Phil Lee


The Land of Giants

If someone came up to me today and asked to name only one thing about photography I loved, it would be scale. Scaling may not always be conveyed through my portraiture or work I share, but capturing the the magnitude of size was what drew me to the craft in the first place. There's something about visually witnessing how small we are and how big this world is that gives me a sense of humility, fear, and freedom. Weird mixture isn't it? I'll speak a little more on this down below. For now, here's my two day trip I took to the land of giants, Sequoia National Park. 

At the start of the week, I was feeling really restless for reasons I've yet to figure out. I deliberated with myself whether or not to take the car out for a trip and spend some alone time in the back-country, but eventually decided some company would be nice. A day later, I reached out to a good friend I made in college and asked if he would be willing to go on a short trip with me. It didn't take long for him to be on board and, before we knew it, we were planning on leaving in two days. There wasn't much planned other than the fact that we were spending a night camping among the Sequoia and Redwood Trees up in Central California. Honestly, some of my favorite trips I've taken thus far have been the spontaneous ones where the only thing we really knew to do was to just go. This was one of those trips that falls into that category.

I slept over his house in Oxnard, CA on Wednesday evening and we slept for 3 hours before starting the 3.5 hour drive north around 6:00 AM. At the moment, I was pretty sleepy, but words also could not describe how excited I was to be going back to this awe-inspiring park. If you've never been to Sequoia National Park, I highly recommend giving it a visit one weekend. There's something about dwelling amidst 3,000 year old trees that tower over 350 feet above you that puts a lot of things into perspective. The drive up was peaceful as we chatted, caught up with life, listened to music, and reminisced some old camping memories. 

Before long, we arrived at the entrance for Sequoia National Park and were on our way to finding a campsite. The one drawback with National Parks is their outdated and confusing website when it comes to reserving sites for camping. Online, we read that all but two campgrounds were closed for the season. However, after talking with the ranger at the entrance, we found out that the website was wrong and more grounds were open. Luckily, that meant we were able to be closer to the major hikes.

We set up our camp right along the flowing river that bordered the edge of the campground. It was my first time camping next to a river and will definitely be doing it again when I get the chance. The two of us cooked some noodles and spam as a quick lunch, then proceeded to head out to the Giant Forest trails. Both of us have been to this park before so, instead of doing the harder hikes we've done before, we decided to do a few of the easier ones. For the next few hours, we crossed meadows, hiked loops around Sequoia groves, and read all the little informational signs the rangers established throughout the park. A lot of people skip these signs when hiking, but I've come to realize how important it is to know about the environment you're in. It's all part of the experience that you won't get if you choose to skip it.

After our hikes around the forest, we headed out to a spot close to the famous Moro Rock staircase. I wanted to catch sunset at the top of the rock, but the time being around 2:00 PM, it was too early to hike it yet. The two of us ended up parking the car near a meadow and, guess what we did? We took the best 3 hour nap ever. I don't think I've ever taken a nap after being so tired and woken up fully recharged for the rest of the day. We took one last small trail around a larger meadow before heading up towards Moro Rock to bring an end to the day. It's funny how, with photography, sometimes you capture your best pictures when you least expect it. I took one of my favorite pictures of 2017 while hiking around the meadow. There's nothing incredible about the composition of it, and it doesn't have any dramatic landscapes, but there's something about it that speaks personally to me. That picture is the one you see to the right.

Finishing our short walk, we finally started the hike up to the top of Moro Rock. The top offers a classic panoramic views of the High Sierra as well as the valley below. Moro Rock is definitely in my top 10 places to hike in California because of the incredible view that you get to see at the top. I'm going to let the photos below share the rest of our time at the top. The next day, we packed our bags and headed back to Los Angeles, CA.

Phil Lee