On the shores of the Pacific Ocean, not far from the hustle of Los Angeles is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world. You know... a mouse lives there? I would suggest that this is not even close to the best California has to offer. Grand adventure awaits along the 400 miles of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. When we get outside and explore, it can make us feel more connected to the world around us and help understand that we are a part of the ecosystem as opposed to living apart from it.
Wallace Stegner said that "National parks are the best idea we ever had," and if I don't agree outright, it is certainly in our top five. These places allow us to feel free and to share with our children principles related to conservation, shared resources, and the magic of wonder.
It is not possible-given most vacation timelines-to explore the entire mountain range in one go, but I am putting forth a potential itinerary that could take the place of a trip to mouse land. Instead of flying into L.A. fly into Fresno and rent a car or an R.V. and head north. You will find a pleasant drive up through Coarsegld, Oakhurst, Fish Camp and Wawona ask you skirt the western edge of the range. To your east is Mt. Whitney and Kings Canyon National Park which abuts Sequoia National Park.
After you enter the park you will enjoy a leisurely drive though beautiful scenery on your way to the big reveal. The final bit of the drive to get to Yosemite Valley is through the Wawona tunnel and it is difficult to describe the sense of wonder and majesty that will overtake you as you exit the tunnel into Ansel Adams' classic frame. This experience is one of the truly awesome outdoor adventure moments you can have. Spend a few days exploring the park, maybe head up to Mono Lake and check out Badger Pass.
Half of your vacation is over and you haven't had to wait in a single line for an amusement park ride or to buy a dorky hat. From here you will head south, staying on the western slopes of the range, which means you will have to backtrack a bit. Down through Fresno where US 99 will take you down 198. Head east into Visalia and stop and the Superior Dairy for some of the best ice cream west of the Mississippi. Continue east out of town and you will drive though the quaint Lemon Cove area into Three Rivers (good place to provision up). On your way keep an eye out for the Mesa Verde Orange on the side of the road, which is a great place to grab some citrus.
After you park, you will meander through the giants on a comfortable trail until you find General Sherman. This tree is the largest in the world by volume and the largest living organism in the world. At over 2,000 years old, and with such massive size, sitting by this tree is a great opportunity to reflect on the trip. I always seem to find a sense of humility and a desire to protect and preserve after sitting here.
This trip can be comfortably travelled in about a week, though there are ample opportunities to extend it if time allows. Really the point is to encourage you to consider some alternate destinations to those that are often touted as the "must see" items on a travel list. Get outside, get inspired, and see how you feel...who knows, you just might your own version of the most magical place on earth.