It’s late when we arrive at the Foothill entrance station to Sequoia National Park. The Ranger smiles as he hands me the winter guide and advises us on conditions. The roads are slick and four inches of new-fallen snow covers the highway. We display our entrance pass on our windshield, wave good-bye, and carefully drive the remaining 25 miles to our destination, the Wuksachi (pronounced wook-sah-chi) Lodge.
The highway twists and turns and spirals as it ascends 5,300 feet. At Moro Rock the road levels off more or less. The scenery has changed from scrub oak to towering pines and occasionally we are treated to a glimpse of the Park’s famous trees, the giant Sequoias. But only when our headlights point skyward. The rich hue of their red bark is striking and appears ethereal in the darkness of our winter evening.
Sequoia National Park, California’s first National Park, was established in 1890 under President Harrison at John Muir’s urging. It is home to some of the world’s largest trees, the giant Sequoia. They are particular to the region and only grow between 5,000 and 7,000 feet above sea level on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains – a range that runs North-South and divides most of California in two.
While I have travelled to Sequoia National Park countless times over the last 20 years, I have never visited during winter. My time here has always been spent camping at Lodgepole, hiking summer trails, or backpacking to destinations far beyond the highway. Except for now; my purpose is to snowshoe among these giants with the Lodge as my home base.
Although the Wuksachi was built in 1999, it is reminiscent of the West’s grand lodges, like Yosemite’s The Ahwahnee and Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Inn. It offers us all of the traditional amenities – a restaurant, bar, gift shop, convenience store, and wireless internet in the lobby. The only thing we are missing is cell service. It’s non-existent. I panic about missed calls and unreturned voicemails. My anxiety is fleeting; I remember I am also here for solitude.
We return the friendly greeting at check-in and follow directions to guest parking and our accommodations for the next two nights. We unload onto a snowy bellman’s cart that sits idly at the end of a long path leading up to the Silliman building and our room. I push the cart as my partner pulls. After the six-hour drive the exertion feels good in the cold air.
Before going to bed, we decide to get acquainted with the Wuksachi and return to the lobby bar – this time opting to walk despite the chilly temps. A lighted path works its way back toward the main building. Snow banks on either side rise to the height of my shoulders. The front desk agent said this recent snow was the first they’ve had since receiving ten feet in December’s storms. I’m thankful. This crisp, new layer of powder has refreshed the scene and I’m excited to snowshoe.
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