When I asked my boss if we could go to Hustlecon I half expected him to say no, to my surprise he was all for it!  The opportunity to go learn from non-technical startup founders would be great for the team.  I knew this would apply to my day job as well as Adventure Actual. With several e-commerce gurus speaking and attending this was an opportunity to network and learn firsthand from others in the business.

My next move was even bolder. I offered the idea of squeezing in a camping trip in either Yosemite or Sequoia national parks.  Again, he was completely in so I booked us a camping spot in Sequoia as Yosemite was completely full.  I had never been to Sequoia so I was stoked.  That said I think a trip to Yosemite is in my near future.

Now packing for a camping trip and a business trip all in one can be a little tricky.  Add to this that I was responsible for bringing the 4-person tent, therefore, I knew my packing skills were going to be tested.  It wasn’t just the tent I was worried about, there was my sleeping bag, air mattress, hiking equipment, clothing, laptop, suit, and other miscellaneous items.

The tent had to be folded carefully and put in first.  I then proceeded to pack almost all other items around that and things seemed to work out well.  I must say this was my first time packing a suit and a tent into the same suitcase…or even on the same trip.  Packing a camp stove, even a little one can be a little sketchy for TSA bag checks.  I have done it before but I decided to leave out the stove this time since we were only camping one night and car camping at that.  Sandwiches and veggies would be the staple on this trip.

My bags were packed and I was ready to go.  I headed to DIA and hopped a flight to Oakland.  Once on the ground in Cali, Andrew, Matt, and I grabbed our tiny little rental car and headed to our Air BnB for that night.  Then we decided to head to San Francisco since none of us had even been there.  I’ll be honest, it just reminded me of Seattle.  That isn’t to say that the city wasn’t beautiful and interesting…I am just more of a cabin in the woods kind of guy.  After some time in San Fran, we headed back to Oakland and crashed at our Air BnB to get ready for Hustlecon the next day.

Hustlecon was beyond awesome, the speaker lineup was amazing and we learned a great deal about being a non-technical startup.  I personally learned a lot about how to build a business without a lot of technical know-how and I hope to bring that knowledge to Adventure Actual and all of you lovely people.  My favorite speaker was Jen Rubio the founder of Away Luggage.  She is a straight hustler and her story was insanely inspiring.  She took an industry that is as old as travel and made it sexy again.  After Hustlecon we hit the town, made some new friends, and drank way too much.

The next morning we hit a farmers market for rations and then started our 4-hour drive to King’s Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.  4 hours packed in a Yaris is not ideal but the destination totally made up for the drive.  We would only have one night in the parks so we had to make the best of it.

When we pulled up to the park entrance we were immediately greeted by the largest tree I have ever seen…and it was just a small guy compared to the rest.  Once inside we headed to General Grant Tree AKA the second-largest tree in the world.  Words fail me when I try to explain these trees to anyone.  The best analogy I saw was that they describe a human looking up at one of these trees like a field mouse looking up at 6-foot tall human.  At 5’6” I felt like a field mouse, let me tell you.  After walking around the General Grant area and even walking INSIDE some of the fallen trees I would say that is pretty accurate.  We then drove down to the Chicago Stump and learned the story behind this stump was amazing.  Early discoverers of the Giant Sequoias cut this tree down to be shipped to the world fair to prove that these trees existed.  Even after all that once it was there in Chicago, easterners did not believe it was real and called it a California Hoax.

Once we finished some exploring we headed to our campsite, set up camp and got a fire going.  We had an impromptu dinner of homemade naan and tuna then we broke out the beer and smores.  We made plans to drive down into King’s Canyon and through Sequoia the next day.

We woke up early and broke camp.  Once I got my tent back into my suitcase we were off.  We took the road into King’s Canyon to see what it was all about and hopefully see some wildlife.  We had been warned about the river so we were also anxious to see why.  Driving into the canyon was like driving into the Grand Canyon or something similar.  The road twisted and turned all the way into the canyon and the views along the way were amazing.  As we began to near the bottom you could hear the river, through the car, before you saw it.  And when we saw it our jaws dropped.  The sections we were looking at would have been impossible to swim in our even attempt to raft.  Due to over 160% of normal snowfall, this last winter the King’s River was raging.  It was easily the most violent piece of water I have ever seen.

The rest of the canyon was beautiful as well.  We saw where the glacier that moved through the canyon had passed.  King’s Canyon is a wide glacial valley carved out millions of years ago.  Standing at the bottom you are surrounded by lush green meadows, waterfalls, and high steep cliffs.  Grizzly Falls was quite a sight to see as it came crashing down into the canyon.  The cliffs revealed millions of years of rock stacked in layers and easy to discern.  We attempted to walk through the Zumwalt Meadow but because of the high snowfall, the meadow was completely flooded out.

This was my first time in the Sierras and I was awestruck.  The mountain range reminded me of the San Juans here in Colorado.  With 12 peaks above 14 thousand feet, I suddenly felt the urge to climb them all.  Mount Whitney the tallest peak in the contiguous United States at 14,491’ has been on my list for some time and I could hear it calling to me. I feel that there will be a trip or five for peak bagging in my future.

Once we had taken in King’s Canyon it was time to drive back up and out.  The views driving out of the canyon did not disappoint either.  We headed through Grant Grove, past the second-largest tree in the world, and onto Generals Highway.  We were on a mission to see the largest tree in the world, General Sherman. Again, we were not disappointed.

General Sherman shot up out of the ground with a width as large as 2 school buses.  I remember I kept thinking, “what does it look and sound like when one of these things fall?” Giant Sequoias are fascinating. They have bark up to 2 feet thick that protects them from fires.  Their pine cones can stay sealed for up to 20 years before a fire pops them open releasing the seeds.  They actually use naturally occurring fires in the park as an advantage.  Because their bark protects them and they only release seeds during fires the reduction of undergrowth by the fire frees up sunlight and soil for their seeds. The bark is also high in a chemical called tannin which protects the trees from rot and boring insects as well as the fires. As John Muir put it, “Barring accidents they seem to be immortal, being exempt from all diseases that afflict and kill other trees. Unless destroyed by man, they live on indefinitely until burned, smashed by lightning, or cast down by storms, or by the giving way of the ground on which they stand.”

The rest of our drive through the forest of giants was nothing short of amazing…once again.  My heart literally broke every time we had to pass up a trailhead.  All I wanted to do was explore every inch of this amazing place and I did not have time to.  The road out of Sequoia National Park was easily the most twisty turny road I have driven.  And as we left I was happy I got to see these two amazing parks but sad I did not get to explore them more.



After that, it was a 4-hour drive to Santa Barbara. A stay in a crummy hotel and then the next morning I threw a suit on and drove down to Malibu CA to talk to the City Of Malibu about sustainability.  Then back to Santa Barbra and on a plane back to Denver.  Quite the trip indeed.  – MU

Photographers: Matt Fox, Andrew Williams, and myself.

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