Yosemite National Park

29 July 2006

Yosemite is large. You can't really see it all in the time we had. Most of the other parks we visited on this trip had one major car route with a few side roads. Yosemite has at least four major routes and some of them have side roads. Since we are only hiking short trails, we can, at best, tour one route per day. Complicating our visit is the fact that we have to travel almost two hours each way to get to each route, making for a long day. Yesterday we visited the Yosemite Valley and today we visited the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia Redwoods and Glacier Point, which overlooks they Yosemite Valley. The other two major routes are to the north of Yosemite Valley.

When you enter Yosemite from the south entrance, the closest area is the Mariposa Grove. We tried to visit it yesterday, but were told that they limit the number of visitors allowed to drive into the grove area. We could have taken a shuttle to the grove but chose to come back today, a bit earlier than yesterday. The Mariposa Grove is actually the beginning of Yosemite National Park. Abraham Lincoln signed an order that protected the grove from commercial uses in 1864. The rest of the Yosemite was not made into a National Park until 26 years later. Giant Sequoias are among the oldest living things on earth. Some of these trees can be over 3,000 years old. We only walked about half of the trail through the grove but still had the opportunity to see the some of these impressive giants. The tallest tree in the grove is about 290 feet (equal to a 29 story building). They are not the tallest Redwoods. A related species growing along the California Coast grow up to 368 feet. Because of their size, it was difficult to capture many of them in pictures.

After we left the Mariposa Grove, we headed to Glacier Point, a thirty mile run that takes nearly an hour. Yesterday's view of the Yosemite Valley from within it was impressive. Now we were looking down at the valley from 2,600 feet above it. Glacier Point is on the south wall of Yosemite Valley and provides a panoramic view of the valley and the Sierra Nevada to the east. The view provides a different perspective of the valley and two of its icons, Half Dome and Yosemite Falls.

The trip back to the campground nearly confirmed one of my fears, having a crash with a rental RV driven by an inexperienced driver. There are more rental units in this campground then owned units. It is a very popular way for European tourists, mostly from Germany and the UK, to travel in the US. We have seen them everywhere. Many of them have never driven anything that large before. The roads in the park are mountain roads, narrow and winding. I always try to stay to the extreme right of the lane because people tend to stay near the center for fear of the edges (either a wall of rocks and trees or a drop off). As we came around a curve I saw a rental motor home coming at us partially in our lane. Fortunately, I was able to avoid a crash by braking and squeezing some space out of the edge of the road. I doubt the other driver knows how close he came to a crash.

A fallen Sequoia called the Fallen Monarch. These trees have very shallow roots, about 6 feet deep, and fan out about 150 feet. This one is estimated to have fallen 300 years ago. The redwoods have a lot of tannic acid in the wood which inhibits the growth of fungus and bacteria that cause decay of fallen trees.
Giant Sequoia at the Mariposa Grove parking lot
These trees had fallen across the trail. Susie is providing a frame of reference to the size of the trunk.
The roots of the Fallen Monarch
The Grizzly Giant
California Tunnel Tree
Scenes from Glacier Point
Upper Yosemite Valley
Nevada Falls, top and Vernal Falls.
Yosemite Falls
Half Dome
Sierra Nevada east of Yosemite
North Dome, left and Basket Dome
Hanging Rock. We saw a picture, taken in 1900 showing two women dancing on this rock, 2,600 feet above the Yosemite Valley.
Merced River near Yosemite Village
Forest Fire southeast of Yosemite Valley