Serenity and Silence in Sequoia

Great home for the night.

It’s a challenging call for me to choose between Sequoia and Yosemite, but I usually respond ‘Sequoia’ when people ask me what my favorite National Park is. Yosemite has the iconic, massive monuments and the glitz of the climbing world, and a truly wonderful energy in its stones. To me, however, what raises Sequoia above other places is the unknown, diverse and confusing territory one can jump into. Getting lost (not literally, hopefully) in the vast wilderness of Sequoia is a way to free the mind and really descend into an adventure.

This weekend, we returned to Sequoia for the first time since last fall (sadly), on our now-annual trip to the Tokopah Valley. Nothing too crazy happened, just epic views, icy lakes and the usual stunning terrain and size surrounding us every second of the way. This is what we saw:

Views of the valley next to the massive Watchtower.

Tokopah Valley is gorgeous during the summer months, despite California’s continuing drought. The colors pop off the visual panorama, contrasting perfectly with the stark granite.

Directions to camp: look directly in the center of the photo, all the way back below the ridge-line, then walk there.

Although stuck with the usual weekend time limitation, some of the best parts of Sequoia take only a few hard hours to access. This ‘easy’ accessibility is key to my keeping sane during the work week. (Still, it takes an overnight 4.5 hour drive from LA on dark country byways and windy, precarious mountain roads to get to the permit stations on time.)

One of us enjoys lakes, the other mountains; Sequoia provides more than enough for both.

Although the trail we take is a shorter in-and-out, you can continue your trip by climbing out of the Tokopah Valley and into the Tablelands, a massive expanse of rolling granite and desolation, devoid of trails. My next trip to this area will be a multi-day into said Tablelands, self-navigating into and around the outside of the Tokopah Valley in a giant, meandering loop.

After reaching our designated area for the night, we made a quick camp of hammocks and a tarp for my bivy. Beautiful summer nights made the tent unnecessary, and no tent means lighter packs!

Lounging too hard to take a non-blurry photo.

After taking a quick dip in our closest lake, we roasted off in the sun before continuing onward to take in the views of the next lake.

Views were pretty solid.

After a solid 10 hours of sleep under the stars, I got up early in the cold and took a stroll, debating whether to push hard and scramble to the top of the peak walls or just enjoy the views.

Cold and grey mornings in Sequoia; from here, I went right and straight up the rockfall to the peaks.

After climbing to the second ledge from the top, I decided to save some energy for the hike back to the car rather than continue to climb out of the valley.

Looking back on the scrambling route I came down from.

Our hike back to the car was brisk and silent, both of us enjoying the beating sun and views of the valley as we pounded down the trail. It’s emotionally-wrenching to leave Sequoia, especially after such a short time, but it simply reminds me that I’ll always keep coming back here. We are truly lucky to have this place to escape to. Cheers to returning with more vacation days and less directions for my journey into the Tablelands.

Kait jogged off the trail and up a formation for one last view back on the breathtaking valley.
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