Slept great. Slept till 6:15. Made coffee. Typed daily logs.
By 8:30 was ready to see the last place in Yosemite I’d see: the Mariposa Grove of sequoias. This is by Wawona, near the southernmost entrance to the park. I passed by Wawona before, but didn’t stop. Today I would.
I wasn’t boiling over with enthusiasm though. I was still a little tired – from hiking 24 hours the previous three days – and the thought of the windy road, well, I hate windy roads. Slow people test my patience on them. Fast people drive too close to my rear. And I have to pay more attention than I want.
But whatever. Surely the giant sequoia trees at the Merced Grove would bring me to life! Right?
Got to Wawona at 9:40. Mr. Tummy needed some loving. There’s a big, old hotel there with a restaurant. Got eggs, sausages and a danish. The food was mediocre, but still energized.
Got to the parking for the Merced Grove. The shuttle was not running. Wasn’t going to ride it anyway for having to wear a mask. Have I ever mentioned how much I hate masks?
The hike began. I was envisioning a leisurely stroll through the pines. I wasn’t expecting a ton of people at this far side of the park. Wrong on both. Of course it’s not the National Park Service’s fault that nature forces a steep hike on those wanting to see these largest living things on earth, but, I don’t always want to sweat profusely while hiking. Frankly, this was getting old. No leisure.
No solitude either. This trail had a ton of people. It would be the epitome of selfish stupidity to think I have a right to be on that trail alone, but, it sure would have been nicer. Again, without solitude how can there be serenity? How can nature’s resonance permeate your being without quietude allowing the mind to soak in the many stimuli – the smell of pines, the sound of wind, the fluorescent greenery, the cool shadows – if you are listening to some Mexican teenager yap mindlessly on her phone? I hate listening to people talk on their cell phones wherever, and especially out here. I understand better and better why Thoreau, Abbey, Muir and many others seemed like hermits. Society distracts. Society irritates.
But whatever. I was also cranky that I had to work harder than I wanted. The trail wasn’t that steep. It was just a constant up, up, up for two miles.
Got the the Grove. There towering above firs, pines and cedars were the very recognizable crowns of sequoias….
You know what sequoias are, RIGHT? You should. How one could be indifferent to earth’s largest living organisms – larger than blue whales – is beyond me.
Regardless, you’re getting a clarification right now.
Virtually every American has heard the term “redwood”. You may know they are tall trees in California. You may have heard of giant trees called “sequoias” too. But you probably don’t understand the difference between “redwoods” and “sequoias”.
If so, no problem.
Let’s clarify. The sequoia species is called “sequoia giganteum”. The redwood species is called “sequoia sempervirens”. They are related species. But they are NOT the same trees.
Redwoods used to grow in large swaths along the coast of California, from Big Sur up to the Oregon border. Only 4% of the Old Giants remain. But they still grow sporadically in this region and depend on Pacific mist. They are taller yet thinner than sequoias. The total volume of their trunks and branches is less than sequoias.
(Incidentally, the tallest redwood in California – the tallest tree in the world – is at Redwood National Park, which is a small NP just south of the Oregon border. There grows a redwood 380’ tall. The park doesn’t tell you which one it is. But the park does lead you in the right direction to find it.)
Sequoias, on the other hand, grow on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevadas, not in wide swaths like redwoods, but rather in isolated groves, hidden amidst endless firs and pines. They like growing along small drainage channels that aren’t quite creeks. They grow from elevations ranging from 4000’ to 7000’.
Got it? Redwoods are thinner but taller than sequoias and grow in forests along the California coast. Sequoias are shorter but thicker than redwoods and grow in isolated Sierra groves. Both are only in California.
(Incidentally, the largest living thing on planet earth, the thing with the most volume of mass that is alive, is the General Sherman sequoia. It’s 275’ tall. It has a 36’ diameter at the base of its trunk, and is over 2700 years old. It’s at Sequoia NP.)
Why are the Sierras uniquely conducive to the growth of these giant trees? Why did they not grow anywhere else? And, why does California, and only California, have the world’s biggest, tallest and OLDEST trees? You know, sequoias, redwoods and BRISTLECONE PINES.
Dunno. Perhaps only God knows. But Muir wondered why too. Spending months in his Range of Light, searching out all the hidden groves, undoubtedly compelled him to ask even deeper questions.
Today, though, I wasn’t feeling it. Too many people. Too many distractions. Too many interruptions to contemplations of these gargantuan things.
Seriously, I often like to sit and stare at the most random things in nature. Like at Illouette Canyon the day before, standing off to the side of the trail to watch the smoky mist waft upward a thousand feet above me as the Range of Light glowed almost purple, I had not just a few people stop right where I was, and stare in the direction I was, curious to see what I was seeing. I was staring to get the full impression of the scenery, not at something specific. That fuller impression tends to leave deeper emotions. After the third person stopped where I was stopped, I just moved on. I had no inclination to explain what I was staring at, and was not able to feel what I wanted with the stares of others directed at me.
I’ve stared for hours at sequoias before. I’ve spent hours walking around isolated groves to get photos. To do this today would have been a headache. So, I went to the Grizzly Giant – the sequoia in the grove that stands over 200′ high and is close to 3000 years old – and tried to get some photos, but there was a line of people waiting to get photos too. I lost all patience and turned around. I just wasn’t having it.
I walked the road, not the trail, down to the parking area. This was the best part. No people. Few cars. There were more moments of solitude than I’d experienced all week. The walk down was easy.
Then I had about 50 miles to drive back to my campsite. Wasn’t looking forward to this. But everyone was driving 40 mph, not 25 mph as in the morning.
When I went through the tunnel that leads you to the tunnel view, I realized I needed to fill up my water, which would require me to go into the Valley one more time. Screw it. The chemically treated water at the campsite tasted awful. Though there are signs that say “non-potable water” at Fern Spring, I bottled the water anyway. Had been drinking it all week. God made springs so we could drink them.
Also stopped for gas at El Portal and was fortunate to pay $6.24. Seven gallons cost me over $40. Three years before it would have cost me less than half. I don’t understand all the dynamics that go into the price of gas in America, but it’s more than mere supply and demand. I have not doubt there are dark forces at play that are suppressing the free market. I think anyone who doubts this, well, has the understanding of a child.
Got back to camp. Showered. Ate. Typed. Read. Stared at maps.
Talked to my boomer camp neighbors from Minnesota. Of course politics and wokeness were broached. He said, “You really have to watch what you say nowadays.”
I responded, “No, I think men need to be more outspoken and their insanity in its place. Frankly, I love being contentious. More men should love it too.” He agreed.
After that, bed time.