Lodging: Hilton Garden Inn, Madera, CA
Food: Cool Hand Luke's
Slowly creeping into Pacific time; my mother and I were trying valiantly to stay on East Coast time. The trouble for us was that we weren't prepared for how steep and winding the roads in California are. That is to say, we'd look at the map, think a route would take a few hours, but it would take more than half a day because the terrain requires slower speeds. Because of this, we were getting to bed later and later than we wanted, and struggling to get up at 5 AM Pacific (8 AM EST) ...
As a bonus, the roads are replete with hairpin turns, which means driving considerable more miles than if you were able to drive "as the crow flies".
On this morning, we left around 9 AM, and stopped at a roadside stand to buy some cherries.
Truth be told, the cherries were only occasionally amazing, regularly ok, and something between irregularly and regularly boring. That didn't keep us from stopping on subsequent days for more cherries.
Another beautiful, winding road around a lake or reservoir, and we found ourselves entering Sequoia National Park. We'd hoped to go to the <a href="http://www.mineralking.org/">Mineral King</a> ghost town that is within the park. Unfortunately, the road to the ghost town wasn't open all the way to the ghost town.
Once again, we turned around, and entered the "normal" portion of the park.
At the ranger station upon entering, they let us know there was a noon crossing, though they couldn't promise we'd make it. They said the next one was at 2. We weren't quite sure what this meant, but we headed off to find out.
Turns out, there's major road work being done on one of the passes, which means there's a one-lane road going up and over. Each direction must wait its turn; hence the noon and 2 PM crossing.
The pilot car determines when you get to pass as a group. Another day, another single-lane precipitous drive.
We passed road crew, missing roadways, piles of <strong>structural fill</strong>, missing guard rails, among others. The single-lane road is gravel / dirt in some places and paved in others. The scenery is breath-taking, if you can bring yourself to look over the edge.
At the Visitor's Center we walked through the museum, used a very crowded restroom, and moved on to find the parking for General Sherman's tree. Turns out, all the hikes my mom could do were covered in snow or slush.
We drove off to the Lodge for lunch before they closed at 2 PM.
After lunch, we kept driving through Sequoia and Kings National Parks. We stopped for a few major sites and to attempt one more hike that was also cancelled due to the snow and slush on the ground.
After a breathtaking and awe-some (literally) day driving through these mammoth trees, we headed off to Madera to find food and get some rest.