There’s something fulfilling about sharing favorite things. For me, it’s enjoying the outdoors with people who may not always choose to go hiking, camping or visiting mountains.
This was the case for a cruisy camping weekend in late July. We spent Saturday and Sunday with a great couple and reveled in the luxuries of car camping, while showing them a California outdoor treasure.
Meeting at an intersection that suited drivers from San Francisco and Los Angeles, we drove up to Sequoia National Park. A line of cars before the entrance station confirmed my suspicions of summer crowds, initiated when I couldn’t book any campsites months before. Except Eshom Campground, which I’d never heard of and involved a little adventurous drive. More on that later!
In an effort to impress for lunch I’d rushed baking pasties the previous night. All I can say is thank goodness for dead horse, I mean tomato sauce, I mean, ketchup! The thick, overcooked pastry matched the drought conditions of California.
With pastie bellies we took a casual stroll around Grant’s Grove, and I discovered the root systems of the huge trees are only 3-6 feet deep! I was in awe (thanks to the ranger talk and the guy who asked the question).
While this was Dikko and my fifth visit to the national park, we’d never been to the visitor centre so we took a look with Kristin and Ales.
Mid afternoon and we headed down the unpaved road to Eshom Campground. Our GPS showed a web of forest roads and trails, though it was easy to stay on the main one which led us to the campground.
The drive itself was fantastic, especially dropping off Hwy 180 and within seconds it felt like we were miles away from shuttles and crowds, winding the switchbacks slowly and dustily, in awe of the drop offs below.
Rounding a corner we unexpectedly came upon a bunch of what seemed abandoned huts. Boarded up in summer and dilapidated, I was excited to take photos while Dikko, Ales and Kristin ensured they stayed clear of poison ivy. Cow pats and wire from old fences buried in sand dotted the man-made meadows.
Arriving at Eshom Campground we were met by a highly talkative camp host who offered us options for walks. Our campsite (no. 6) was relatively private and surrounded with huge trees, adjacent to a dry Eshom Creek. Setting up the tents, the four of us agreed to take a walk as the sun dipped, turning greens of pine needles into little golden glimmers.
About fifteen minutes from the campground we came across a cool example of Native American ingenuity. Bowl shaped holes in the granite, perhaps used for grinding seeds or grains. They were fascinating.
Motivated by the thought of further stretching our legs, we walked back across Eshom Creek and down, in search of apparent bathtubs carved into the granite. It was dusty, yet humid and I felt sticky and uncomfortable. After about fifteen minutes we made it to the end, where stagnant water provided a mosquito paradise, algae floated and the creek looked sad. We saw what looked like bathtubs in the rock and I imagined water cascading down, refreshing like a spa.
Back at the campsite Dikko and I embraced an American experience, drinking Bud Light (which wasn’t so light we found out!) and Ales and Kristin became expert insect repellent applicators.
Pre-dinner brie and dill cheese, lentil dip, olives, and rosemary crackers were followed by an Aussie-inspired campfire BBQ with potatoes, onions, beef patties and marinated chicken. The food, if I say so myself, was awesome.
While it was tempting to scare Ales on his first night camping, friendship got the better of us, and the night was spent talking random subjects you can’t clearly remember the following day.
Our tent was super comfortable albeit a little warm, so we slept with the vestibules open and hoped for some breeze. Car camping is the best because it means a real pillow – so comfortable!
Sunday morning began with a clap of thunder and light drops that did nothing more than create miniature dusty craters. With no particular plans we slowly enjoyed breakfast before packing up the campsite. Thankfully Kristin had a mini almond milk as I’d forgotten to bring the dairy version.
Leaving Eshom Campground we made a wrong turn, somewhat disorientated, however it wasn’t long before we righted our route and were back on the road we’d came in on, before turning onto the paved Hwy 180.
Re-entering the Sequoia National Park on Hwy 180 we agreed to drive in further and visit Lodgepole Campground and its namesake creek. The weather seemed like it wanted to rain from a good summer thunderstorm, but it only delivered an odd droplet.
Lodgepole was, unsurprisingly, busy and we found a picnic bench to eat snacks and leftovers for lunch. I pondered if it was better to take people new to the area in fall or early spring, when hoards of families were yet to dust off their camping gear for the summer. In the quieter times, snow would be around and the whole area would appear different, so maybe that’s just a good excuse to go back with our friends another time!
Want to stay?
Eshom Campground is in the Giant Sequoia National Monument, outside the Sequoia National Park. You can access it from Badger or, as we did, drive down a dirt road (when it’s open, not suitable for RVs) from Hwy 180. The campground and entrance roads would have a limited season due to weather. There are 23 large campsites and vault toilets are provided. To book visit recreation.gov.