Surprises and Delights

August 10, 2020
Tuolumne Grove Loop
Total distance walked: 2.5 miles

Just days after visiting the beautiful Mariposa Grove in Yosemite, Chris and I traveled northwest of there to tour the moderately impressive Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias.  It was ten years since my last trip to this grove. Truth be told, I wasn’t excited about going.  However, I find the secret to happiness is low expectations.  This time I looked at the area with new eyes and found surprises and delights along the path.


The trail starts at an elevation of 6,200 feet.  There was a warmth to the air that morning as we headed downward on the former route of the Old Big Oak Flat Road.  This was one of the first roads to Yosemite Valley.

Heading down the Old Big Oak Flat Road.

The forest was peaceful and still.  Walking under tall sugar pines and fir trees, we slipped quietly into the scenery.  It was a delight to see patches of yellow cone flowers.  I assumed all wildflowers would be spent this late in the season.  They brightened the drab forest.

California cone flowers

Chris nearly stepped on a caterpillar.  It was a Douglas fir tussock moth caterpillar, a native insect of Yosemite.  It eats the needles of fir trees eventually killing the trees.  The caterpillars can thin a forest in a matter of two years.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing because some forests are seven times more dense than normal due to fire suppression.

Douglas fir tussock moth caterpillar

Spikey Sierra gooseberries lined the path. These prickly plants, though not friendly looking, are edible.  I didn’t touch one for fear of being impaled.


Just above the shaded slopes of gooseberry bushes, a deer foraged through the ferns.


The trail dropped 500 feet in total to the grove. From there it was a fairly flat walk.  We saw the first sequoia just beyond the trail sign.


The established nature trail took us across the almost waterless North Crane Creek on a wooden foot bridge.


Tuolumne Grove has only a few mature sequoias compared to the hundreds of sequoias in Mariposa Grove.


Many of them have fallen and are dead.

We ended the tour by walking through the Dead Tunnel Tree.  The tree was cut so that vehicles could pass through.

Much to my surprise and great delight, the grove is overflowing with dogwood trees.  Each spring—except this crazy year of Covid—Chris and I walk through Yosemite Valley and view the gorgeous dogwoods.  Now we have a new place to spend “dogwood day.”

If you look closely, you can still see blooms on the dogwood trees.

My expectations for this hike were low, but I left the trail with a feeling of contentment and anticipation. We can’t wait to come back when the grove bursts into a white wonderland of dogwood blooms.

It’s all uphill on the way back.