Hey, Gang! I thought I’d do a blog about our recent road trip to the Sequoia National Forest. Generally, each year we will plan a vacation to a single destination and spend our entire time there. Many years, I will be so indecisive about which ONE destination to pick that we won’t go anywhere. I also have real commitment issues with booking flights or hotels way in advance because you never know! This is why I tend to waste the money on travel insurance, and my husband thinks I’m ridiculous.
However, this year we would’ve totally needed that travel insurance had I booked our trip in advance. This is the year we were going to go to Hawaii. Of course even having the destination picked out, I was still wrestling with which islands to see and what activities to do. I was one day away from booking the trip, when a volcano on the main island erupted! Therefore, trip to Hawaii-cancelled.
Now where would we go? I didn’t have much time for Plan B. I have always had a few things on my bucket list, so I decided to start there. The sequoias have always intrigued me. Also, my grandparents traveled to many places in the 50s-80s, capturing many great images on film. The Sequoia National Forest was one of these places. This photo is of my grandpa and grandma in 1965.
When my family would go on vacation when I was a child, we would just hop in the car and see where it would take us. Sometimes that was a great adventure. Sometimes, that left us searching for a place to eat or sleep. But I have nothing but fond memories of our family vacations. Which got me thinking, why don’t we just hop in the car and see what we see? No plans other than heading west and at least reaching the sequoias. I wouldn’t have to stress about booking flights or hotels. We would just pick a date and get in the car! We all packed a week’s worth of clothes, my “good” camera, my GoPro, water and a few snacks, and we hit the road.
Since it was on the way, I knew I wanted to take the kids to a favorite spot for me as a child: Glenwood Springs, Colorado. On a few different occasions, we went swimming in the hot springs pool. Here is a photo of me, my older brother and sister in August of 1983. I would’ve just turned 6.
The first day in the car, we didn’t even leave the house until 10:30am. Somehow out of sheer excitement and determination, we made it all the way to Denver that day. We stopped at aplace with wifi, and my husband got out his laptop to book us a hotel. That was his job for the entire trip-to find us hotels each night. He was getting ebates and using expedia points, so I let him do his thing.
Well, for whatever reason, there was not a hotel room with 2 queen beds to be found in all of Denver for a Monday night! I was starting to think this unplanned trip was a bad idea. Who would’ve guessed that we wouldn’t be able to find a single hotel room for the night?? Denver’s a pretty big city. It was a Monday. What in the world??
The next nearest town was either an hour back or an hour forward. No one wanted to backtrack at this point, so we searched in Idaho Springs. Still no hotels with two queen beds! But, we did find a room there with one king bed, so out of exhaustion, we took it. By the time we made it to the room, we were too tired to even care. Luckily, our kids are pretty small, but it was still a tight fit. Honestly, we all passed out and slept very well that night!
The next day, we had barely any driving to do to get to Glenwood Springs, CO. We slept in, then stopped in Frisco to have lunch. Here are some photos from a scenic area just outside of Frisco.
I should note here that our daughter is a dancer. This has become her “go to” pose for photos. It’s not enough to just smile and say cheese anymore. I should also note (if it wasn’t already obvious) that her father is NOT a dancer.
Soon after, we made it to our hotel in Glenwood Springs, where they gave us an actual key to our room. Super old school.
The next day, we planned to spend most of our time at the hot springs. One of the reasons I bought a GoPro before the trip is because I thought it would be fun to take underwater photos. Also, I thought it would be fun to not ruin my “good” camera by taking it to the pool. Here are a few fun water shots. Ben doing a flip and Sydney doing the splits were made possible by the fast shutter GoPro feature.
After a day of swimming, we decided to just order pizza and relax. We did venture out to check out Doc Holliday’s grave though. One of my favorite movies growing up was Tombstone. I like to imagine Doc Holliday being exactly as Val Kilmer portrayed him-even if he wan’t. And it’s not even 100% certain that he is buried in this little cemetery, a 1/2 mile’s hike up the mountain, but it seems very likely. On the way up, we saw some interesting things. For instance, this tree with fabric strips tied all over it.
We also learned about Cairn (or the act of rock stacking) which people are annoying naturists all over the world by doing. It’s cool to look at though.
And at the top was the little cemetery with Doc Holliday’s grave stone.
