Hummingbird Hill is a rustic but cozy house ideally positioned for visiting King’s Canyon National Park at any time of year.
City: Dunlap, Calif.
Price: Listed at $170/night. When the pet fee, cleaning fee and service fee were added, we paid $213 a night for three nights in December.
Of Note: It’s advertised as being on a working cattle ranch, although the cattle were not present during our visit. I guess it’s seasonal.
We first arrived at Hummingbird Hill after dark, and since it’s on an unlit mountain road just inside the border of Sequoia National Park, we worried that we wouldn’t be able to find it. But the owner had helpfully placed a large white sign at the gate displaying the name of the property. There were some hanging lights there too, probably solar lights, but I cannot for the life of me remember if they were working. Some of the other exterior lights at the property worked later in our stay, but weren’t on that first night.
We opened the gate and drove into the dirt yard. There isn’t a specific place to park, it’s all basically just dirt or grass. To our right, there was an open-air barn-type structure with some old furniture and/or appliances in it. This structure became useful when Calfornia’s New Year’s Eve winter storms started up and Erik needed to fiddle with our car, because he was able to drive right under the roof and stay dry. This structure is described as a “covered carport” in the listing, so I guess that’s what it is. But it’s not near the front door, so you probably woudln’t want to park under the cover in bad weather.
In the Airbnb reviews, other guests had described the yard as fully fenced in. Indeed, a fence goes all the way around the property. Some of it is barbed wire or has barbed wire on it, which might be a safety concern for dogs. Unfortunately, we were only able to let one of our dogs loose in the yard, because the other dog demonstrated early on that she could easily slip under the gate you drive in. She’s a big dog, so I wouldn’t count on that gate to keep dogs of any size in the yard. The only reason we let the other dog run loose is because he didn’t want to leave the yard.
The rustic (i.e., paint peeling, but stable) porch had some chairs where we could sit to take off our shoes. When entering, you step right into the living room. There are a few squares of tile just inside the door so you don’t step right onto the carpet. We saw a cozy sectional couch, a mini pool table, and off to the right, an eat-in kitchen with a washer and dryer. Beyond the living room are the two bedrooms and the single bathroom, with a small tub and shower. It felt a little chilly inside, so I looked for a thermostat. All I could find is an old fashioned one, and I was never sure if it actually worked because the wall heater didn’t seem to respond, no matter what temperature I turned it to. But it was OK. Throughout our visit, the temperature in the main living space was on the cool side, but livable.
The first thing I did was unpack the groceries we’d bought in Fresno and cook dinner. The kitchen supplies were OK. We used nearly every plate and piece of silverware for every meal. There was a dishwasher in the kitchen, but it was turned to the side and being used as a microwave stand, so obviously not hooked up. The drying rack over the sink was a nice space saver.
The host had set out a bottle of wine and a large variety of snack chips, a nice touch. There’s plenty of storage space in the kitchen, too. There was a toaster oven above the fridge.
While I was cooking dinner, the kids figured out how to get on the house wifi, which worked fine. Being in a national forest, it’s not surprising that there’s no cell coverage anywhere near the house.
After dinner, we checked out the small DVD selection, and the kids decided we must watch “Tangled.” There was a DVD player, but we couldn’t get the Roku remote to work, and apparently this was the only remote there to operate the TV. We even happened to have some of the right size batteries with us, in a flashlight, so we tried changing the batteries but it still didn’t work. I texted the property manager to find out if there was a trick to it, but didn’t hear back that night. Eventually, we figured out that we could download the Roku app to an iPhone and use that as a remote. So we successfully watched “Tangled”! (The host texted me the next day to apologize that her phone had died. She said other guests had had no problem with the remote not working.)
