In our travels we have experienced several destinations where the stars have aligned to make our visit absolutely perfect (Yellowstone, Disney World, Fort Louisbourg). Of course this isn’t always the case and we have had our share of flops (The Florida Keys, The Grand Canyon, Baltimore). It seems that we used up our traveling luck with our smooth crossing in Tijuana because this past week has been anything but smooth.
We were all really excited to spend time in the Sierra mountains and visit Yosemite as well as Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks. However, planning a trip to these very popular parks was a bit tricky. We knew that by visiting in April we would run the risk of dealing with snow storms. However, we also knew that the longer we delayed our visit the worse our chances of getting a campsite would be, and the more crowded the parks would get. So, we took our chances and this time they just didn’t pay off.
In Yosemite National Park we secured an awesome campsite at the Wawona campground. All of the campgrounds in the Valley were full and we were happy to have this campground near the south entrance practically to ourselves. We set up camp along the river and the kids enjoyed playing along the rocks. On our first full day in the park we decided to venture into the valley to see the main sites (El Capitán, Yosemite Falls, and Half Dome). Wow, crowded is an understatement! We were visiting on a Monday at the end of March and there were people everywhere. Unfortunately we are not fond of crowds especially when trying to enjoy nature. While the granite cliffs and waterfalls were stunning we all felt like the experience paled in comparison to other parks we have visited.
By the time we returned to our campground it was raining which quickly turned to sleet and then heavy, wet snow. In minutes the snow had accumulated enough to bring down our Noah’s Tarp. Not wanting to risk the tent collapsing we decided to pack up and head out. Unfortunately by the time we unloaded the bear box (all food, cosmetics, scented objects, and even child safety seats need to be stored in bear-proof boxes while in the parks) it was dark and the road conditions were much worse. We had only made it a short ways when the Mazda5 could go no more. After a very scary moment on the side of a steep shoulder a very helpful park ranger helped us turn back to the campground where we spent the night in the car. While cramped it was dryer and warmer then a tent and provided good practice for sleeping on planes (we take a night flight to mainland Mexico at the end of May).
We woke up on April Fools Day to a winter wonderland. The kids were hoping that this was an elaborate prank on our parts, but their freezing, desert acclimated little bodies soon realized that this was reality. It will probably be a long time before they think too fondly of snow again. After enjoying a blazing breakfast campfire the roads were cleared enough that we could leave the park. We hoped that Yosemite in the off-season would work out as well as Yellowstone did for us, but even under better circumstances Yosemite National Park probably isn’t the best fit for our family.
It was then on to Sequoia National Park where the weather forecast was supposed to be warmer and snow free. Unfortunately we were met with rain and lots of snow at the higher elevations, closing many park roads. On a brighter note we all immediately fell in love with Sequoia. The scenery was gorgeous, the crowds smaller, and the campground really nice. The snow at the higher elevations kept us from exploring too much, but we did spend some time wandering amongst the awe inspiring Sequoia trees. That was until Five Ball was suddenly taken down by a nasty stomach bug. After watching him get sick for the third time in under a hour we were sure glad that we weren’t on a park shuttle bus!
So, the remainder of our time in the park was spent chilling out in the sun at the Hospital Rocks picnic area. Five of Hearts and High Five had fun climbing rocks while we tried to make Five Ball comfortable. This is our kid who has hated the cold since the moment he was born during a December ice storm back in Maine. So, now we are taking our poor little guy away from the mountains and down to Palm Springs for some R&R in the sun. Obviously the stars weren’t in aligned for this particular trip but we will take what little of Sequoia that we explored as a success and mark it as a place to come back to (next time with a 4-wheel drive vehicle).