I was back at Kings Canyon, eager to show my cousin the wonder of these giants after he had seen Mariposa Grove. Having witnessed his wonder at those behemoths, I knew he would be overjoyed to see the biggest trees in the world and I was dedicated to making sure that would happen. I originally planned on not writing about this, since I just wrote about these two parks, but the events over the two days were too awesome of a tale to not share.
We arrived at Kings Canyon with enough time to take a walk down Generals Grove. Just as amazing as before, we took some time to explore some of the outer reaches of the cross country ski trails getting lost for a few hours and trying to decide what saplings were growing out of the recently burned areas. After a long drive from Yosemite that morning though, we were ready to call the night early and found a place to camp outside of the park. I was a bit nervous about camping up here as I would need a bunch of the battery the following day to drive through Sequoia. I had made the loop before with plenty of battery left (25%) so I wasn’t too worried, just vigilant and I decided that that evening, we should limit our use of heat just in case.
The next morning, we woke up to a wonderful blanket of snow coming down. I almost couldn’t contain my excitement. For years, I have thought about how cool and otherworldly seeing snow over the sequoias would be and it looked like today was going to be the day! I was a little apprehensive about the battery with the cold, so I double checked the estimated state of charge upon arrival to the Traver supercharger and it said I would arrive with 16%. Perfect, now it was time to explore.
We decided to spend a bit more time exploring Kings Canyon. There was a Panoramic Point upon a hill that was supposed to have vistas with amazing views. As soon as we started up the hill though, we noticed that the road wasn’t plowed, there was already four inches of snow and more was coming down. On top of that, going up hill would suck a bunch of battery. I convinced myself that I would get most of it back coming down though and pushed forward.
Crawling up to the top, my nervousness continued to grow. The snow was coming down harder and harder and the road was compiled of sharp switchbacks only adding to my anxiety. I had to keep it cool though and there was no turning back. I had spent the last two years bragging about the abilities of my car and now I had a passenger to witness them. It was ride or die. After what seemed like a lifetime, we were there.
A short walk to the point led to laughter as we realized the fog was too thick to see anything. Panoramic Point looked like a sheet of white paper. Oh well, at least we pushed the car a little.
On the way down, we encountered a CSUV that had gotten stuck turning around. It seemed like a great way to get our good deed done for the day and help them out. I have to say I enjoyed it greatly, knowing that the Tesla handled the snow way better than this ICE vehicle.
Down at the bottom, we grabbed a cup of coffee and I decided I should double check on the estimated arrival charge. I had only lost a percent on the total up and down to the point, but better safe than sorry right? After putting the destination into the computer, it still had an arrival state of charge of 16% but then I noticed that it was routing me out of the park opposed to through.
Not wanting to take the risk of running empty, I needed to find out how much going through the park would take. This is where waypoints in the Tesla navigation system would be amazing. I don’t know why they aren’t in there yet. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I was able to use waypoints on my Windows 2000 Gateway PC through my Netscape browser on Mapquest. I don’t know why I can’t use them in my Tesla. I digress…
I didn’t have any service, but luckily the visitor center (which was closed) had just enough wifi signal to reach outside and I was able to use A Better Route Planner to get a more accurate assessment of my situation. A minute later, I wave of anxiety poured over me. ABRP said I would get to Traver with -6%.
Not wanting to admit defeat, I decided that I would simply drive slow and ride the brake. We planned on stopping at the General Sherman Tree to start our hike for the day, and the estimated arrival there was 5%. If I could squeeze out an extra 6 or 7%, I should be good.
“How are we looking?” Frank asked.
“We’re going to be cutting it close but I think if we slow down and enjoy the ride, we should be fine. I hope you don’t mind me taking my time since it’s snowy and the roads will be slick.”
“Not at all.” he responded. If only he knew how close we were actually cutting it.
We started our journey through the pass and I gripped the steering wheel with apprehension. As I drove further though, my anxiety started to dissipate. The clouds hung low in the sky, sinking into any valley they could. The trees towered hundreds of feet in the air. Snow flurries would come and go.
The battery was depleting faster than I would have liked it too, but it seemed like I was using less than expected so I attempted to push those thoughts from my mind. Luckily, no one was on the road so I was able to drive as slow as I wanted. Frank didn’t seem to mind so I simply moseyed along.
