Sequoia: Screams and Singalongs, Smoke and Snow

My timeline is all off. Today is Friday. Wait, really? Is it actually Friday? My calendar says it is, but aren’t days and months and years all just social constructions? … I should stop. Today is Friday. I only had class two days this week, and was very confused when those days turned out to be Wednesday and Thursday. This is all because of a very glorious thing known as Fall Break—getting Monday and Tuesday off of school.

My friends and I took advantage of this 4 (in my case, 5) day break to drive the approximately 5.5 hours to Sequoia National Park and go camping and hiking and bonding (followed by driving 5.5 hours back again). But before all this, we had to plan. You may think that Pomona students would be good at such a thing, but getting 10 people and their stuff and their food together for 3 days is more complicated than one thinks. We are greatly indebted to the pack-outs of Dining Services, which prepared enough food for 20 breakfasts, 20 lunches, a pasta dinner, and a Mexican dinner. (We bought snacks and s’mores ingredients.) We are also greatly indebted to OTL, “On The Loose,” Pomona’s outdoor resource center. OTL rents out (almost) anything you’ll need for outdoor activities. We got our (3) tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, cooking utensils, camp stove, tarps, and more from them. For free. They also reimbursed us for the camping spot, park entrance fee, propane tanks, and gave each driver $75 for gas. Once we came back, I did a lot of accounting to figure out the cost of the trip. 20 people at Sequoia for 3 days? Not quite priceless, but almost. 20 bucks a person. Thank you, Pomona, for provided us with such resources.

Saturday, in the morning drizzle, we (literally) stuffed our cars and headed out. Well, after we stopped by Walker to use the ice machine to fill our cooler… and then we were on our way! We had 2 five-seater cars, and I was driving one of them. My car actually included more of the people whom I did not know as well on the trip, so gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about them, since I couldn’t do much else but talk as the driver. Things really got interesting when we neared the mountainous areas of Sequoia. We started driving on “Old Creek Road” or “Old Dirt Creek Road” or something like that. There was no center line, no posted speed limit, and lots of blind corners. The first time we encountered a large truck, we all screamed, and I’m pretty sure the other driver got a kick out of our terrified faces. On the way up, we even came across quails! Like, tons of the little birds scurrying across the road! I had never seen quails before! And apparently they’re California’s state bird. Who knew? (Ok, probably a couple of you, but I certainly didn’t.)

We arrived at the campsite only to circle several times in search of large enough, adjacent campsites, and by the time we chose some, it had started getting dark. We needed to make dinner. We screamed when the package of spaghetti fell out of my car and spilled all over the dirt, and then quickly felt bad for the campers around us. Nonetheless, we made dinner (with minor difficulty) and ate in the dark.

Campfire cookin’.

There was some s’more roasting, but we were all pretty tired, and headed to bed. The 4 girls squished into a “2-person” (I beg to differ) tent, and the 6 guys attempted to fit in a “4-person,” but then one of them ditched out to the other “2-person” tent. In my tent, we all layered clothing and snuggled close, and whispered secrets that everyone in the other tents definitely heard. Or, at least, they heard whispers punctuated by outbursts of laughter every once in awhile.

We woke to cold weather, toasted bagels over the fire, and headed off to our hike. It was 3 miles to the top, where we were promised scenic views of…clouds. Lots and lots of clouds.


However, I still thought it was gorgeous. We scurried over rocks and huddled in the chill to eat lunch. On the way back down, we encountered a practically fearless deer, and 2 of the other girls and I started singing and sharing GirlScout songs. We tried to get others to join in, but they just weren’t into it—even the repeat songs! I can’t imagine why…


General Sherman!

We then drove to see General Sherman, the largest living thing (measured by biomass) on Earth. General Sherman is a Sequoia tree. They look like the legs of giant elephants, and are fire-resistant, with somewhat squishy bark. We marveled at their beauty, learned some facts, took some pictures, and even drove through a particularly large one that had fallen years back. We also ran into a Pomona professor and his wife! I was happy to find that both students and faculty appreciate the marvels of nature.

Moro Rock

Then we climbed up “Moro Rock,” which is surprisingly tall, and juts out of the hillside. The pathways are somewhat narrow and steep, and we ran into a group of Scripps students (recognized by a “Claremont Colleges Ballroom Dance Company” hoodie). We made it to the top, and were excited to find that some of the clouds had cleared. Other people were also enjoying the view, and one family was even setting up to cook dinner (on a giant rock), which was ridiculously adorable and outdoorsy.

We then headed back to our campsite to cook dinner, and snuggle in around the fire. The temperature was supposed to dip to 33°F that night. I don’t think any of us were prepared for that. We stayed around the fire as long as possible, discussing family, religion, unions, and affirmative action, among other things, while raccoons circled us and we kept flashlight watches in case any decided to get vicious. Apparently they did later that night, as some of my fellow campers heard fighting noises. Still, I was more concerned with the biting cold through my 2 pants (I’d never slept in jeans before) and 2 shirts and 2 jackets. All of us burrowed in our sleeping bags. I awoke to rain on the tent, and found all of our sleeping bags soaked in some manner and place. I crawled out, as the driver of the “earlier” car in leaving that day, and felt miserable. Then, looking at my hands, and then the sky, and then my hands, I realized I was seeing flakes. It was snowing. It started snowing harder and sticking as we left, and my roommate (who never gets snow at her house) giddily threw a snowball at me, and then at a tree.


We were much more tired and less talk-y on the way home, but I feel a lot more confident about my driving now, especially on windy and steep roads. We made it back in time for me to do my radio show at 4 p.m., on which I played folk-y “campfire” music and talked about the trip in a half daze. I’ve also showered at least 4 times since returning home, but definitely still smell like smoke. It’s a reminder of the good, exciting, memorable times with friends.