We left the blazing heat of Death Valley on June 5 headed for the south end of the Sierra Mountain Range to zig over to Lake Isabella. As we were slowly working our way to Washington State, we spent most of the month of June zig-zagging around California with particular stops in mind.
The day we left Death Valley, we happened to be driving by what looked like a planned assortment of rectangles and squares in a large valley, but it wasn’t farmland or like anything we had seen before. Upon closer inspection we found it was an area set up to preserve a once large lakebed from toxic dust after years of removing the water for farming irrigation and household usage. We were able to drive through one of the public access routes that leads to various trailheads. This area is now being managed by Los Angeles Department of Water & Power – they use native vegetation, shallow flooding, and effective water efficient measures including tillage and gravel to mitigate toxic dust emission on the Owens Lake playa (flat dried-up land where water evaporates rapidly). It was rather fascinating to drive through and see the possibilities with proper restoration techniques considering what we observed two years ago when we drove to a few of the extinct beaches of the Salton Sea in the Coachella Valley, California. That area was recently declared past the point of saving, and the powers that be must now look to some form of restoration like the Owens Lake project to stop the rapid deterioration of what is left of the Salton Sea and handle all the toxic dust.
After the little jaunt into the Owens Lake Project, we continued on the gorgeous back roads of the southern Sierra’s to Lake Isabella for the night. On that drive we saw dense stands of Joshua Trees, we’d never seen them that thick even in Joshua Tree National Park – definitely worth taking this backroad. We knew our overnight accommodations at Lake Isabella would be rather funky – let’s say it was more of a funky dump of a place – but it was clean and no bed bugs. Something I always check for! The next morning, we had a beautiful drive on a 2-lane back road over to the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The views were lovely - from the oak and pine forests all the way down to the citrus groves as we zagged into the Central Valley.
Exeter June 6
We stopped in Exeter for a bite to eat and a walk around town. This was a great place to spend the afternoon and enjoy the small town feel as well as the many murals. We decided this would be a good place to come back and spend a few days. From Exeter we drove 10 miles down the road to our overnight stay at the Plantation Bed and Breakfast in Lemon Cove. This location was only 16 miles from Sequoia National Park. It had a pool which was nice catching a few morning laps before our gourmet breakfast.
Sequoia National Park June 7
The next morning, we zigged into Sequoia National Park. We were here to see the grand Sequoiadendron giganteum, the oldest living trees in the world (considered largest by total wood volume (think of them as rather stout while still being approximately 300 feet tall with the big guy General Sherman topping out at around 311 feet). This tree is estimated to be 2,200 years old! It’s really difficult to wrap one’s mind around the history of the world during that time. The Sequoia grow naturally only on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada range between 5,000 and 7,000 ft. of elevation. While we enjoyed walking around General Sherman, we enjoyed the Grant Grove much more as there were so many more big trees there. The drive from the south entrance to the north on Generals Highway is slightly over 30 miles, so it makes for an easy day trip.
Kings Canyon National Park can be accessed in Sequoia NP. We drove through only a very small portion of Kings as we were here to see the big trees and hadn’t allotted time for anything else during this drive through. Perhaps on another visit we’ll be able to explore the many trails of the deep canyons and high peaks of Kings Canyon.
Thank you for joining our journey.