Sequoias & Sierras

October 20 – 30

Now working full-time again, Bijan and I’s free time to adventure has been cut down to 4 days per week. We are not going to lie and say that work is a piece of cake, because it’s not. It’s hard and stressful most days. We can get through it, though, and justify the stress that it gives us by taking full advantage of the days that we have off.

Whether its a day trip to somewhere that is close to Santa Barbara or a few-days getaway, we always make sure we have something to look forward to. The first month or so of a new travel assignment is always a difficult adjustment, but it does get easier towards the end!

We were both off on a random weekday last week, and we decided to hit up a beach in Ventura called Mondo’s Beach, that is known as a good spot for beginner surfers. The waves, however, were way too big and scary for both of us. I paddled out, got pummeled by a few waves, and called it quits. It was a nice drive down to a different area, and Charley enjoyed running around and snacking on some nasty seaweed. We ended up just hanging out on the beach for the afternoon. See some pictures below:

Our next day off between shifts, last Saturday, our friends Maggie and Brandon invited us along with them to a little town over the mountains, about 40 minutes northwest of Santa Barbara in Santa Ynez valley, called Los Olivos. Surrounded by vineyards, this adorable little town is home to over 30 wine tasting rooms. The town is made up of renovated old victorian buildings and houses converted into little wineries and restaurants.

We bounced around to 4 different wineries during the day, starting off with Maggie and Brandon’s favorite, Samsara Wine Co, then heading to a little shed and back patio area called Hideaway Wine Co. Next we headed to F2, where we sat out back in the garden to enjoy some live music and pizza. Lastly we made it to Zinke Wine Co. for our last tasting of the day.

Whenever we have 3+ days off in a row, we always try to check off a destination on our “want to go” list. Since we had Oct 27 – 29 off from work and our dog walker was willing to watch Charley for a few days, we decided to chose somewhere to go that was not dog-friendly (to take advantage of having a dog sitter) and that we may not be able to go to in a month once it started snowing at high elevations.

We looked at our list of places that we wanted to go while in California, and we chose Sequoia National Park. It is about a 4 hours drive from Santa Barbara and much of the park closes in early November. It is situated at 7,000 feet of elevation in the Sierra Nevada so it gets snow early in the season.

Although much of the park was still closed due to the wildfires and it may be smoky, we chose to go anyways. Even if there was some smoke, at the very least we would still be able to see the giant trees right in front of us!

We left on Tuesday morning after kissing Charley goodbye and grabbing a coffee and amazing muffin from one of our favorite local coffee shops, The Daily Grind, and headed east towards the Sierras. As we made our way into the valley of central California, the sky turned that familiar smoky gray that we experienced a month ago when crossing the valley coming west to Santa Barbara. As we approached Sequoia National Park and climbed in elevation, the smoke cleared and we got some nice views of the Sierras. We climbed to 7,000 feet in elevation up narrow windy roads and into the Giant Forest section of the park, where the road started to become lined with noticeably massive trees.

We chose a 3-mile hike, called the Congress Trail through groves of giant sequoias to start our trip. You’ll find at National Parks, many visitors don’t go more than a half mile from the road and viewpoints. We got some solace on this trail and it was completely silent at times. It is truly humbling to be among trees so massive. The pictures don’t do it justice to seeing these beauties in real life.

Some of the trees and groups of trees on the trail are named, such as the President tree, the Congress group and the Senate group. These sequoias can live to be over 3,000 years old (most other trees live up to 300 years). They are very resistant to fungus and disease, and their bark is thick to protect them from forest fires.

General Sherman is claimed to be the biggest tree on earth by mass. Its is equivalent to 52,000 cubic feet, the diameter at the base is 36 feet, it is 275 feet tall and weighs 2.7 million pounds.

After our hike, it was getting dark, so we made our way back down to the town of Three Rivers, where we had booked a hotel room for 2 nights. The sunset was a fiery pink and orange color, and we got to enjoy this on our drive down.

We grabbed a quick bite for dinner and checked in to our hotel room at the Sierra Lodge. Bijan and I are always on the hunt for cheap but not gross accommodations, and this one certainly fit that description. It was one of the stranger hotels that we have ever stayed at, as Bijan describe it as a cross between a “cheap motel and a prison.” At least it was seemingly clean, that’s all that matter to us! We hit the hay, ready for a full day of adventures on Wednesday.

We woke up bright and early on Wednesday and headed to a local coffee shop, Sequoia Coffee Co, for delicious lattes (pumpkin spice latte and a french toast latte to be exact) and breakfast. We headed up to the Lodgepole area of the park for a hike that we had found on AllTrails. We were the only ones on this trail that morning. It was not exactly what we had expected it to be but the hike was a nice quiet walk in the woods and it brought us to a beautiful meadow.

After we finished the hike, we drove back toward the Giant Forest and walked out to Hanging Rock. The vistas were more amazing than we had imagined. Since there was still a good amount of wildfire smoke, we didn’t have high expectations. We hung out here for a bit to take in the scenery.

Next, we drove over to Crescent Meadow, and hiked a bit of the High Sierra Trail to get to Eagle View. The High Sierra Trail is a 60-mile wilderness trail that goes from the Sequoia to Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous US. We only hiked about 0.7 miles each way to get to this viewpoint!

We squeezed in a few more stops to take in the giant trees!

To wrap up our time at Sequoia National Park, we enjoyed a sunset on top of Beetle Rock before driving back down to town for the evening.

For dinner, we stopped at a food truck in town, the Quesadilla Gorilla, for some delicious quesadillas, before going back to the hotel for some rest.

Thursday morning, we stopped at Sequoia Coffee Co again for some coffee and food before leaving town to head back to Santa Barbara. We also tried one of their griddle donuts which did not disappoint!

We added a stop at Pismo Beach into our itinerary for the drive home. We arrived around lunch time and took some time to walk around on the pier before grabbing some fish tacos and clam chowder at Woolys. If you are looking to visit a quintessential California seaside surf town, this is it. The downtown area is lined with surf shops and seafood joints, and it is right along a vast beach and boardwalk area.

This about wrapped up another awesome week in Santa Barbara. Now back to work for a bit!

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