Every tree in these woods soars skyward as if on a race into the clouds, but the sequoias stand firmly rooted on enormous columnar trunks, rust colored and shaggy amidst the needles.

We wandered, faces turned always up, running our fingertips along the deeply ridged bark, pressing our palms against the spongy trunks. These trees could swallow your car whole. We made our way back past an enormous fallen sequoia, its trunk broken and cracked. We climbed on top and stood a little taller, still dwarfed by everything around us.

From here, we drove down into the valley, thick with groves of olive and orange trees, past golden hills of whispering grasses, black and twisted trees anchoring the horizon. You could feel California in everything; the pink and white oleander pushing up in a profusion of color between the boulders, the small houses clinging tenuously to the steep and rocky hillsides above a tiny river, and the icy white granite peaks of the High Sierras behind it all.

Turning east, away from the rows of citrus trees, we climbed the twisting road back into the land of the trees. We entered the park at Three Rivers, and began heading north, but as we rounded a bend in the road, a big furry behind was ambling down the opposite side. As we drove closer, we realized... “BEAR! BEAR! BEAR!” I was screaming at the top of my lungs, trying desperately to wrestle the camera into shooting position without taking my eyes off the creature. My screaming, coupled exploded through the open window, giving us away, and all we could do was watch as the bear trotted across the road and stumbled down the steep embankment in the other side, hidden among the brambles. This moment was certainly not the fear inducing encounter I had always imagined, but it was great nonetheless.

Continuing on, we got a sneak preview of the massive trees we will be going out in search of tomorrow, and we set up camp deep within the heart of the park. All our food, toothpaste, lotion, soap, bug spray, Windex, coolers, water bottles, cooking gear, etc. have all been loaded and secured in the bear proof locker, and we intend to sleep in completely unscented comfort, totally bear free.