June 2014

Four Bears and bare bottoms

We were so fortunate to have my parents come and stay again. This time we had decided that we would finally see some of this amazing country! We chose to visit Sequoia National Park based on recommendation from some friends here. While it is extremely hot at this time of the year, they said that as you headed into the mountains the temperature dropped making it perfect!

After a 6. 5 hour drive through some amazing (and less amazing) country side we finally arrived at our house we had booked at Three Rivers. Three Rivers is the last real town before you head into the the Sequoia National Park, located approximately three and half hour north east of Los Angles.  We drove up and had our first real LA traffic experience… not something I would like to do everyday! The boys were great considering the amount of time we spent in the car, and honestly the drive was worth it when arrived at the house we had booked.  The house was truly amazing. It was position on a hill overlooking the Serra Nevada mountains which make up the Sequoia National Park.

http://www.vrbo.com/360711

We arrived the day before mum and dad and were able to settle into the house and the pool! The first night watching the sunset with our toes in the water of the pool was like heaven. There are actually no words which can describe the immense size and beauty of the mountains. No photo could really ever capture it. Every night we all pinched ourselves.

Three Rivers, is aptly named! There are actually three rivers which run into it. We spent a morning with boys before Mum and Dad arrived exploring part of the Kaweah River. The height of the river varies greatly through out the year and was quite low when we visited. We started chatting to a couple with a daughter the same ages as the boys and soon found out they were locals and the guy actually worked at Sequoia National Park! So we were able to get recommendations and plan an itinerary for the next few days in the park.

As you drive through the National Park to reach the main walking tracks, you are constantly amazed at how the landscape changes from desert to the lush green forests of the Sequoias. We had the windows open most of the drive up each day as we tried to soak up the amazing scenery. You keep looking for Sequoias and think you have seen one, but when you do, you really know they are something truly amazing. The smell of the forests was also amazing, we ran out of words beside ‘WOW” to describe what were seeing. The boys mean while were playing with trucks pretty oblivious to the amazing spectacle right out their windows.

Here is a summary of the tracks/hike we undertook with the boys. We hope that one day we can return when the boys are a little older to stay in park and complete some of the longer walks.

Day One:

No visit to Sequoia National Park would be complete without a visit to the General Sherman – which is the largest known Sequoia in the park. The track is sealed and has really great information as you walk down to the park. The boys were great walking down, however needed a little assistance on the way back up.    General Sherman is the walk that everyone does on a trip to Sequoia so it was well set up and parking etc was great.

We then headed to Cresent Meadow for lunch. While we had be advised to be careful and aware of the bears, it was not until we sat down for lunch at the picnic tables that we had true appreciation of the work involved in protecting the bears.  The national park provides ‘bear boxes’ to lock away any food which you may have in your car so that the bears are not tempted to enter the car park and try and get into your car. The preservation of these  amazing animals is clearly at the forefront of everyones minds.

Crescent Meadow was amazing, it was again a relatively well sealed track, but was about 1.6 mile loop through to the Tharps Log. The scenery yet again took our breath away. It was not a very busy trail so we had time to stop and look at all the squirrels and other wild life that the boys found along the way. The entire track was shaded and the giant Sequoia butted up agains the path and provided constant wonderment and photo opportunities.

As we circled back around the meadow we were on the constant look for bears as we had been told that the bears like the meadow. In all honesty, I assumed that the bears would not really be around and instead the signage and bear boxes were more to keep us on edge and on the paths! But up ahead we could see that some people had stopped and there to a amazement were a mother bear and two of her cubs – they were literally 15 meters away from us, and they were completely at ease and took no interest in any of us. We just stood in shock at seeing these amazing creatures, whilst trying to make sure the boys were not too loud! Apparently there was a fourth one further around, but we did not see it.

On the way back down that night we saw another one in a meadow near the Big Tree Trail just off the side of the road.. Amazing!

http://www.hikespeak.com/trails/crescent-meadow-sequoia/

Day Two

The Crescent Meadow walk certainly tested the boys in regards to distance (and us as well as we enviably had to carry the boys some of the way), so when Anthony suggest an equally long distance walk which included a cave… I was certainly was not as enthusiastic as he was! We armed/bribed the boys with their own little torches to brave the cave. The Crystal Caves are only open during the warmer months and you have to purchase tickets at the main information centers within the park.

