Thankfully, sore necks aren’t a symptom of COVID-19. Because my wife and I have doozies—not from being sick, but staring up towering tree trunks in Sequoia National Park.

Indeed, “Don’t forget to look up!” is sound advice for anyone visiting this off-the-beaten-path park in the Sierras just south of Yosemite.

With wildfires and pandemic protocols commanding center stage in the Golden State, my wife and I still decided to take a national park road trip, after dropping our daughter off at college at CalPoly in San Luis Obispo. So, in September, we point our Honda Pilot northeast after saying our tear-choked goodbyes at our masked daughter’s dorm and head through the smoke to the land of big trees.