I’m blessed to take the photos I do and I’m more fortunate when people enjoy them. Perhaps the highest compliment I’ve received is someone asking me to join in on one of my adventures. Truly, it’s an honor. When my friend and neighbor Robert asked me to show him the mountains, trees, and stars of the “real California” I was pumped. Over 10 years in The Golden State and he hadn’t experienced the power of the Sierras, the smell of the Sequoias, or the silence of the night sky. Luckily for him, I knew the perfect place to change all of that. Kings Canyon afforded me with my first real dose of California and retracing that trip was a no brainer. Between towering Sequoia groves and granite canyons that rival Yosemite, there was no shortage of amazement on tap for us. In spirit of revisiting my journey two years prior, I picked Azalea Campground for our first night (right down the the exact same campsite as my first stay.) With Grant Grove only a short hike away, the Sequoias would be an easy visit. After obligatory steaks over the campfire, I was ready to do some night work. Under the stars may have been a strange introduction to the Sequoias , but I assured Robert the night hike would be a worthy experience. Ten minutes in the dark led us to the fabled grove of ancient trees. Despite their grandeur, much of the sky was still visible through the Sierra canopy and the darkness only interrupted by the shimmering stars. This was definitely something Robert had never seen. As I navigated through the dark looking for shots, Robert found himself a log, kicked back, and looked straight up.
Once I had a solid capture in the can, we wandering further into the grove. Night in the Sierras means bear awareness is real. Staying vocal, loud, and noticed is key. “HERE BEAR!” we called out. Albeit a strange request, Robert was keen on keeping active with our bear call. After finding my next scene, Robert again kicked back on a log to take in the elements surrounding him. This time I politely asked him to be on “bear duty.” With a giggle he accepted (as if he had a choice hah) and periodically used his headlamp in search of any shining eyes. The visual of him peering through the colossal trees immediately stuck me. Silhouetted against the forest and stars, the experience created a truly permanent memory. I don’t think Robert would argue otherwise.
Returning to camp this night was a tough call, I truly could have shot till sunrise. We still had a full weekend ahead of us, but I was already beyond thrilled for the otherworldly experience I had shared with my friend.