Visiting Friends in the Sequoia National Forest

In recent years, many of our friends from the Bay Area have moved to Southern or Central California. We decided stopping by for a few days to visit after three years would be fun. My friend once said, “houseguests are like fish, they start to stink after three days.” So, no more than three days it is. From Mexico, we started at my oldest friend’s second home on the Tule River in the Sequoia National Forest.

Arriving in Los Angeles

I must say, the US Immigration Global Entry program is the best. The machines now don’t require your fingerprints or your passport. You just stand in front of the camera for less than 10 seconds and walk right out. Aside from the usual hike through the airport to get to immigration, we have never walked through that quickly before. (On air travel days, I always get my steps in.) Even with our quick passage through the airport, Mike managed a picture.

The longest part of the trip, aside from the three-hour drive to the Sequoia, was waiting for a rental car. We haven’t seen the rental car shortage for a while but there certainly was one at LAX the day we arrived. They were turning their returned cars as quickly as they possibly could.

The River House

My friends call their beautiful house sitting directly on the Middle Fork of the Tule River, “The River House,” naturally. We have visited previously and known them forever (read 9th grade), so we just make ourselves at home. But they have never called it a cabin, as some other people do. It is a huge four-bedroom place with two family rooms to accommodate all of my friends, and grandchildren at once.

Our visits here always involve lots of conversation, some reading, and usually a walk so we don’t feel like total slugs. Also, since my friend is a wonderful cook, there are many good meals. It is still a little cool outside, so we aren’t going to play in the river this time, but the swimming holes were really inviting when we last visited in the summer.

There is also something comforting about the Sierra foothills in the spring since we both grew up in California. The smells, the flowers, and the trees are all very familiar. On our walks, we are treated to views of the golden foothills with the occasional oak tree. My father used to talk about how much he liked the golden color of the California hills as the grasses die off for the summer. There are horses in their pens and dogs doing what dogs in the country do, run around and bark.

Heading to Santa Barbara

We headed out around 10:30 am because we knew it would take at least four hours to get to Santa Barbara. It took longer than that because we decided to take the scenic route through the Los Padres National Forest. The rolling hills and the oak trees were just beautiful. I haven’t figured out why looking at that scenery makes me happy, but it does. While we don’t intend on living in California again, I realized that I would be very unhappy if I couldn’t visit periodically.

Our drive also took us through Ojai. I had been to Ojai for a girl’s spa weekend but Mike hadn’t been there and he wanted to have a look. (Mike: I was just had to see the place they made Bionic Woman) After cruising the unremarkable-looking downtown, we figured the draw had to be the resorts and retreats in the hills around town. I think we were expecting a cute and artsy center, but that isn’t Ojai. Shortly after Ojai, we dropped over the hills to the ocean. We paralleled the coast all the way into beautiful Santa Barbara. I would definitely recommend a drive through the Los Padres National Forest.

How does a south-central California road trip sound to you?

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