November 17, 2014
FROM THE BEACH TO THE SEQUOIA NATIONAL FOREST
This is just a little short story about a travel experience in the fall of 2014. Those whom may share an interest in nature and God’s gift of love and beauty, enjoy.
The beginning of our adventure started on a Saturday afternoon at San Clemente State Beach. Our friends the perfect, most beautiful campsite on top of a cliff overlooking the ocean. We arrived on a Saturday making it just in time to see sunset!
At night all you can see are the stars in the sky and sounds of the crashing waves. Our trips usually consist of an array of good food and lots of laughs around a not-so-normal sized camp fire.
We checked out Sunday afternoon after a few laughs over a homemade breakfast, and a couple of chilled drinks.
The same afternoon, we headed home to unpack and repack for the next destination. Due to being a little behind schedule, my packing resulted in throwing everything in into my bag. Well that usually happens at the end of every packing situation. You never know what you’ll need, “just in case”. We were headed to 3 day business trip with reservations at La Quinta in Fresno. My boyfriend was taking me along and I figured, sure, why not? We arrived to a very welcoming pet friendly hotel that evening.
My days consisted of working from the hotel and going to lunch with my love and our husky.
We had the chance to explore a little and found Woodward Regional Park, a great spot for a jog or hike in nature.
The next night, we decided to research places to visit near Fresno. We still had the remainder of the week and weekend free, so we thought of visiting one of the national parks in Northern California. I always dreamed of experiencing them, I just never imagined it would happen quite like this. We were searching for a place at the Sequoia National Park and found a cabin in the Sequoia National Forest. It was pet friendly at a more reasonable than the national park. We were fortunate to find availability on such short notice. Wednesday afternoon, we checked out of La Quinta and I must mention, they gave us really outstanding hospitality. They offer clean, contemporary rooms, wi-fi, full breakfast every morning, appetizers every day at happy hour, pet friendly, pool and jacuzzi. We ate good and slept comfortably in king size beds.
Enjoying the beautiful views, we ended up on a very small road which led to a beautiful town surrounded by tall pine trees.
I noticed a big cabin style lodge with acres of grass and a wooden fence with a herd of 8-10 deer grazing inside the grass area. I shouted, “look a deer farm!” Later on I found out it wasn’t a deer farm, there are wild deer roaming everywhere in this town.
A few minutes after, another exciting moment as we pulled up to the driveway of our cabin! It was a small wood cabin on a slope with a staircase leading to a deck built around 2 huge pine trees.
Our surroundings were pine trees with a few cabins. We walked inside, to find a cozy, shabby chic place we would call home for the next couple of days.
We were fully stocked with firewood which we picked up in Fresno as well as a few grocery bags from Trader Joe’s. Good thing, because there wasn’t a sign of markets or any kind of city life within the area.
I cooked up a nice dinner, popped open a bottle of red wine and relaxed with some good music.
After dinner we decided to take a quick walk outside. It was a little scary at night, because you can’t see a thing without a flashlight. It felt like being in a horror movie, you couldn’t see anything. I was scared and wanted to continue that cozy feeling inside the cabin. There is no cell phone service or wi-fi, good company is a must.
The second day we woke up to a freezing cold, cloudy & drizzly morning. We took a walk down the road to explore our location. Daylight allowed us to discover that we were in a very attractive, quiet community of cabins and homes. There were hardly any signs people besides a couple of trucks that drove by us. We walked to the end of the road to find a beautiful stream with a waterfall.
At the cross street there was a cabin style local store next to a tavern. Both were closed, so we hung around the porch reading some of their interesting postings.
We were simply happy being surrounded by beautiful nature. A few minutes later, we noticed a little truck circling around. A young gentleman pulled up to the local store to say hello and ask us if the place was open. We introduced ourselves and started talking to this friendly young guy. He pointed us towards trails which would lead us to the sequoia trees we’ve anticipated seeing for the first time ever. He offered to drive us to our truck so we can follow him to the starting point of Nelson Trail. Ironically, our cabin is located next door to his dad’s old abandoned house. He shared a few funny and entertaining scoops regarding his family structure.
It took about 5 minutes to arrive at the starting point of the hike and the end of the road for our new buddy. We thanked him for taking the time to help us and made plans to meet him for a late lunch and drink later.
Our buddy advised us the trail was approximately 1 hour one way. As we began, we were overwhelmed with beautiful tall pine trees surrounded by the color of fall. Hiking into the forest listening to the sound of water from a beautiful stream flowing on side of the trail, we came across a wooden rickety bridge as it started sprinkling down on us.
I wanted to pause and look at every tree, every rock, every inch of dirt trail, but I sensed some fear interrupting my wonder. It suddenly dawned on me that we were the only people on this trail. We were alone with our husky who couldn’t be more happy with new scents in every direction. The feeling of fear intensified in me as we got deeper into the forest. The thoughts of encountering a bear or a mountain lion were running through my mind. I couldn’t distract my mind even after trying to focus on the beauty surrounding me.
After hiking approximately an hour, we decided to turn back due to the drizzle turning into a little more like rain, but really all I wanted to do was get out of the forest. We hiked down stopping a couple of times to take pictures, although the nerves were still there. As we were trailing down at full speed, I had to find a way to keep my camera dry while trying not to stop. We ran through the trails and giant trees as if someone were chasing us!
