I did laundry today, waking up from my bar excursion none the worse for wear. Like I mentioned before, camp or road clean is different than what constitutes clean at home. I can live on the road a little bit dirtier than I used to. My sheets were last washed in North Carolina and it was time to get rid of the accumulated sand. The drying process took a long time but it gave me a chance to meet my neighbors.
The two ladies who occupied a tent on my left were quiet and stayed to themselves. They were nice when we had reason to speak, there just wasn’t a lot of reasons. The pickup camper on my left was home to a gentleman originally from Holland but who now lives in Los Angeles. He had a lady friend visiting from Holland, and they were taking a few weeks to tour California and Nevada. He asked if I heard the commotion at 2:30 this morning and I admitted I had not. The air conditioning is loud and I confessed to having a few beers at the pub; although, last night’s sleep was some of the best I have had on the trip. I could hear voices from where he was pointing and it was a younger group that must have enthusiastically entered the camp last night. They seemed okay this morning though. I could hear European accents as I walked Mabel around the campgrounds, finally finding the dog park. It was stuck way in the back near the maintenance sheds. No big deal, Mabel liked hunting for lizards and bugs at the fields across the street.
We pull out of the campground, clean sheets on my little bed, and head towards the lake but stop for gas and ice. I talk with the lady behind the counter who is checking out a vendor bringing in merchandise while giving me directions. He rattles off counts and it reminded me of when I worked at IGA, the bread and beer guys always nice to work with and having a story to tell. She tells me the way to the Trail of 100 Giants in the Sequoia National Forest and we head back past the KOA. HWY 155 took us above the lake and we look down upon it as we climb. It’s large and blue and a RV looks small as it sits next to the water. I would have liked to stay there but it didn’t have the little pub like the KOA did. It is surrounded by mountains of the National Forest and I can tell we are no longer in the desert. The mountains now have trees instead of looking like bald mounds of dirt.
I stop at the ranger station in Kernville, off HWY 99 to get advice on camping. The road above the trail is closed because of fire but the trail is open. Kernville is a nice little town with a reason to visit. On the Kern River, it plays host to river guides for fishing and kayaking. The town provides the services tourists need, a brewery, pizza place, outfitters, etc. It’s much different than some of the small towns I saw in New England, their towns dying because of no reason to visit.
We continue winding up the mountain roads, recognizing the terrain changes and the cool temps.
HWY 99 takes us North through the park (I can only tell I am in the park by looking at the map) and I stop to talk with a family from England or Ireland, I couldn’t tell from the accent. They haven’t seen smoke and he feels the fire story is BS. A sign for the trail says it is a few miles ahead and I look for the Trail of Giants but missed them, travelling a full 10 miles further than I needed to go. On the way back, I see a campground and the sign for the Trail. I pull into the campground and ask about where to park so I can visit. The Ranger says they have open spots so I do the slow cruise and find a nice site that stretches down to a small stream. It’s a huge spot, my fire pit and picnic table are nestled down in the evergreens. We set up camp and then walk over to see the sequoias.
The park rangers are a couple and live in a 1978 Toyota camper truck. It is in awesome shape and came from Arizona, a dryer climate he tells me. It is small especially for two people and two dogs and I get the feeling they use the Yurt next to their camper as supplemental space.
The trees are immense, almost unbelievable, and I am amazed as I walk the narrow-paved trail through the park. We come across others walking the forest and all seem to say the same thing marveling at the tree’s stature. The park is large but not too big for a hike and we walk all around the park, finding trees upright and fallen. The fallen trees look like what I think a submarine’s hull would look like in dry dock with a circumference large enough for a person to stand within. Mabel enjoys walking around the woods and it doesn’t feel wrong to go off the paved trail. We walk on footpaths, climbing over fallen trees, the park seems to be full of brush piles.
Back at the camp a family has chosen the spot next to mine; there goes any hope of solitude. Maybe it’s payback for when I camped too close to the guy in Mississippi.
Mabel and I go back to the park before dark, much quieter than earlier in the day and I keep looking up at the tree’s canopy. It gets dark early and a chill is in the air back at the site. I pull out a second blanket and Mabel curls up in the camper, a little warmer than outside. The stars are out and I watch them wondering how they differ from the stars at home. Somewhere I hear a moose or elk mooing up the mountain. I hit the sack early after reading from my friend Jack Uldrich’s book on Lewis and Clark.
Thankful tonight for camping in the mountains.