park ranger pointed out some relatively fresh bear paw prints, but we did not see any bears, although I was interested in seeing a bear…from a safe distance!
Sequoia National Park is divided into several villages. We drove to another area where there is an upscale hotel, the Wuksachi Hotel in Wuksachi Village. It looked very nice, somewhat isolated and very expensive. We drove to Lodgepole Village to have a late lunch. This was a major campground area, with RV’s and tents everywhere. There was an eatery, a wonderful gift shop/general store, laundromat and another visitor’s center – lots of activity. In the middle of it all, we enjoyed a wonderful lunch and followed by the Visitors Center.
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On Thursday, we planned to visit Kings Canyon National Park, but when we arrived at Sequoia, we were told that there had been an accident on the road between the two parks and that the road would be closed for the next 1-2 hours, so we decided to further explore Sequoia. We visited the Beetle Rock Education Center. It was an educational center designed for children to teach them about the great outdoors. My daughter loved it.
We finally were able to get on the road again and made our way to Kings Canyon. First, we visited the Visitors Center in Grant Grove Village to get an overall history of the National Park. We then took a hike to the General Grant Tree—the largest tree in Kings Canyon National Park. After that experience it was time to make our way home. We had a great time and learned a lot about our National Parks. We cannot wait to visit more of the many National Parks!