I can’t recall a time my sister and I ever went on a road trip together, just the two of us.  When our son, Austin, moved to Visalia last year, we decided to schedule a visit but hadn’t gotten around to it until recently.

He’s not far from Sequoia National Park and we thought we’d do a little day hike there, too.  We try to hike together once a month.  It doesn’t happen, but we try…and when we do hike we hardly ever get lost.  And by ‘hardly ever’ I mean all the time.

Because Rick and I were downsizing our office and also moving out of our upstairs apartment, we also had a 12’ trailer of stuff for him.  Rick has a contractor-type pickup, bare bones (with a nice stereo, natch), so, we took Susan and Daryl’s really super-duper crew cab luxury pickup truck, instead.


Traffic was yucky until we got over Pacheco and then it smoothed out.  I was travelling pretty much at the 55mph required for trailers.  On the way we stop at Sonic’s for their limeade-spritzer-slushy drink…man, does that hit the spot.  That limeade drink is perfect for a hot day.

We arrive at Austin’s around, oh, 8’ish maybe, yeah 5 hours for a 3 hr trip (although its possible we stopped for another limeade somewhere along the way) and pull up in front.  Dinner is a chicken/salsa crockpot dish and smells so good, but first we unload the trailer while we have some daylight left.

Its hot in Visalia, did you know that?  Hot!  Like over 100 during the day.  Fortunately, Austin has ceiling fans in the living room and bedrooms, so its comfortable inside.

The next day we head off to a farmer’s market, then to breakfast.  Back at the house we pack our stuff for the hike.  Austin looks up the directions via the Park’s website.  Marble Falls is a ‘moderate’ hike of 3.7 miles to a waterfall.  Austin’s done this hike with friends before.  The map is loaded on his phone and off we go.

We turn left onto N Fork Drive and are going past rural homes and churches, markets and hotels.  It’s a nice little vacation area, apparently.  We suspected nothing, at this point.

We’re following a couple of other cars.  Road gets rougher and rougher and narrower.  Austin and I check the map, yep, its still the right direction.

The road makes a sharp turn and to the right are a bunch of cows, just chillin’ in the shade.  OK, hi cows.


We keep driving and the potholes are threatening to take out the tires.

The Charger in front of us stops and motions us around.  We drive a little further and there’s a sign that says ‘pavement ends’.  Ummm, what?!?

We naively continue our drive.

Austin checks the map, I check the map, I think we’ve taken a wrong turn!  I could swear the road is a dead end.  I think Google’s directions are telling us to turn around.  Yes, it IS telling us to turn around.   NOW its telling us to turn around?!?

We turn around and head back the way we came, wondering how we could have possibly missed the turn-off.

Narrow road, we come upon another car going in the opposite direction…where are you going, we ask.  They say Marblehead Falls.  We say turn around and follow us, which they do.  Another car going the wrong way, they turn around and follow us.

We are peering at the Google map, watching our little fly pointer-thingy get closer and closer to, wait, the COWS…we were supposed to turn at the COWS!?!


That is NOT a road.  It’s a dry stream bed. You can call it Shepherd’s Saddle Road all you want, but its still a ditch filled with boulders.  You’d need a rock-crawler to drive that road.

NOT possible in a Dodge Dart.  Fine, back to 198 we go.  Unbelievable.  As least we weren’t the only car Google pranked.

FINALLY, finally, we are at Marblehead Falls.  Austin nudges a rock with his car trying to get into a parking ‘space’ and knocks off some small protective cover under the engine.  There’s no oil leaking, so that’s good news, right?

It is HOT.  Did I mention that before?  HOT, like 106 degrees hot!  But, hey, it’s a moderate hike with a waterfall at the end, so refreshing. We’ve done 9 miles on a hot day.  We’ll be fine…so we hit the trail.


Or should I say the trail hit us.  Not much shade.  Sequoia National Park and not a Sequoia in sight. Without my visor and sunglasses, I’d be dying.  Oh, I spoke too soon.  I am dying.  106 degrees.

People are coming in the other direction and saying ‘you’re almost there’.

Moderate hike.  106 degrees.

We’ve gone about 3.2 miles.  Almost there, they say, almost there.  Liars, all.


Our goal

My legs are having no trouble with the hike.  Knees are good.  Heart is a little elevated but I’m not panting.  Yet I have to stop and take a break like every 20 steps.  We sit down when there are shady rocks.  This is so weird.  We drink water, eat grapes.  But we don’t feel better for long before we have to stop again.

Its as if Austin and we are in alternate universes.  He must be hiking a completely different trail than we are, even though he’s right in front of us.  He is like Tigger, he doesn’t even look like he’s sweating in his cargo pants and hiking boots, yet Susan and I have become people we don’t even know, slogging underwater against a current.

We stop for a rest and snack in a little shaded area with a stream that runs through the path.  We stop because the hill in front of us is steep and daunting.

I look at the stream and remember I packed an extra t-shirt in my backpack.  I get it out and put it in the cool water and give it to Susan.  That turned out to be a lifesaver!  We took turns putting the t-shirt around our necks and it really cooled us all down.

I decided to lay out on a rock in the shade with my feet up.  I always carry a pareo and spread it out.  We sent Austin up ahead to scout how ‘not far’ the falls really are.  During the (too long) time it took Austin to get back to us Susan says, I hate to say this but we’ll have to ‘call’ the hike.  It’s not safe for us to continue.  I completely agree.  I love her for admitting that…I wanted to, too, but didn’t want to be the spoilsport (which was dumb of me).

So that’s it, we’re done.  We won’t be able to finish.  We are this close to heat stroke, it’s too hot and we are too tired and what were we thinking?  Now do what anyone would do in our place, we take a nap.


Which was exactly what we needed.  Afterwards was cooler, the sun was on the other side of the hill so there was a lot of shade AND it was mostly downhill!  Ah, yes, this is what a hike should be.

We tell Austin he isn’t allowed to say anything about this hike except ‘I’m impressed my mom and aunt attempted the hike in that heat’.  He is such a trouper, so patient.  He’s been in Visalia for a year and he’s obviously acclimated to the oppressive heat.  Even now, a couple months later, I’m kind of amazed how patient that kid is.  We were completely out of our element in the heat and he never treated us like the idiots we were.

The trip down takes hardly any time at all.  We’re back in the car pulling out of the parking space and there’s a strange dragging sound as we begin driving.  The plastic cover that’s part of the undercarriage has dislodged and torn – maybe when we hit that rock trying to park.  We need something to cut it away.  Perhaps a Park Ranger has large pruning shears?  Maybe a sword?

We are contemplating the problem (no cell service, either) when guy comes over from a campsite.  I’m a former car mechanic, he says, helpfully.  Wow.  He tells us to drive over and park in front of his car. He and Austin jack the car up on one side and break off the snaps of undercarriage cover, jack the car up on the other side and repeat.

Our hero!  His wife tells us that now her hubby will be happy for the rest of the weekend because he got to work on a car!   What a sweetheart for helping us.


The undercarriage cover

Austin pops the broken cover in the trunk and we are FINALLY on our uneventful way home.   3 adventures in one day.

Moral of the story:  Keep your sense of humor, know your limits and believe in the kindness of strangers 😉