The longer I drove, the better I felt. I pulled up the energy usage screen to keep an eye on my depletion. I had a hard time not staring at the map and watching how far General Sherman was from us. The scale of the navigation made it seem so far, and the lack of service paired with being inside a national park all but made the Tesla Navigation system useless. For some reason, around the time that the V9 software came out, the ability to navigate inside of national parks was taken away. Now, it simply says “unable to navigate” even if you have an address.
As I started seeing signs for General Sherman, I began to be more hopeful. It seemed as if I would arrive with 11 or 12%. Not quite as much as I wanted, but I would most likely be able to squeeze out a couple more percent after the hike.
As I took a left to go to the parking lot, my stomach churned at the need to drive up a steep hill but I only had a mile to go. I was pretty sure I would make it. I pulled up at 11% and silently jumped for joy, not wanting Frank to know how close we had come to running out of juice. We could hike without worries.
We started the trip with the obligatory walk past the largest tree in the world. As massive as it was, how touristy the area was made everything seem a bit inauthentic. We quickly left to the more secluded Trail of the Sequoias. If there was anywhere in the park that would have big trees, we counted on it to be there!
Before we knew it, we were alone along a fresh blanket of snow. The only imprints on the ground were from deer that had ran through earlier that morning. A sense of serenity overtook the atmosphere. Everywhere we looked, there was a group of giants. The further we pushed, the more there were. We were lost in an endless see of trees hundreds of feet tall. I was in heaven.
Every so often we would stop and look around, just to stand in the awesomeness of the forest. Frank kept stopping and saying “This is amazing.” and I couldn’t have agreed more. How often does one get to witness something like this. Not very. The longer we hiked, the more humbled I became.
It was truly a special moment being able to see these guys in the snow and I couldn’t figure out why I hadn’t come up here more often. I had lived in Los Angeles for a decade and had only come up here once or twice, I guess it simply felt so close that I could go whenever. I think that happens often to us. We don’t cherish the things that seem easily accessible until it is far to late. This seems to be one of the only human constants. Hopefully, I won’t forget this lesson.
We looped around the forest for about 8 miles, thoroughly enjoying every minute and it seemed like nature had another gift in store as when we finally looped around to the Congress trail where we started, fog so dense you could only see 30 ft in front of you had come down upon the area. It offered a completely new perspective even though only hours before we had been standing in the same place. What a treat.
As our hike came to an end, a somber feeling hung in the air. Neither of us really wanted the day to be over. Everything was so magnificent that we would be happy if the day never ended. Alas, time does not stop and we had a low battery that we had to get charged.
Once I got to the car though, I was admittedly excited to get back in the warmth of the car. I wasn’t prepared for the next problem I would encounter though. After I chugged a bottle of water, I let myself slunk into the front seat, ready to start the journey out of the park, and to my horror, I saw a little blue snowflake next to the battery gauge and it said 4%.
We had been hiking so long, that the battery was able to get cold enough to lock out some of its capacity. I had briefly entertained the thought that this may have happened, but I had assumed it would have taken much longer. Was I really in trouble though? the capacity was there, the car just had to warm up enough for it to access it. I knew I couldn’t hide the screen from Frank, so I told him what was up but assured him that I thought it would be ok.
We started the trek without being able to check an arrival estimate because of the fore-mentioned national park bug. All me knew was that most of the start of the drive was downhill and I planned on riding the regenerative braking as much as I could.
An agonizing wave of anxiety filled my mind as I watched the gauge. It slowly increased as the regen pumped energy back into the battery.
The sun began to set on the horizon adding to the air of anxiety.
The sequoias were all but gone, fading behind us in the distance. A sad feeling, but a welcome one at the same time. It ment we were closer to the charger
We exited the park boundaries and were able to use our nav again. It said we would arrive with 0%. We were going to make it.
Later that evening over dinner I told Frank the entire story about how close we were to running out of juice. We couldn’t contain our laughter any longer and a wave of hilarity overcame each of us topping of another perfect day.
I’ve had so many of those in the past two years, I’m overwhelmingly grateful. Not many people can often say they have one, and I have them often.
Thanks again Sequoia National Park. You’ll always induce a feeling of wonder.
Closest Supercharger to Sequoia, Traver CA
36005 CA-99Traver, CA 93673
Sequoia National Park
47050 Generals Hwy, Three Rivers, CA 93271