Saturday, June 7, 2008

whirlwind memorial day yosemite trip part 1 of 2

It used to be a running joke that I hadn't been to Mariposa Grove in Yosemite. You see, I kept meaning to go, but in each trip that I made prior to this one we just ran out of time/spent more time elsewhere in the woods/got really tired.

Truth be told, there was only one tree I ever wanted to see in Mariposa Grove, and that's the subject of a forthcoming post.

For now, let's just look at some of the touristy trees of Mariposa Grove, like Fallen Tree and the Grizzly Giant. Bear in mind that while I had my camera, I didn't use it all that much. I'm kind of lame when it comes to photos—I forget I have a camera because I have my own eyes and memory. My lack of focus on a camera can be seen by the fact that I forgot my own camera, and when I got to my friends' house on Wednesday of my trip I said, "Crap, I'm going to Yosemite and forgot my camera," at which time I borrowed their old Nikon Coolpix E2000. Thanks, guys! But having a camera didn't mean I used it a lot. You have been warned.

The plan was to get to Mariposa Grove early in the morning, so as to get a place in the actual parking lot and not have to walk in from the auxiliary parking lot (2mi away) or take the shuttle in from Wawona. "Early" meant 8am or so, which means we had to leave San Jose at 4:30 or 5, which we did. Michelle was such a trouper! We got to the park, I showed my little National Parks Annual Pass to the ranger at the gate, and onward we drove into the primary parking lot at Mariposa Grove. At that time, there were only ten or fifteen other cars in the lot. Score!

Fallen Monarch, Mariposa Grove, YosemiteIn the Lower Grove (where most people confine their trip), the first tree you see is actually a dead one: the Fallen Monarch. As you can see, the upturned base of the tree is huge—some 15 or so feet across. By the time we passed this tree at the end of our hike, there were a billion people clamoring around it for a photo.

Next up were the Bachelor and the Three Graces; the description at the ever-hilarious Yosemite Hikes site says:
The Bachelor and Three Graces are a quartet of sequoias you'll pass just after crossing the tram road. The roots of giant sequoias are shallow, usually less than six feet deep, but spread over a large area - half an acre or more for a mature tree. This means that right under your feet, the roots of the graces and their bachelor are intertwining in ways that would easily earn a mature rating in much of the country. But no one seems to mind here; Yosemite visitors are a broadminded lot.
Come on, that's funny!

Approaching the Grizzly Giant, Mariposa Grove, YosemiteHere we have the approach to the Grizzly Giant. The Grizzly Giant is perhaps the most popular of the Mariposa Grove trees, owing to the fact that it's in the lower grove, which is a considerably easier walk. For reference, the lower grove loop is only 2.2 miles with an elevation change of less than 400 feet at the highest point in the loop. The lower and upper grove loop, which we did most of, is 6 miles with an elevation change of 1200 feet at the highest point in the loop.

Grizzly Giant, Mariposa Grove, YosemiteAnyway, the Grizzly Giant is popular, as you can see by the people at its base in the picture above. Remember the Fallen Monarch from the beginning of the story? Well, the base of the Grizzly Giant is twice the size of that one—over 30 feet across; the circumference is more than 90 feet, and (according to the Yosemite Hikes folks again, "it has a single limb a hundred feet up that's bigger around by itself than the trunk of nearly any other species of tree." Not "any other species of tree in Yosemite," but any other species of tree PERIOD. This is a hell of a big tree, over 2700 years old. Boy am I glad that Sequoia wood isn't any good for construction. That's the only reason we still have the big trees: you can't build anything out of them. Hooray!

California Tunnel Tree, Mariposa Grove, YosemiteThe last of the touristy trees in the lower grove is the California Tunnel Tree. You can see the man-made tunnel cut through it, but unlike the Fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree in the upper grove, this tree is still alive. The tunnel is wide enough for a stagecoach to pass through it (the original intention) or for 15 or 20 people to huddle under it in the rain.

At this point, people usually take a left turn and wander back down to the parking lot, having seen the big trees in the lower grove. We pressed on to the upper grove, passing the Faithful Couple, the Clothespin Tree, the Columbia Tree, the Telescope Tree, ten or so mule deer, and a raven who kept flying ahead of us and waiting. The raven was a little freaky. We also saw (and Michelle stalked with her camera) a White-headed Woodpecker. We did not see many people; we saw more people on the way back down than on the way up. We saw perhaps five others on the way up, but 15 or so on the way down—a couple from the South (Arkansas sounded right to me), a family of four from what sounded like Australia or New Zealand, a South Asian couple pushing their toddler in a very flimsy stroller, and eight or ten other random folks.

Although I called these posts part 1 and part 2, the upper grove pictures/info post will be all its own. I'll call it post 0, even though it should really be post 1.5 if we were going chronologically.

Oh hell. I'll just call it "Samoset."