Our Vie Adventures consists of Cees, Madison, Vladimir the Kitten, and a 1989 Toyota Motorhome named Vie. Cees and Madison are on the road, living the dream of every outdoor-minded couple by visiting each national park in the country over the course of the year. In celebration of our National Parks centennial, we’ve partnered with Cees and Madison to bring you stories and photos of their yearlong quest (and of course, plenty of #vladimirkitten along the way).
Keep scrolling to see Cees, Madison, and Vladimir’s visit to Sequoia National Park, CA. Stay tuned to Downstream for updates on their adventures and follow them on Instagram (@ourvieadventures) for more frequent updates from the road.
In the beginning, I would have never guessed that I would say, “Sequoia National Park is my favorite.” But I did. I make fun of Madison all the time for saying every new park we visit is her new favorite. But this one, for me, has jumped to the top of the list. There is just something about the sunset through these trees that makes you feel differently. It lifts your spirit in a way that is really difficult to describe. I want to say it is similar to how the big walls of Zion National Park make me feel, but there is something else about it. Perhaps it is the fact that these trees are alive and have been for thousands of years. And you know, it very well may be the difficulty to communicate my feelings about this place that I love so much – for some reason the new and the obscure feelings have always been my favorite. Whatever it is, Sequoia has become a new sacred place for me – a personal Mecca of sorts.
The trip started with the classic: General Sherman. We had to meet the main man of the Giant Forest. We got into the park really late the night before, and in anticipation rivaling that of Christmas morning, slept in the Sherman Tree parking lot. This may or may not have been allowed; luckily the rangers didn’t come knocking.
I’m standing in the representation of the base of the General. It puts into perspective how large it is at the base. It would take a very large slackline anchor to wrap this baby.
The trees are massive. It is hard to capture such gigantism in a photo. The part that makes these trees so special for me, isn’t, in fact, their size. Yeah, it blows your mind to try and process that General Sherman weighs almost 4.2 million pounds, but what really got my mind going was that this tree is over 2,000 years old. General Sherman has been protecting this forest for a long time – it was a serious privilege to meet him.
Madison and I sat on a bench for quite a while. We watched people from all walks of life come to visit the General. From Thug-life Elmo enthusiasts to the family with rambunctious kids trying to speed read the sign before their siblings. Everyone came to appreciate the massive tree.
It was an interesting time there on the bench. It really felt like I was getting to know someone there in the Giant Forest. I found myself wanting to thank the tree for his long-lived service. This sounds like a bunch of hippy-dippy BS, but I really don’t think a person can sit with such a massive living organism and not feel the need to appreciate the time it has spent experiencing this planet.
General Sherman is a PERFECT example of why I love the National Park System. The trail was paved all the way down from the parking lot to the General. It was an easy hike. There is also a shuttle that will take you to the tree’s base if you are not able to walk down yourself. We saw a man in a wheelchair paying tribute.
I think the NPS has 100% nailed their goal of providing access to and simultaneously protecting the awe-inspiring places of our country. Some people may say, “Awe, what a pity that this tree is now surrounded by a paved trail – he has lost his peaceful spot to all of us humans clamoring for a selfie.” But I disagree. I feel it is a beautiful thing to provide a way for everyone to have a connection with such an ancient and large living thing. I think General Sherman is proud to be on display for all mankind. There is also a part of me that finds it hilarious that American soil has produced the FATTEST tree in the world. We need to own it, it is what we do best.
Sequoias are absolutely amazing. As you walk through the Giant Forest, you get the sense that these trees are invincible – something that will last forever.
“Most of the sierra trees die of disease, fungi, etc., but nothing hurts the Big Tree. Barring accidents, it seems to be immortal.” -John Muir
By “accidents” John Muir meant toppling. It is ironic to me that the main reason these trees die is because they outgrow themselves. Their shallow root systems in soft soil can create a disaster for a tree of such mass.
Even fire has a hard time bringing these trees down. Some of the trees have their entire centers burnt out, yet still they grow. Apparently they have a chemical in them that helps them resist rot – they never give in to the decay of the forest.
“God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.” – John Muir
I don’t spin. I hate hate hate spinning. My worst nightmare is the Teacups Ride at Disneyland. Madison, on the other hand, had a blast spinning in the middle of these giant sequoias. She stood in the middle of The Senate and just spun. I couldn’t even watch her spin.
It was hard to get a real perspective on how big these trees were. I mean, you can only see one side of them as you walk around – it is just hard to gauge. But then when you see them fallen over like this, with their roots exposed, you can see how large they really are.
We tried hard to eat well on the road. This is where it is nice to have a wife who has a degree in Exercise and Wellness. If it were me traveling alone, I would probably eat Clif bars, PB&J, and cocoa puffs. Luckily, Madison doesn’t let me.
Sequoia has more than just big trees to offer. The Sierras contain some of the most beautiful and picturesque wilderness around. The geology nerd in me came out for the granite. I kept whispering under my breath how amazing it was when I would think about how this granite plume stretched from where we were in Sequoia all the way up to Yosemite. Madison always has a hard time hearing me through her hair, and constantly asks what I’m saying. “Just thinking about the granite again”, I would say. And then she would begin to make fun of my love affair with the rocks.
We made it up to the falls just in time for the sun to drop behind the mountain. When we were standing admiring the falls from a good distance, we noticed our shadows staring back at us.
We wanted to go back and spend more time with the big trees and we wanted to catch a sunset at Moro Rock. So we jumped on a shuttle to the area and chose a few trails to loop up before the sun went down.
Right as we got off the shuttle, we ran into this guy! He was hanging out, and tearing up these logs. It was Madison’s first bear experience! It was a beautiful animal.
We continued on our hike through the meadows. We were very bear-aware after our first encounter. Someone had told us that there were a few bears near the meadow, but we never saw them. I wonder if they saw us?
Seeing a Sequoia downed like this one really helps to put it into perspective the size of these things. They’re huge.
We ended up hiking all the way back to where we caught the shuttle that day (we hiked further and faster than we had planned), so we jumped in the RV and drove it to the famous tunnel log! And, believe it or not, we just barely squeezed through! Yeah, okay, don’t believe that – we didn’t make it through, BUT, we tried! I like to think that anything is possible, but a thirteen foot rig will never fit through an eight foot tunnel.
On the other side of the tunnel log, we ran into two more friends.
After goofing off at the tunnel log, we cruised back to the Moro Rock trailhead to climb 400 steps to the top for the sunset. As we climbed we looked out to the east to see the ridge of the Sierras lit up in the low light.
For me this was one of the, “I can’t believe that this is our life right now” moments. It is crazy to me that we are living our dream. Honestly, I think this should be everyone’s goal – to have these types of moments! It is important to note that these dreams don’t have to be traveling the country in an RV – your moments can revolve around getting into med school, writing a book, starting a family, buying a house, getting the ‘dream job’ or whatever your dream is! It can be anything! All that is important is that you love what you are doing.
As a bonus, we started to vlog our adventures! Mainly it is for our mothers, so they can see and hear our voices along the way, but who knows, maybe the rest of you would like to get a glimpse of the daily happenings!