BY MIKE STUDT // @BOOTSANDBACKPACKS
How we evaded the weather still eludes us, but I guess it was well deserved after our Utah trip a few years back. We hit pavement days before the bottom dropped out of the sky and our home was an island amidst all the flooding. Matter of fact, we were snoozing in Mojave when the first drops began to fall at home, and they never quite caught up with us.
We headed south then west, working our way from Missouri to Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. We spent our first night at a rest stop just outside of Tumcumcari, New Mexico having left the St. Louis area a little after 2pm. We embarked bright and chipper the next morning and found ourselves navigating the sand roads of the Mojave Desert National Preserve for a parking spot to sleep that evening. We woke up Christmas morning to a vast expanse of desert flora that dotted the sandy landscape amid toppled mounds of rock, as an appropriate backdrop, before reaching into a blue horizon with a gusty bite; it was beautiful.
From Mojave we headed to Sequoia National Park. We were excited that we made it there with plenty of light but were immediately discouraged once we found out that a park alert mandated snow chains for all vehicles entering the park after the 11th mile. Even more then bummed, we were frustrated as this was an item that we had both debated acquiring prior to the departure of this trip; however, for whatever reason or rationale, we didn’t—which did us no good now. We decided that we weren’t going to turn away from the world’s largest trees when we were camping literally in their backyard, so we headed into town to see about getting ripped-off.
The towns that approach the park are littered with useful or forgotten stuff for tourists, and although I don’t like to consider us tourists, we were in need of what they were selling none-the-less. Lucky for us we didn’t have to drive far, barely 5 miles outside of the park, to find what we were looking for. We fell asleep that evening with the grandest gift all: a means to make an acquaintance with Sentinel and General Sherman!
We were up before the dawn the next morning to score a more intimate moment with our trees. We did our usual morning routine: pull ourselves out of our backseat bed, get the coffee going in the percolator and scramble up some bacon and eggs to wrap in a tortilla or two. This is all easily done from the back of the 4runner, pulling a drawer from the platform for support and resting the two-burner camp stove on top.
We didn’t make it too far before hitting some pretty sketchy ice, prompting us to ere on the side of safety and put the chains on. Fighting an obnoxious crowd the day earlier, we were about to have our first experience putting them on when we quickly realized some detrimental issues:
1. They were too big, requiring us to max them out to their tightest adjustment, still leaving them loosely draped on the tire.
2. They were broken, inhibiting us from tucking the excess cord (which was plentiful) where it wouldn’t create an issue and
3. They were for the same side tire, requiring us to put one on backwards. But did this stop us? Hell, no.
We got our intimate experience in abundance: we hiked the Big Trees Trail with the morning light basking the mammoth trunks a golden red hue as their canopy towered in the sky. We said hello to General Sherman and then paid respects to the Sentinel as we headed out, our intentions to drive through Yosemite on our way to the evening’s post just prior to returning the medal iron medians fastened to our tires that had rubbed marks on them in symmetric intervals. Nicely, the accommodating shop returned our money even when their policy usually prohibits it.
All the haste to get a glimpse of Yosemite was in vein. Previous snow had rendered only one entrance accessible and after traveling almost two hours to gain access to the park we found ourselves waiting in a two mile line to access the fee station to get in! We went nowhere for fifteen minutes before accepting defeat and turning around; we consequently sulked our way to a rest stop outside of Fresno before putting ourselves to bed.
We had our first, and only, dreary day (although the wind never quite evaded us) as we drove through Humbolt State Park, squeezing in-between monuments of nature, trees that literally kissed the sky. The rain started as a light trickle as we entered Redwood National Park and turned to a fine mist before settling on a persistent drizzle as we set up camp under Giants. The 4runner was nestled nicely within the bounty of three towering Redwoods. What protection they offered from the elements, our canopy nicely accented as we sat under the canvas cover listening to the patter of rain and looking at the trunks of the world’s tallest tree.
From Redwoods we hit the coast and inhaled a nice breath of sun, salt and shore. Having traveled the coast from Astoria to Newport prior, we were astonished at the superior beauty this stretch had to offer—mainly because this stretched lacked the constant nagging towns that hindered an otherwise unaltered stretch of shoreline that boasted craggy rock outcroppings and towering stone islands just beyond where the tide retreats after stretching it’s fingers out in the sand.
We spent a few days with family, enjoying a homesteading experience worth learning from. From there we traveled to Kalama, Washington, just three hours away, to bring in the New Year with additional family. On our way to Washington we took a walk in Portland’s Forest Park, an impressive expanse of public accessible trail that allowed us to stretch our legs and remembered how to walk.
We headed out at the end of the week, traveling south and east from Washington to Oregon through the Columbia Gorge, then through Idaho, Utah and Nebraska. It was a surprisingly quick trip home, leaving at 9am on a Friday and arriving at noon on Sunday, considering time changes and never having to drive through the night.
Having said all this, in reflection, here are a few things that this trip has taught us:
§ We need snow chains
§ We need a means to more effectively carry water
§ A shower would be nice
§ Family is the best
§ There’s never enough time