From Kings Canyon we followed Cam to his house in Santa Barbara. After two weeks on the road, alternating between hostel beds and our sleeping bags, it was wonderful to drop anchor and slow down for a few days.
Although our thoughts may still be on our travels, our home leave is now well behind us. It has been a week since we moved to Washington DC and took up residence in Foggy Bottom. We barely caught our breath before D reported for duty and S turned her attention to our next move overseas, which will be upon us all too soon.
Different than we had imagined it, our visit to the giant sequoias proved to be even better than we had expected. Had we gone rafting as originally planned, we would have only had time for a brief side trip to see some of the star trees in Sequoia National Park. Instead, we wound up spending the better part of a whole day walking among the giants in a secluded corner of the park that had more than 15,000 mature sequoias. By comparison, Mariposa Grove in Yosemite only counts with a couple hundred sequoia trees.
The air, hot and thick like a woolen blanket, enveloped us as soon as we opened the car doors. It may have been close to 8pm, but the temperature at the aptly named Stovepipe Wells hovered close to 100°F. If we had jumped the gun in the Sierra Nevada, visiting Yosemite and Lake Tahoe a few weeks before the official start of the tourist season, then we were definitely late to the party in Death Valley.
We traded in the cold of the high sierras for the searing heat of Death Valley. D had planned out a day-long, multi-stop itinerary for our drive from June Lake, which included a short hike, a few scenic stopovers, and a visit to a museum that memorializes one of the most shameful and painful chapters in U.S. history.
Our last hike on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada was to Agnew and Gem Lakes. We took the Rush Creek Trail, ascending for just over two miles up a rocky, moderately steep path that took us high up the mountainside while offering great views of Silver Lake below. Had we stayed on this trail long enough, it would have eventually connected with the Pacific Crest Trail, passing through the Ansel Adams Wilderness and taking us all the way into Yosemite. This of course would have required quite a lot longer than a day hike.