I am not often one to follow the crowd. When the crowd at Disney is looping left, I go right. When instructions say start here, I don’t. It was with this spirit in mind, that I sat down in a John Muir Lodge in Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Park to watch a living history presentation on John Muir.
Now to be fair, I didn’t jump at the chance to see this living history presentation hosted by the Sequoia Natural History Association but they wisely brought wine and s’mores so I was easily persuaded. As I sat down in front of a roaring fireplace in a lodge surrounded by woods, I had no idea that in a few moments, I would identify more with a man born in 1838 than some of my peers today.
As a young actor stood up and introduced himself, I couldn’t help but whisper “this is going to be so lame” to myself. Luckily, I have a decent inside voice so even those close to me likely didn’t hear me (fingers crossed). Frankly, I knew nothing of John Muir and was unsure of how much history I could take after a long day and large dinner. Still, as the man began to transform into John Muir, I couldn’t help but recognize something in him that I have always known about myself. This guy, like me, was a wanderer and we both were a lot like John Muir.
Now I am not going to tell you that I in anyway compare to a naturalist who spent months alone in these parks and spearheaded the preservation of incredible natural spaces like Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. In fact, I identified with the John Muir whose wife would tire of him and kick him out of the house to head back to the forest. I have always had a wandering nature and in this presentation I found a kindred spirit who exemplified the need to walk and explore. I, like John Muir, prefer to do so alone. More than once, on this trip, I had my “John Muir Moments” of silence and tranquility ruined by someone on our tour frantically yelling my name. I instead wanted to take the park at my own pace and like John Muir listen to the rustling of the leaves and be at peace with the trees.
Sequoia National Park
If you have never stood under a sequoia tree, you need to go to Sequoia National Park now. Don’t even keep reading this. Just go. There is something so majestic about these trees that upon seeing one close up, you realize how much we all have to thank people like John Muir for. I first visited one of the largest and more famous trees in the park, the General Grant Tree. Thought to be the 3rd largest tree in the world, this tree has survived fires and the destruction of the parks by man before John Muir and others were able to make sure they were protected.
To tell you the truth, I wasn’t that impressed. Our guide, a fellow explorer like myself and a National Park ranger asked the group if there were any questions and I took him aside and explained that the fences around these trees were breaking my heart. He explained that the trees roots sit close to the surface and that they needed to be protected. He then looked me in the eye and said “you need to head to the North Grove”. I pretended I knew what he was talking about but had no idea where the North Grove was. All I knew is that I was going to head there before the day was through.
As the group was given time to pack up their belongings, the ranger drove by and I was able to clarify where the North Grove was. Turns out it was about 100 yards away from where we were standing when he told me about it. I grabbed my Nissan Rogue and drove back down to the Grant Grove parking lot but as instructed continued through to the bus parking.
North Loop- Grant Grove
I was slightly hesitant to head into the woods solo but knew I had to do it. As a Canadian who grew up around bears in Northern Ontario, I am not afraid of them but certainly didn’t want to run into them alone with nothing on me but a bottle of water and a camera. As I walked along the trail, my fears faded into pure amazement. The National Park Ranger wasn’t joking. This was THE place to see the majestic sequoia trees. As some of the trees have fallen along the trail, the park services have cut pathways through them. Once you venture only about half a mile in, you find yourself alone amongst some of the most unbelievable of nature’s creations. Squirrels and birds on these trees look minuscule and as you carefully manoeuvre over the roots of these trees you are able to touch and smell them as nature intended.
I walked through the North Loop in complete silence and finally found my inner John Muir. I knew in my heart, I would
also do all I could to protect these trees and tell each and everyone of you about them so you could see their beauty for yourself. Along the trail there are meadows and creeks as well as numerous deer and smaller animals. I didn’t see a bear on my walk that day but I felt like any bear living in that grove would have been in a state of complete zen and not likely to attack me for the three gummy bears I forgot to take out of my bag.
Lodging Options in Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Park
Within Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Park there are some really great lodging options to help you find your inner John Muir. Here are a few of my favourites:
John Muir Lodge: Located a quick walk from the General Grant Tree and the North Loop, the John Muir Lodge is split into a larger lodge and some small cabins. I stayed in the lodge and loved the atmosphere. The main room is filled with hikers and travellers discussing the parks. The rooms are clean and woodsy but in a nice way. Of the places we stayed, I felt I liked this room the best. It felt like a really nice summer camp with wine.
Cedar Grove Lodge: If you are looking to transform camping into glamping, this is not the place for you. Still this lodge’s rustic roots are worth it the minute you step outside your room and find yourself in King’s Canyon forged by glaciers and home to the King’s River. This lodge sits along the river and features gourmet BBQ. What’s not to love?
Wuksachi Lodge: Located in the heart Sequoia National Park, this lodge is modern, clean and offers some of the most secluded rooms in the park. I was lucky enough to attend another presentation by the Sequoia Natural History Association. This time on the night sky. As I looked up at the sky, I realized how completely dark and quiet it was. I returned to the room and had one of the best night’s sleep I can remember.