Once I recognized landmarks originated by the starting point, I sensed a calming feeling. We finally made it out alive! I thanked God and never felt happier to see our truck. We were pretty wet and cold, but at that point, it wasn’t an issue.
As we drove back to the cabin, we passed through a campsite decorated with few more beautiful giant sequoias. We parked to take a closer look and explore the closed for the season campground. This was a beautiful hidden campground within the sequoia forest with a running stream and waterfall. We’ll have to return to this spot sometime in the future.
Once we arrived back at our cabin, we dried our wet clothes and had a little snack as a late breakfast.
After our snack, it was time to head on over to the tavern.
We took a nice 15 min walk to get there all while encountering what looked like donkeys or maybe mules.
Upon arriving at the tavern, we met a nice lady standing outside on her cigarette break. We weren’t shy striking a conversation, however, she didn’t seem interested in talking too much. My boyfriend didn’t seem to notice, and continued chipping away. She surprisingly realized we had met her son that morning and had already heard of us. We ordered a couple of drinks and waited for her son. Here we are sitting on their porch enjoying the beautiful view.
This photo shows the view from the porch. There was a beautiful herd of deer crossing the road. They’re so graceful and interestingly curious of us.
Our buddy arrived and hung out with us for a little while. We met the owner of the tavern, the bartender and a friendly local customer. They made us feel welcome as if we were at home.
We ended the night sharing a million laughs.
The next morning our plans included exploring a nearby landmark. The 6th largest tree in the world, The StaggTree. Located in Alder Creek Grove off Highway 190 with white snow along the mountainside.
We had directions to turn left on Redwood Drive after 2.5 miles till the road narrows into a one lane road eventually turning into a dirt road which comes to an end. We parked on the side of the hills and followed a wide hiking trail. As we started our hike, I thought to myself, here we go again into the forest. A feeling of fear started creeping up. Approximately 10 min into the hike we reached a big open area with a small collection of mobile homes and two shacks.
It looked deserted, there wasn’t a sign of people anywhere. Surrounded by giant trees and beautiful elevated views, we continued the trail as it narrowed. Handmade sign pointing down the hillside.
Within moments the trail ends at The Stagg Tree
I was excited to see it and get out of there. As we hiked our way back I couldn’t calm my nerves, so my darling popped an anxiety pill into my mouth and it sort-of-worked (lol). It was definitely worth seeing the views and meeting the giant Stagg Tree, however, I was relieved to arrive safely to our truck.
Day 4 In The Forest: Since we only had our cozy cabin for 2 nights and we weren’t ready to leave, we had to find another place to stay for the next couple of days. We were referred to Pierpoint Springs Resort, a restaurant/coffee shop, general store, post office, gift shop, and hotel. Located on Highway 190, Sequoia National Forest and just a 5 minute drive from Nelson Camp. It wasn’t a “resort”, but they did have availability, heating, a bed and tv.
After checking into our new home, we drove to The Trail of 100 Giants. It was about a 30 minute drive along the highway.
Upon our arriving to this new destination, I personally, was so relieved to see many other visitors including a ranger. I dreaded the thought of being almost alone in the forest once again. This trail led us into an insanely gorgeous sequoia trail of giants, just as its named.
Heading back on Hwy 190 we made right into a dirt road to visit another known landmark, Dome Rock. The dirt road led us into an open area where we were instructed to park then hike 2 minutes up to the peak of Dome Rock. I didn’t see signs of other people, but since we were advised it would only be a 2 min climb, I wasn’t scared. There were rocks leading up to a panoramic view of the forestry mountains.
We inhaled the fresh air and the view. At that point I felt we experienced everything wonderful in the Sequoia National Forest. I was satisfied forever, so please no more hikes, trails or sequoias for now. I want to be in familiar territory for a while!
Arriving back at our hotel, we had a late lunch inside the restaurant/coffee shop. This is the only location you are able to connect with wi-fi, but no cell phone service. We sat inside enjoying a serving of hot comfort food. This would be our last night, so we made plans to visit our friends at Nelson Tavern for dinner. Before night fall, we built a not so small campfire behind the coffee shop/motel to keep warm outside.
Thank goodness for the left over firewood we hauled around since Fresno. A little spirits, music, view and a campfire attracted customers from inside the restaurant/coffee shop. We met two different couples visiting just like we were. Ironically, one of the two couples along with their 1 yr old baby were actually staying in the cabin we checked out of Friday. Well not too shocking since you either have the coffee shop or Nelson’s Tavern to get a bite.
After the campfire that evening, we headed up to Nelson’s Tavern for our last dinner. They were serving their Saturday night specials, but we ordered the tasty looking pizza. Our bartender was busy that night, the tavern was full of life with visitors and locals. It turned out to be a great way to end our last night in the forest.
The next morning we packed our luggages, checked out at the coffee shop and headed back over to Nelson’s Tavern to say our goodbyes and enjoy a breakfast before the drive home. Our sweet lady friend was happy to see us stop by for her famous pancake special. Breakfast was really delicious. She extended an invitation to visit her home in case we ever wanted to return on our next trip. We will certainly be returning. Her son, our first friend there, drove us to their home. He gave us a tour of their lovely cabin and introduced us to their friendly dog, Maggie.
We hugged our friend goodbye with reassurance that we would see each other again. It was like saying goodbye to family. Pure welcoming warmth from Nelson Camp. We would like to thank everyone at Nelson’s Tavern for leaving us humbled and smiling and for making our stay away from home one of the best ever. God bless them!