Destination: Ventura, California

Ventura Pier, looking down into the ocean.

Ventura Pier, looking down into the ocean.

Ventura, California.

For years, I confused it with Venice Beach. I blame the V’s. No more; I’m an experienced traveler now.

Ventura was my first sight of ocean in weeks. I parked in the gentrified downtown and walked, crop top sweater and denim shorts and a youthful aching to see the water, several blocks to the shore.

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Driving Visalia to Ventura, California

The only good thing to come out of Bakersfield, California was this stop sign and a decent UPS store.

The only good to come out of Bakersfield, California was this stop sign and a decent UPS store.

There wasn’t a lot between Visalia and Ventura. There was Bakersfield, of no significance at all, and a long stretch of highway that from the sky might have looked liked a mosaic of semi-trucks and bulky, concrete gray overpasses. There were few of the latter in the deserts and mountains of Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, whence I came. Now I am noticing the reappearance of overpasses, and I think they mean to tell me I’m nearing civilization.

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Destination: Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park boasts groves of California's famous Giant Sequoia trees, like those seen here.

Sequoia National Park boasts groves of California’s famous Giant Sequoia trees. Look closely at the base of the middle tree to see the size of people in comparison to its trunk!

If you like big trees you’ll be “climbing” all over this post.

And if you like bad puns, you might not hate that that was my intro to this recap of Sequoia National Park.

Sequoia National Park is a swath of the Sierra Nevadas rich in big trees, hence its name. Many enter via the adjacent Kings Canyon National Park to the north, and to be frank, there isn’t a ton of differentiation between the two parks. Both are peppered in Giant Sequoias, using their impressive arbors as selling points. Beautiful as such an abundance of nature is, it’s easy to become burnt out on trees by the time one leaves Kings Canyon to enter Sequoia National Park. In sum, this trip has the potential to blur into an extended showcase of a lot of viable timber. If that’s your thing, more power to you.

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Destination: Kings Canyon National Park

Kings Canyon National Park

Kings Canyon often takes second seating to Sequoia National Park.

It’s so bad that I can’t write a first sentence about Kings Canyon without mentioning Sequoia National Park (see above).

However, the northerly partner within this pair of parks has its own highlights (say that 10x fast). It’s in Kings Canyon—just east of Fresno, California—that visitors will find the General Grant Grove, home to the second largest tree in the world, and the Redwood Mountain Grove, the largest natural grove of Giant Sequoia trees in existence. Kings Canyon itself (emphasis on the “canyon” here) ranks as one of the deepest in the nation and boasts an impressive collection of cave systems. Uber outdoorsy folk take note: the park is also adjacent to (and provides access via foot and horseback) the lofty Sierra Crest, where elevations climb above 14,000 to rival the peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Driving California’s SR-245

California State Route 245

California’s State Route 245 lazes over and around the hills due east of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The route’s north end is a mostly-snaking road built from the stuff of motorcyclists’ dreams as its winds languidly through foliage-laden forests. At its south end, the road cuts more clearly through yellowed farmland to present a quintessential slice of Inland California. Seeing another driver along the 245 is as rare as passing by a speed limit sign. The lack of  the latter is perhaps due to this shapely course needing no help setting an obvious pace for wheeled visitors.

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