Ahhh Yosemite, one of THE most visited of the National Parks here in America. Basically carved from the imagination of Muir and Olmstead this park resides 4-5 hours away from LA and I was called by its siren song, like thousand of others during the recent Memorial Day Weekend. Come with, won't you on my journey to the Yose?
For the first day of my adventure, I found myself in Mariposa Grove, near the Southern entrance of the park. This grove is known for one thing
No, not chipmunks (although it did my Adirondack heart good to see them since we don't have them in SoCal) but Sequoias!
Giant Sequoias. These pictures truly don't capture the immensity of the trees there. Even the pine trees were huge.
The best way to appreciate the size of these giants is when they fall. Sequoias have no natural predators; bugs don't like to munch on em and they are impervious to fire. The only way they fall is by snow weight or wind and wow, how crazy must it be when these things fall!
I arrived insanely early at the Grove so parking was no problem but if you go during the Summer, just be prepared to have to park 6 miles away at Wawona and taking a free shuttle to the Grove. There are tons of free shuttles in the park which makes sense because the roads are really narrow and there are so many people, they have to cut down on the traffic somehow.
What became apparent as I was meandering around in the Grove is there are 2 Yosemites, one of them full of paved trails, tram rides instead of walking and staying at lower elevations (the lower part of the Grove is at 5,500 feet whereas the upper Grove which is much less visited, is at 6,600 feet). The other Yosemite has footpath "kayak" trails at varying elevations with huge rewards because of less people.
For example, here is a trail for the 99%
And here is this beautiful alpine trail running along the ridegline that was so amazing, I had to hike it twice.
Now, I don't want you to think I am getting all high and mighty because I am a hiker over here. I loved the fact that people were choosing to spend their vacation in the outdoors. I saw many people walking around all weekend but I have to say, getting off the wide trails and off the tram cars and onto these kayak trails really makes the trip super special.
The trail system in the Grove is a series of circles. Some loop up North to the upper Grove. Others loop in and around various groves of Sequoias. My recommendation is when you are headed up, bear to the left instead of taking the popular (i.e., crowded) Outer Loop Trail. There are all types of sequoias you can see along the way, each with a name.
The Faithful Couple
The Three Sisters
And a tree that can get up close and personal with!
The Upper Grove is amazing, a true must see. There you can find a cabin nestled amongst redwoods
and you lose yourself in daydreams of what it must have been like to live there.
The Grove isn't just all huge trees. There is beautiful scenery everywhere.
Eventually you go further and further up and if you want (and I highly recommend it) you can hightail it Wawona Point.
This is a beautiful spot that overlooks the Wawona valley and its vistas give you a warm up for what the remainder of Yosemite Park holds.
As I was hiking around on this day it was cold. Little did I realize how cold because as I was sitting on the Point, clouds were rolling in
and these clouds contained....SNOW! That's right, it basically snowed on me as I made my way down the trail to the parking lot. In May, in California. It was a crazy day.
(me trying to stay warm)
What's also crazy is that Yosemite serves as a mini-Galapagos.
This is a white faced woodpecker. It is only found in the park. Crazy eh?
This flower? Its a pinecone flower which is only found in the Mariposa Grove. Crazy eh?
Overall, despite the snow, despite the crowds at the end of the hike (all those tree pictures? they would be full of people if I took them 2 hours later), this is a MUST see in the park. The size, the age (most of these trees are over 1,000 years old) and the alpine beauty of this part of the park makes it an amazing place to spend the day.
Let's look at the size of these things again to wrap things up.
(this tree "branch" is larger in diameter than any non-Sequoia tree "trunk" in the Grove, its that big)