My plans (just like everyone else this year) have seemed to be changing everyday. At the beginning of the year I had an elaborate plan to take a big trip to Europe for my 30th birthday, then I had to take a 2 month break. After I was able to go back to work I decided I’d work as much as I could. That meant no trip to Europe (but at least I was lucky enough to take my birthday off). Fortunately with my job there are ebbs and flows, and this allowed me to take a bit more than a week off not too long after my birthday. With this time I decided I collect a few more national parks, and revisit one that really means a lot to me.
I started my trip with a 6 hour drive from Las Vegas to Three Rivers, CA. Plenty of time to find some new music for the rest of my trip!
I made it to Three Rivers by late afternoon. Enough time to do some house keeping things, print out my backcountry permit, get some snacks for the rest of the week etc. By this time the sun was getting lower so I thought I should find a good place to watch it set. I made my way into Sequoia National Park. I remember thinking it was hillier (really more mountainous) than I thought it was going to be. In my mind it was going to be similar to Redwoods, which I don’t remember being too hilly, and more of just a forest, not a forest on the side of a mountain. I found a nice turnout over looking a river valley, set up a timelapse, climbed up on the hood of my car, cracked a beer and watched the light change over the mountains.
After sunset I ventured farther into the park. One thing that I love more than most is explore an area, especially a beautiful area, at night. Everything looks different at night, you get a very different set of scope and most importantly there’s usually very few other people around, hopefully none. I took a little while, but I wound my way up into the cool mountain air, only passing the occasional car along the way.
I finally made it into the big trees, and it felt like a sudden change. I can’t describe what that feeling is. Maybe you feel instantly smaller, maybe the air is fresher, maybe it’s something else.
The parking lot for the General Sherman tree was completely empty, but there was a clear sky and that’s all I was hoping for. It was a perfect night, I walked the path to the General Sherman tree in my flip flops. The tree was big. The biggest in the world (by volume). I circled it a couple times trying to figure out how to photograph something so tall. I finally found an angle I liked.
This image took a little patience to get, as most photos do at night, but I also had a few different ideas for what I wanted the final image to look like. I think that’s what I like most about night photography though, the time it takes and the slowness and deliberateness you have to work with. It gives you time to take everything in, and I found myself thinking about bigger things.
Looking up at this tree I began to think about relativity. My first thought was “geez I am small compared to this thing”, but then I caught a glimpse of the Milky Way hanging in the sky behind it and I began to feel somewhat insignificant. I thought about how I could turn into a small point in the sky from anywhere else in the galaxy. But then I thought about the dark spaces. I thought about how there really is so much more darkness than there are points of light. My feeling of insignificance turned to one of gratitude. How lucky are we that we get to be one of those points of light? How lucky are we to get to look at all those other points of light? How lucky are we that we get to stand next to things that make us think about these things? How lucky are we to know the smell the bark and that when you knock on the trunk the tree sounds mysteriously hollow?
Knowing that I probably should sleep at some point during this trip rather than just take pictures the whole time, I packed up my camera and made my way back to the parking lot, but I couldn’t resist taking a couple more pictures before I made it out of the park.