One of the items on my bucket list this year was to visit Sequoia National Park so that I could celebrate the National Park Service’s centennial. Since moving to California in 2008, I’ve been to three national parks in the state: Death Valley, Joshua Tree, and Yosemite.
Because this year was monumental for the National Park Service, I thought it would be perfect to cross another national park off my list by driving up to Sequoia, preferably after summer so it wouldn’t be too busy. September was the initial target month, but life happened and the date got pushed back a few times until I finally settled on October. I was super excited to go camping until about a week before the trip when I discovered that evening temperatures are below freezing at Sequoia. I didn’t have the appropriate apparel to be able to comfortably enjoy the park and I was definitely not ready to handle 25- to 38-degree weather for a couple of nights.
It’s actually kind of embarrassing to admit that I failed to plan properly for a trip I had been excited for all year. But at the same time, I know these kinds of things happen every now and then. One of the most important factors I always take into account when planning adventures is the weather, but this time around I automatically assumed Sequoia would probably be in the 40s or 50s by that time of the year.
Boy, was I wrong. And I was frustrated with myself.
I spent some time trying to figure out how to make Sequoia work, but in the end, I accepted that I wasn’t prepared to explore and enjoy the outdoors in temperatures that were colder than I’ve ever been in. (I have yet to experience snow at this point in my life :/ )
Still determined to visit a national park, I scraped the Sequoia plan and opted to go to Yosemite instead. Temperatures were more bearable there, ranging between the 40s to 60s.
While initially disappointed that my original plan didn’t come together, I was grateful that there was another national park so close by, and it didn’t take too much effort to change plans and go there instead. And honestly, Yosemite wasn’t a bad consolation prize: I was excited to see more of the park than I had when I first visited in 2013. (I went with some friends that year and we spent the bulk of our time on a strenuous hike to Upper Yosemite Falls.)
After finalizing the decision to go to Yosemite, I spent a few evenings researching attractions and accommodations, which raised my stress levels just a bit because it felt like cramming for an exam: I had a few days to get everything just right.
I used a map to mark all the places I wanted to go to because having a visual made it much easier to plan logistics. (If you don’t already use Google Maps as a visual tool for planning trips, I’d recommend it. It’s incredibly helpful to see how close to or far away the places you want to visit are from each other 🙂 )
In the end, my boyfriend and I stayed at the Wawona Campground, which is about 40-something minutes away from Yosemite Valley. Campgrounds in the valley are still popular in the fall and were a competitive spot to get when we went. It all worked out, though, especially because it was nice to stay a little farther away from the tourist attractions.
As for the itinerary I worked so hard to create in just a few days, even that didn’t go exactly as outlined. But that’s okay: traveling teaches you the life lesson that plans don’t always unravel the way you’d like it to.
But ultimately, things do work out.