Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sequoias of Yosemite

         My goal in Yosemite National Park is simply this: to walk among the kings of the forest, California’s giant sequoias.  The Blackberry Inn in Groveland, California is our base-camp for this quest.
         It's a glorious October morning and two other couples greet us in the Inn’s breakfast room—one of them from Dublin, Ireland, the other originally from London, now living in Indianapolis.   Our conversations extol the wonders of Yosemite; we're all eager to get out and explore the park.

Immediately after breakfast my husband and I leave the Inn and drive to today’s first destination—the Tuolumne Grove of giant sequoias.  We start down the trail and are in awe of the towering trees—giant Douglas Fir and Sugar Pine among them.  But pines and firs, amazing though they may be, pale in comparison to sequoias.  A short one-mile downhill walk leads us into the grove and we find ourselves at the base of a massive sequoia.  Many of the trees in this grove are at least 1000 years old and a few have reached 2000 years of age.   
In Awe of the Giants.
We walk through the Tunnel Tree, the trunk of a giant sequoia carved out in the late 1800’s to allow stagecoaches to pass through.  From there we stroll a quarter-mile nature trail past a fallen giant.  This tree fell 27 years ago after a particularly harsh winter; presumably the weight of the snow combined with soft ground toppled the tree.  The tree is massive and the trail follows the length of its trunk, revealing the enormity of it.  We snap extra photos of the stately trees in the Tuolumne Grove and begin the strenuous uphill climb to the trailhead.  

The Mariposa grove of sequoias near the park’s south entrance is our next destination.  When we arrive at the grove the parking lot is full of cars and of people.  Over two million people visit the Mariposa Grove each year.  But even with all these people this is a worthwhile destination.  The big trees are everywhere, including in the parking lot.  And there they stand, as they’ve stood for millennia—majestic, proud, awe-inspiring.
Tim and I hike the 1.3 mile trail to the Grizzly Giant and we are the only ones on the trail.  There is a shorter trail to the Giant; it parallels the tram road and it’s the one everyone else takes.  But on our trail we have a group of giants all to ourselves.  We approach a connector trail, then follow it to the more popular trail.  Along the way we stop to gaze at a giant ponderosa pine and see the sun highlighting thousands of silky threads in the sky.  Spider webs with their eggs, carried in the breeze over the forest—a spectacular sight.

A few minutes more and the trunk of a gigantic sequoia comes into view.  This is the famous Grizzly Giant, the largest tree in the park.  The Grizzly Giant’s age is estimated at 2700 years; it stands 210 feet tall, 29 feet in diameter at the base of its trunk.  The great tree is leaning—one of these days, or hundreds of years from now, it will topple.  The mighty tree will then decompose over centuries, nourishing the forest in death, as it had graced the forest in life.

To view more photos of Yosemite's might sequoias, click here:

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  1. What a great photo, Rita. Your writing takes me right to the place where you're watching spider eggs on the wind. Lovely!

  2. If only trees could speak...
    It makes me want to go visit them again. It's been over 20 years since I saw the Giant Sequoias - a mere second for them, but half a lifetime or me!