Howell family takes Sequoia road trip

Published 10:04 am Saturday, April 4, 2015

by James D. Howell

I’ve finished training and have a schedule. It’s time to catch up on absenteeism from the family. We think it’s time to see some of southern California as tourists.

We purchase a trailer and anticipate traveling to distant places and experiencing things that we have not experienced before. I’ve not towed anything larger than the utility trailer that we used for moving, but I have the car fitted with a load-leveling hitch. The man at the lot assures me that it will be trouble free.

We search for destinations doable in three or four days from our house. There seem to be an abundance of those; we set our sights on Sequoia National Park. It’s about 250 miles one way and the roads are well traveled, especially as far as Bakersfield. It’s still summer, weather promises to stay good, and spirits are high. We figure a day for travel in each direction and two full days of sightseeing. That will match a period of four days off in a row for me.

A new member has been added to our family. Happy, an eight week old Bassett puppy, is the third dog in our family’s history. She is active and cute and will be the fifth member of our traveling group. We have a short period of acclimation to each other before the trip, but this kind of travel is new to all of us and we have more false confidence than realistic preparation.

My wife prepares a large pot of spaghetti sauce for our trip. We think it will be easier to have a few meals ready, instead of having to cook or purchase food in the park. We’re not sure of what facilities are available; we check out guidebooks but there’s a paucity of information. We know of the two primary campgrounds in the park, but we are not familiar enough with the trailering idea to know what will and what won’t work.

It’s a warm August day when we set out. Route maps take us up a series of freeways, past the Los Angeles downtown, and into the continuous climb over the mountains to the San Joaquin Valley. This is the first road experience with the trailer, and the car seems to handle it well. I’m congratulating myself when the flashing lights of a police car get my attention and I pull over, not really knowing what I did or didn’t do. It seems that my speed was alright and I was towing the trailer in a safe manner, but I was doing it in the wrong lane. Slower vehicles are supposed to be in the far right lane. The policeman was courteous as he delivered my traffic ticket. Something else to do when we get back

There’s a choice of routes past Bakersfield and we select the one that skirts most built up towns, and join the winding, climbing road to the Park Headquarters at Three Rivers. We check in at the headquarters and drive beside and between enormous redwood trees for several miles until we reach the Lodgepole Campgrounds. The setting could not be more awesome. I maneuver the trailer into an assigned space, and we get ready for the enjoyment part.

As we open the trailer door, we are greeted by the smell and sight of spaghetti sauce spilled all over the floor. It’s been a long day already and the stress is a bit much for my wife; the tears start. Cleanup begins, what can be salvaged is, and we alter our food plans. Fortunately the park does have food facilities and the spaghetti disaster doesn’t alter our plans much. Everybody sleeps well, I think.

The next two days are filled with seeing the magnificent forest that has been watching over this area since the last ice age. Our new family addition licks the trailer floor with a complete disregard for sanitation; we locate the park store for additional supplies.

On the way up to the campground, the road passes through groves of huge redwoods; we backtrack a little to revisit that area. It’s home to the General Sherman redwood tree, a wondrous, massive, deeply grooved sentinel that is billed as the “largest living thing on earth.” I can’t attest to its age, but it’s the biggest thing that I’ve ever seen growing. And I assume it took a very long time for it to get that big. We stretch our arms out and take pictures; the kids and dog are permitted to climb on top of fallen giants and walk their length.

We hike the meadow trail and even see a bear in a side meadow as we return to the campground the second day.

The road home is uneventful. Thankfully.

JAMES D. “ARCHIE” HOWELL is a Southampton County native and 1955 graduate of Franklin High School. He can be reached at