A Spectacular Day in the Crescent Meadow

A trip to California is always special with spectacular scenery at every turn and a host of natural wonders to explore. I don’t think I have ever had a single disappointing day in this wonderful region and I have certainly had a few which will live in my memory forever. One such occasion was a day I spent exploring the Crescent Meadow in Sequoia National Park. I can’t say that I was expecting this place to be one of the highlights of my trip but sometimes it is the thing you least expect that turns out to be the jewel in the crown.

Sequoia National Park

This park does not have the high profile of near neighbour Yosemite but it has a great deal to offer those who make the journey high into the Sierra Nevada. Naturally the main attractions are the giant Sequoia trees including the General Sherman, the world’s largest living thing. These awesome behemoths never fail to take my breath away but on the day in question what I really wanted to see was a bear. I love bears and had not managed to see one during my stay in California. I had decided to venture up to the Crescent Meadow as the area has beautiful walking trails amongst the trees and the swampy terrain attracts a lot of wildlife.

An Eventful Drive

The only potential issue with my plan for the day was the difficulty in actually getting to the meadow. The access road was signed as unsuitable for vehicles over 22 feet long and I was driving a 28 foot RV! I decided that the road couldn’t possibly be that bad and so I started to drive up it to discover that it had sharp hairpin bends with a steep camber that necessitated me driving in the middle of the road. I prayed that I would not encounter any vehicles coming the other way but then came face to face with an oncoming car. I was forced to move right to the edge of the road rising up the camber to the point that my vehicle tilted sharply and nearly toppled over. It felt like being part of a stunt in a movie! I eventually arrived at the parking lot unscathed but was rather dreading the return journey!

The Walk

I set off on a gentle walk around the edge of the Crescent Meadow keeping my eyes peeled for bears but having completed almost an entire circuit my only wildlife encounter had been being hit on the head by some kind of acorn thrown from a tree by a squirrel! I saw a large log which looked like a good place to sit and so settled down to eat my picnic feeling rather disappointed. I was halfway through my sandwich when I looked up to see a strange looking young man wearing a wizard’s hat waving at me frantically. I asked what he wanted and he shouted that there was a bear sitting virtually next to me under a bush. I looked down and there was indeed a bear so close that I could have patted him on the head. It was then that it occurred to me that the sandwich was not a great idea! I moved away slowly and then spent the best part of an hour watching the beautiful honey coloured bear searching for termites. What a joy! The guy in the Wizard hat turned out to be a German student who had realised that he could see the bear from his higher position but that I clearly hadn’t noticed that I had company.

Second Walk

With renewed enthusiasm I took a second spin around the meadow. About half way around I stopped in my tracks as another bear approached me on the path and then walked towards a fallen tree in the meadow. Another bear which was clearly a sibling then joined him and I watched the youngsters frolic and play for some time before I became aware of another large bear approaching me from the rear. This one took a quick look at then just carried on walking. I couldn’t believe it as I had now seen four bears! A few moments later a beautiful stag mounted a fallen Sequoia and walked majestically along it out into the swamp. It was a rare and breath-taking sight and I had to sit down again to take in the scene. The Crescent Meadow is a serene and ethereal place deep in the forest which deserves some peaceful contemplation. I took my place on the edge of the swamp and simply watched the natural world in all its glory play out before me.

Heading Back

Eventually I had to leave this wondrous spot for the day but I will always remember my time there. I had encountered four bears, clambered up several tree trunks and negotiated a very hairy road and the only damage I had suffered was losing a stud on my Levis boots. The journey back down the access road was pretty awkward but I made it back to the camp site and was astonished to find another bear wandering around the entrance. It really was my special day!


Sally Stacey is a frequant travaller and bear lover. You can check her out on Google+ now!