The next day, we got up SUPER early so that we could make it to the Arches National Park in Utah before it got too hot. We ended up getting there around 9am with little to no traffic to deal with. I was especially excited to see the arches. Plus, my sister in law had let us use her National Parks Pass, so we might as well get good use out of it, right?
Getting use out of the GoPro and the selfie stick.
And of course, I had to take photos with my “good” camera.
We spent several hours driving through the park, stopping along the way. After that, our only plan was to drive as far as we could towards the sequoias. My husband thought we could make it to Vegas for the night. Once again, he was in charge of finding a hotel. After a few minutes on the laptop, I asked where we were staying. He said, “Oh, just this little place called The Venetian.” And the kicker? It was our cheapest hotel of the entire trip. Thanks, Expedia Points!
Our kids could not get over Vegas. My husband spent a summer there for an internship many years ago, but no one else in the family had ever been there. I had never had any desire to go to Vegas, but I’m really glad I got to see it with my own eyes. And The Venetian was one of the nicest hotels (if not THE nicest) that I’ve ever stayed in. We had woken up at 5am that morning in Glenwood Springs, CO, and didn’t end up getting to sleep that night until 2am Vegas time. This was one time where I was happy that my kids have an insane amount of energy. We didn’t even relax in that beautiful hotel! Instead, we spent hours eating, walking around, and of course we had to see the Bellagio fountain. Vegas was not even on my mind when “planning” this trip, but that’s what makes unplanned vacations fun! You can make things up as you go. And this was definitely a memorable stop!
The next day, we wanted to get to the sequoias. We drove until we reached Porterville, CA. On the way just outside of Vegas, we happened upon a solar collector! Matt had talked about them in his classes, but had never seen one before. It was really beautiful how it collected the sun and shined brightly like a lighthouse next to a body of water. Only the body of water was a “sea” of solar panels. Super cool!
We spent the evening doing laundry at the hotel while the kids had the whole pool to themselves.
We had another early morning the next day so that we could get to the sequoias! We had about a 40 minute drive to the park. Once in the park, I was surprised by all the winding curves up the mountain to get to the big trees. There were scenic overlooks along the way, as well as warnings for bears (to my husband’s dismay we never actually saw any). I have both GoPro and “good” camera photos of our day at the park.
Here’s Ben taking a photo of me and me taking a photo of Ben.
I liked being able to hand the GoPro to the kids while I had my camera. It was fun to see what they thought important to capture, AND I didn’t have to worry about them breaking it.
After about an hour of driving up the mountain, we reached the sequoias! It was a little bit of a hike to get to the General Sherman tree. Going down was no problem, but coming up was a bit harder! We were all struggling with the altitude of 7,200 feet. It was at some point hiking back up that our son decided he was meant to be closer to sea level.
And if you scroll back up to the top of this blog, you’ll see that my grandma and grandpa were allowed to stand right next to the General Sherman tree back in 1965. Now everything is fenced off so you can’t get to it. But there were plenty of other sequoias you could get right up next to, and stand on, and even walk inside!
While we were at the park, we could smell the smoke from the wildfires. I’m pretty sure the fires started as soon as I decided to go to California after the Hawaii volcano erupted. I feel like we need to apologize to both Hawaii and California for planning vacations there.
Luckily, I was able to realize my dream of seeing the sequoias! They really are beautiful, amazing things. At this point, we had thought about going on to the California coast, but due to lack of hotels and overall exhaustion, we decided to head back east. Because we had taken the Colorado/Nevada route out, we decided to go the New Mexico/Arizona way back.
The next day, we headed back East. We ate dinner in Flagstaff (which is one of my favorite landscapes in the country) and stayed the night in Holbrook, AZ. This wasn’t even on my original plan-oh wait, I never had a plan-but we ended up being right next to the Petrified Forest. We were gonna get good use out of that national park pass! The Blue Mesa trail was especially pretty.
So those are the highlights! We covered over 4,000 miles in 10 days. I’m thankful that my family members are such good travelers. I’m thankful that I was able to check some things off my Bucket List. I’m thankful that we were able to experience things together as a family, and make memories together. I’m thankful for God’s amazing creations on this planet. All in all, it was one of the best vacations yet! Though I’m already thinking next year’s vacation we will be laying on a beach 🙂
Thanks for taking the time to read through my blog. Hope everyone has a great school year!