Then it was time to check out the bedrooms. Both rooms looked about the same — each had two full or queen beds. One of them also had a door to a second porch, on the opposite side of the house from the entrance porch. I claimed that room for Erik and me, figuring that the exit might come in handy if we needed to let the dogs out at night. However, it turned out this door is permanently locked. Oh well. The sheets and blankets and pillows were all comfy. We realized pretty quickly that the bedrooms don’t have wall heaters, so they got pretty darned cold at night — but we like that. There were plenty of blankets, and one of the bedrooms had a space heater in it.
In the morning, I opened the curtains and was floored by the gorgeous view of the mountains and the Central Valley. You also hae a nice view of the “neighborhood” around the house. You’re looking down on a few other fenced-in lots that also look like ranch properties. Right next door, there’s a shack that looks like it’s about to fall down. Other reviewers talked about cattle being on the property, which would have been fun, but to be honest, our dogs — both herding breeds — probably would have lost their minds, so it’s probably for the best. Also, with no cattle, there was no one working around the house; we appreciated the utter privacy. We only saw one car go down the road during our entire stay, and never saw anyone on foot in the area.
At some point in our visit, people tried to shower, and found out that the hot water supply was a bit erratic. It would spray hot water for a few minutes, then suddenly turn cold. Because of that, most of us took baths throughout the trip.
On the second and third nights, we got pretty into playing miniature pool. This was like a normal pool table, just a little smaller. We ended up moving it away from the wall at an angle to make most shots possible in the relatively small living room.
On New Year’s Eve, we hoped to watch the coverage of celebration around the world, but we found out that there is no live TV available. The Roku TV didn’t provide anything live. So we never ended up watching anything other than that one DVD.
The weather got wetter as our stay went on. This affected a few things vis-a-vis the house:
- Our shoes got pretty muddy. Then soaked.
I mentioned that there is no paved driveway. Once the yard got wet, I understood why the host had asked people to leave their muddy boots on the porch. However, I would not advise doing this during a rainstorm! Everyone’s boots got saturated out there. We had to bring them in to let them dry, then clean them off as best we could, then put the boots in the dryer to dry some more, then clean out the inside of the dryer because they still left a few skidmarks. It was a whole process.
- We gave the washer and dryer quite a workout.
On New Year’s Eve, the weather was too nasty to do much hiking. Instead we played a board game in the kitchen and tried to dry out all those wet clothes and boots. We learned that the washer and dryer — did I mention they are in the kitchen? — are very loud.
- We wished for a little more hot water.
The water heater was not quite capacious enough to fill up the tiny tub with piping hot water. When we came home wet and cold from King’s Canyon, I resorted to bringing multiple kettles of hot water from the stove in there so my daughter could take a steamy hot bath. Yes, I am nice.
When it was time to depart, we laid some boards over the mud so we could get all our stuff from the porch to the car without getting filthy. We’d found the boards lying around the property. We have 4WD, so fortunately we had no trouble getting out of the mud to leave.
The departure to-do list wasn’t too terrible. I think we just had to start a load of towels, strip the beds and take out the trash. I didn’t mind doing these chores since the cleaning fee was only $50.
Things I Loved About This House
- The view!
- The seclusion.
- Proximity to King’s Canyon.
- The price.
- The pool table.
- The wine and snacks.
- Dog friendly!
- Plenty of cozy blankets and sleeping bags.
Things The Owners Could Easily Improve
- Create a mud room area by the front door instead of telling people to leave boots outside. There was room on the tile for a boot rack or tray and some hooks.
- Make the gate lower so dogs can safely use the yard untethered.
- Lay down some gravel or something to make parking and walking easier when it’s muddy.
- Add a space heater to the second bedroom.
Quirky Things That Made Us say, “Huh!”
Seems like rental houses always have something like this, right? Well, this house had plenty of quirkiness. The strangest thing was the tiles, which appeared to have been nailed or screwed to the floor.
- Buy groceries on your way there, or be prepared to drive at least half an hour to even a small store.
- No long showers.
- Yard is not dog-escape-proof.
Would We Stay Here Again?
Can’t wait to!
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