June 28, 2018
Mariposa Grove: various trails
Total distance walked: 5.1 miles
Chris and I have visited the giant sequoias in the Mariposa Grove countless times, including the final weekend before the $40 million restoration project began. We were disappointed that the grove, located in the southernmost part of Yosemite National Park, did not re-open as planned in spring, then fall of 2017. After a near three-year closure, we waited in anticipation for the grand opening on June 15, 2018.
Two weeks after the grand opening, we arrived at the newly constructed Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza where there are parking spots for about 300 cars. There is a shaded depot with several benches and a very small gift shop to peruse while waiting for the free shuttle. We missed the first bus but boarded the second one a few minutes later. During peak season the free shuttle runs every ten minutes.
We walked at a quick clip to break away from the crowd exiting the bus, but the tremendous beauty of the trees slowed our pace. Giant sequoias are the largest living things known to humans because of the volume of their trunks. Further, they don’t have deep tap roots. Instead, their roots spread out near the surface to capture water.
The new pathway runs adjacent to The Fallen Monarch. Biologists suspect that The Fallen Monarch has been down since the mid-1800s. For a very short hike you can loop around the tree and return to the bus embarkation area. We continued following the boardwalk and began a hike along the Mariposa Grove Trail.
The trail headed gently uphill until we came to a group of trees called, The Bachelor and Three Graces. Their roots are so intertwined that if one fell, they would all fall.
It was interesting to see the improvements and changes throughout the grove. To name a few, there were new boardwalks, bridges and interpretive signs. Passing The Bachelor and Three Graces, we headed toward what I consider to be the star of the grove, the Grizzly Giant.
After an unmistakable uphill jaunt we approached the Grizzly Giant. It is thought to be approximately 1,800 years old.
A crowd congregated on one side of the tree whose circumference is more than 100 feet. It is the 27th largest tree in the world by volume. Chris sat on a bench while I circled around to the other side. From our own vantage points, we stared up in wonder. Imagine what has taken place in history during the years of this tree’s life.
Another interesting fact about the Grizzly Giant is that its huge limbs are larger than the trunks of all non-sequoia trees in the grove.
We veered away from the Mariposa Grove Trail to take the short walk through the California Tunnel Tree.
A tunnel was cut through this tree in 1895 to allow coaches to pass through and to lure the growing tourist industry into the park.
From the Tunnel Tree we linked back up with the Mariposa Grove Trail and headed toward the Faithful Couple tree.
On the way to the Faithful Couple, I noticed another restoration change: the asphalt road was gone. In its place was a more natural dirt surface. According to scientists, the pavement put too much pressure on the trees’ shallow root systems and disrupted the natural flow of water.
The Faithful Couple trees are two separate trees that have grown so close to each other that they are fused together at their bases. The thick bark of these incredible trees protects them against significant fire damage; they are able to heal themselves. Interestingly, they need fire to regenerate because the heat of the fire opens the cones.
A pine-scented crystalline breeze blew through the forest as we continued uphill to the Clothespin Tree.
The space in the Clothespin Tree’s trunk was created by many fires over the years. It is large enough for a pick-up truck to drive through.
Up the trail from the Clothespin Tree was the Mariposa Grove Cabin, formerly the Mariposa Grove Museum, another restoration change. To reach it, we followed the Guardian’s Loop trail.
The cabin was built in 1930 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Here in the upper grove, Chris and I were by ourselves. We sat on the porch and listened to the wind blow through the trees. Chirping birds made the trees ring with song.
There were more trees to see in the upper grove, but we were ready to head back. On the way down we passed one more interesting tree, the Columbia Tree.
The Columbia Tree’s claim to fame is that it is the tallest tree in the grove as well as all of Yosemite National Park.
This peaceful, contemplative and early morning walk under the giant sequoias was a benediction that soothed our souls.