My goal for the day was to reach the Sequoia National Park in California, a drive likely to take up my entire day. Despite the urgent need to hit the road, however, I had a hard time saying goodbye to the relative comfort of my hotel room. My travel funds were speedily depleting, and I knew I was probably looking at the last real bed and hot shower until I returned home. I tried to enjoy them while I still could.11:13 a.m.
I took my time, but I finally left the hotel to begin my long journey to the ridges of the Sierra Nevada. If time allows, I would like to take a detour to Death Valley National Park on the way.
Driving through the Mojave Desert proved to be a lot more demanding than I imagined. The heat was almost unbearable. According to some of the local radio stations, the temperature reached 115 degrees, in which I had no difficulty believing. The landscape was nothing but miles and miles of flaming-hot asphalt, rocks, and desert shrubs, taking a heavy toll on my truck.
Despite the incredible heat, however, I was forced to turn off the air-conditioning otherwise the engine temperature kept climbing. As a result, I was soon very hot and uncomfortable; yet, I was still more fortunate than some of my fellow travelers, the heat taking a heavy toll among them. Literally every mile, I could see a car or two on the side of the road with its hood popped open or simply abandoned. Big or small, American or foreign did not seem to matter; the desert was taking its victims regardless of make or model.
At that moment, I decided to skip Death Valley. Frankly, I had enough of the desert already, and I could use the extra time considering I left Las Vegas relatively late.
Further pictures: #1.
I crossed the California state line. The only thing seemed to be changing around me, however, was the price of gas, jumping up with over a dollar. It is ridiculous how much Californians have to pay for gas.
I had to stop at Barstow to get some gas. It was a bit cheaper there than in the high desert, but still much higher than back East.
Once I got closer to Tehachapi, I began to notice some changes in the scenery. The flat, rocky surface of the desert slowly gave way to small hills, covered with yellow-green grass. The constant wind made this country perfect for renewable energy, wind turbines occasionally covering entire hills like some strange forest. Although the scenery was rather monotonous with very little to see, I kind of enjoyed driving up and down on its many hills.
As I was getting closer to Bakersfield, I left the yellowish hills behind and entered California’s vast Central Valley. The plane ahead of me seemed infinite, spreading out to a great distance, just miles and miles of neatly kept orchards and farmlands. Though I know it seems rather impossible, but I could have sworn I was able to smell the ocean in the air.
After leaving Bakersfield, the landscape had changed very little; orchards and various plantations still dominated the countryside. I was, however, beginning to notice more and more how neat everything looked around me. Fruit trees everywhere were trimmed carefully to look exactly alike. Farmlands were often fenced with only flower beds and palm trees, if at all, and even highway 65—which was basically just a farm road—looked as if it was only built the day before. Everything was so much in order, so neatly kept around me that my surroundings seemed almost unnatural. It was so California...
Once I passed Lake Kaweah and a few small mountain towns, I finally arrived at the Sequoia National Park. Unlike at the Grand Canyon, however, I could not slack off on the entry fee this time—not that I wanted to. After I paid and received my customary maps and park guides, the ranger at the gate gave me advice on where to spend the night. Apparently, the road was closed about ten miles ahead due to ongoing road constructions, and it would not re-open until the next day, greatly limiting my options for the night. Only two campgrounds lied within reach; so, I headed toward them, hoping I could still find an unoccupied site.
The narrow slants of the mountain road provided me with a splendid driving experience. The light reflecting markings illuminated my way perfectly and, with not a sole on the road, I felt as if I was driving in my own personal video game. Despite the relative darkness, I could make out the silhouettes of high mountains towering far above me and the gaping depths of valleys beside the road, making my drive a bit dangerous but not a bit less fun.
Once I arrived at the campsite, Buckeye Flat, I was welcomed by numerous signs warning me of the wildlife, particularly bears. All my food had to be stored in designated metal containers, so called “bear boxes,” and I was subject to fines if I failed to comply. Needless to say, all this made me very excited, wishing to see wild bears more than anything. I set up my tent and, after a quick dinner, went to sleep, hoping the new day would grant me my wishes.
|Distance covered on the eighth day|