California Trails

After a crazy week in the concrete of LA it’s great to head off escaping technology and civilisation and people and internet access (sort of) to get into the big outdoors.

Chris Lewis (Clewis) and I are on a long discussed boy’s roadie and we’re off to sample some of the best wilderness (and bars) the USA has to offer.

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First destination is Sequoia National Park in California. Driving through the LA traffic hell is pretty wearing but we’re soon on the long freeways heading north to stop in Visalia for the night – a short hop to the Sequoias the next day but first we have to get through drinking and eating in Applebees which is Americana franchised and in your face. It’s so full on in your face with the Americana Clewis and i are seeing if we can travel the length of Cali stopping at them along the way….yes it’s possible. Good seat at the bar turns into odd seat at the bar as a rather disturbed gentleman smoking one of those blue electric cigarettes just stares intently at us. For hours. Disconcerting and whilst I can’t hear banjo strings there’s definitely something very David Lynch to the evening.

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Up early the next day and straight into the park…it’s stunning. We drive to a place called Moro Rock and there’s a 8km trail loop…pretty cruisy trail running in terms of technical side of things but at 7000 feet its a bloody marathon. Chris is no trail runner but he hangs in there. We run the trail out and the climb the ridiculously huge hanging rock promontory – simply amazing views out of the mountains and forests falling away on each side and we look relatively fit compared to most people climbing that rock. There must be heart attacks every year – body retrieval down those winding steps at that altitude doesn’t bear thinking about.

Then we head back on the trail via 1 large sequoia named Roosevelt (he did a lot to safeguard the parks back in the day) and to the car. Been good to get the feet moving again and tree roots and feel more peaceful for the experience.

We drive on north to meet what I think may be the largest tree in the world – General Sherman. It’s vast and of course a stop off for every bloody tour bus you can imagine. Whilst it’s fun to see it doesn’t have the intimacy of standing next to Roosevelt and taking it in quietly in the forest.

Then we’re off north to get to Oakhurst a small town just on the edge of the Yosemite National Park. We check in at another random hotel (where I meet a man from Whangerai of course) and head out for a meal in a random little barbecue place (playing Alabama 3 – awesome) before heading to a biker’s establishment – the Dirty Donkey bar…..small town America is certainly all it’s cracked up to be (and more).

Next morning we’re up crazy early and in the car to drive through the park to the valley where it all happens apparently. It’s once again a gorgeous drive – mountains, valleys and more redwoods and verdant (good word) forest than you can shake a branch at. Then we are through a tunnel and jeeez! Talk about land that time forgot….the valley is not actually that wide – a few KMs across but the sheer sides stretch off into the distance and you can see all the big named peaks and faces…. We drive through with necks craning to get a look out of windows past waterfalls that cascade 100s of meters down sheer faces. A quick bite to eat, get a map, work out a trail and we’re off for a jaunty 10km trail run. It’s easier than up at Sequoia but still hard at 4000 ft. Trail varies between easy forest style path to rock scrambling and silt. The loop takes us alongside both edges of the valley walls and each side is strewn with boulders and debris that have fallen from above….some are the size of cars and small houses. Slightly disturbing.

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Again Clewis does well for a non trail runner and shows he’s not as unfit as he looks 😉 by hanging in there. The short stops to catch our breaths at this altitude definitely help and I’m just thinking I need to hire an RV and come out here with the girls or alone for a week and just run all the trails. Imagine being able to cruise around them at several thousand feet – very tempting. All too soon we’re back to the car and heading a couple of hundred KMs to Monterey just in time to see the hordes of day trippers descending on the place – tip for Yosemite – get in and out early if you don’t like driving in slow car queues.

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The road stretches on through farmland flats which stretch to the horizon. Then over the hills and into Monterey where the June Gloom is in evidence and summer turns to winter immediately. Good sushi and more beer (definitely not losing weight on this trip) and fall asleep to the sounds of the ocean. Today it’s beach running time – but first work, presents and that aquarium – sometimes running has to come 2nd.

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