The tour is highly organized with set departure times and grew guides who brief you as you walk down to the cave and then meet you at the cave entry and lead you under ground. The caves were so lovely and cool, so you will need to bring jumper which was a novelty for us! The tour was fantastic with providing the history of when it was found by white settlers. The formations within the cave were quite spectacular.

http://www.sequoiahistory.org/default.asp?contentid=632

The boys loved the tour – they were a little boisterous at times but they were fascinated by the stalactites and stalagmites along with the “spider web’ door which was a the entrance of the cave. So, even though I though that the boys would not enjoy it, they did! Anthony was right yet again. After the cave visit we headed to the Lodgepole Visitor Centre which had a fantastic video about bears which we would highly recommend seeing. The visitor centre also gave a fantastic history of the Sequoia National Park and the animals and people who have and currently live there.

Day Three

Yet again, Anthony had a great idea that the boys could climb up Moro Rock. After the previous days effort I decided not to question him as he seems to have more confidence in the boys capabilities than I do! And yet again he was right. Moro Rock is as it sounds… a Rock.. but a Rock with a view .. and a view which is spectacular and definitely worth the heart palpitations I had as we walked/climbed up it. There are 350 steps to the top. Once you are at the top, you literally feel as though you are at the top of the world. There are uninterrupted 360′ views of the national park down the valley through to Three Rivers and beyond. Just breathtaking! We held onto the boys so tightly!

http://www.hikespeak.com/trails/moro-rock-sequoia/

After the adrenaline rush of Moro Rock we headed to the Big Tree Trail which is located near Giant Forest Museum (which is also well worth a visit). It was a very easy hike around a meadow – not nearly as beautiful at the Crescent Meadow hike, but we still would stop and admire all the Sequoia Trees as we past them. By this stage the boys interest in bears had increased ten fold so they were on the constant look out of them. After seeing the bear video at the Lodgepole Information Centre, and having read some children’s books aimed at educating kids about keeping bears wild, we were all experts on seeing evidence of bear activity!

http://www.visitsequoia.com

As you can see, we had the most amazing trip to Sequoia, made all the more wonderful that we could share it with my mum and dad. It has certainly made us realized that we have many more beautiful places to visit while we are here.

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_8132IMG_8198IMG_8219IMG_8267IMG_8278

 

21Ks Done!

I have made a promise to myself to make sure this blog gets updated more regularly – and not have a month between events happening and me blogging! So this is my first attempt! This time I am only 9 days overdue… so thats an improvement isn’t?

Over the last few months I have really begun to enjoying my running and pushing the distances that I have been doing. I am certainly not too serious about it, but I do get a real buzz out of setting new distance and time challenges. So since we have arrived I have completed a 10k and a 15k, so the obvious next step was to do a 21 k/half marathon. I have to say that half marathon sounds so much further than 21 ks!

In April, I decided to sign up to San Deigo ‘Rock N Roll’ Half Marathon (http://runrocknroll.competitor.com). In my usual way, I didn’t really look at the date – except that it was in June. That seemed ok, until I realized that it was the weekend after we returned from the UK! Certainly not ideal training for such a long run! Anyway, it was too late by then. Before I had signed up for the run, I set myself the aim of running 18ks. A couple of my friends who have run half marathons said that in the lead up to their runs, they did not run pass 18ks. I decided that if I could run 18ks in a reasonable time and not feel too horrible afterwards I could do a half. So early one Sunday morning I set off while the rest of the house was still asleep. I surprised myself in running the 18ks – it was a nice cool and cloudy day and I was done by 8:00 am. So that was it… now I had to sign up!

After a couple of short runs while we were in the UK (another blog post follow sorry!) and one longer one a few days before the run, I felt that I had done as much as I could before the event – certainly not ideal though! I was thankful that I was also going to be meeting my friends Sarah and Claire at the start. Sarah and I had decided that we would try and run as much of it together as we are of a similar pace.

It was such a great atmosphere – as the name suggest (http://runrocknroll.competitor.com) there were bands every other mile of so. There were also so many people lining the streets supporting everyone as they ran past. I have to say though… 21 ks.. or 13.1 miles, is quite boring, even with a friend running with you! Sarah and I ran together until the 10 mile mark where I knew I had overdone it. I had to stop and have a minute to recover. But the strange thing was that my body wouldn’t let me! After over and hour and a half of running my body still had the running motion – similar to being on a boat for awhile! I was so determine to keep going though – this was such a goal for me! So I got back up and slowed myself down a little and kept going. The course was similar to the 15 k run I had recently done – except there were thankfully less hills. It was a relief to know at the 11 mile mark there would be nice long down hill run to the finish line.

Finally the end was in sight. I have to say that it took all my will to keep going. It was certainly one of the most challenging things I have done. Once I finished I have to admit that I found a piece of ground and just sat down had to have a few minutes to my self before I found Anthony and the boys. The whole experience obviously did not traumatize me enough.. as I have started thinking about the next half marathon – but I have also had the realization that I have absolutely no interest in a marathon!

10338671_10152260031973138_7748676491233075146_o