Santa Barbara to Sequoia National Park

Thursday April 27, 2006, Sequoia National Park, CA
At last we are in a place that feels like what we came here for. We felt it a bit in Joshua Tree, but had the pressure of the car problems that made our stay short. We arrived in Sequoia today and have no timetable that says when we should leave. When we run out of cash to pay for campsites, I guess we will have to go back to civilisation to find an ATM!!!
We spent 2 nights at Carpinteria and drove out on Monday to Santa Barbara to buy a couple of things and to have a bit more of a look at this beautiful city. I could have stayed there indefinitely I think, and Juergen seemed to feel the same, but we drove on across the foothills behind Santa Barbara to Ojai (oh-hi), a small town in the foothills behind Santa Barbara, which seems to have become the home of some of some rich and famous and many artists (a little like Byron Bay). It has retained its small town identity by resisting the entry of the big chain and franchise stores and has gone from being found a little 'kooky' (a local's term) to becoming a tourist town. We looked around and then drove on to Los Padres National Forest and stayed the night in Wheeler Gorge Campground, a beautiful campground next to a rather fast-flowing river, and had the place mostly to ourselves. With the sound of water rushing across pebbles and around boulders to drown out any other sound, it was one of the most restful night's sleep we had both had in a long time. Tuesday's drive took us to an elevation of around 5000 feet and through some stunning scenery in this national forest.
After a trip through some "boring" oilfields around the town of Taft we arrived in the rather nondescript Bakersfield in the early afternoon, checked into the worst RV Park we have stayed in so far (just because it was close to the repair shop we had our camper booked in to the next day) and went in search of a chiropractor. We found him and he did an excellent job on my back - he understood immediately the problem and treated it in a way that I am used to from home.
On Wednesday we left the camper at Stier's to have the fresh water system checked for leaks, the battery replaced, and a few other odds and ends looked at. It was the first time we had taken it off the truck since collecting it, so another interesting experience. I don't think Juergen minded driving around for the day without it! We did some shopping, spent a couple of hours on the internet at Starbucks and went to see Doc Dennis again. After collecting the camper, we decided to leave Bakersfield and drive to Porterville so that we were close handy to Sequoia today. We found a nice campsite outside Porterville on Lake Success - a reservoir/man-made lake - and spent a restful night, despite the amount of traffic going by.
Today we drove into Sequoia National Park. We are a bit early in the season and some of the park is still closed as the Sierras are quite high and there is still a lot of snow around. We are staying in Potwisha campsite which is only at an elevation of just over 2000 feet but will venture out to higher altitudes tomorrow, in search of the famous sequoias or giant redwoods. This afternoon we walked just across the road to see a beautiful rushing river in postcard surroundings. We also saw some almost hemispherical holes in the rocks, which were used by the local Indians to grind grain and pottery clay. We have included some photos of these amazing indentations. This is really what we came for.

Saturday April 29, 2006
As you will see from the photos, we did indeed venture out and were over-awed at almost every turn. The landscape here is amazing and I for one am immensely grateful that governments have decided to protect places like this on the planet. We climbed and climbed through about 3000 feet, and as we climbed the landscape and particularly the flora changed. Here in the foothills, where we are camped, it is spring everywhere you look. Lush green meadow grass sprinkled with tiny flowers of almost every hue, beautiful flowering shrubs and trees, and a green that almost hurts your eyes. As you ascend, the trees get taller and the forest thicker until somewhere around 4500 feet, the first snow is still lying on the roadside and then the first giant sequoia tree comes into view - awestruck! These giant trees are not the tallest in the world, they are not quite the longest-lived, but in total wood volume they are the largest living trees in the world, and the largest living things. We drove into a winter wonderland and walked through the snow in the Giant Forest. It was just stunning and somehow words fail me to describe the beauty of this pristine landscape.
It wasn't always this way, as the Giant Forest Museum points out. In the early 20th century, tourists came here and drove through the forest and stayed in cabins at the base of these giants. Had this practice continued, the forest would surely have been lost. The Sequoia has only a relatively shallow root system for its height and too much activity at their base can disturb the root system to such a degree that they simply fall over. This seems to be the way they die as there doesn't seem to be much else that can kill them. Some of the trees here are over 2500 years old and studies have shown that they have only been around for about 4500 years!

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