We spent the day hiking around roughly 500 mature giant sequoias in Mariposa Grove near the south entrance of Yosemite National Park. The oldest tree in the grove, the Grizzly Giant, is estimated to be 1,800 years old and the tallest is about 290 feet. It was humbling to walk among these beautiful giants. What was happening in the world when they were seedlings? How long after we’re gone will they stand tall and steady?
Mariposa Grove owes its name to Spanish explorers in the 1800’s when they discovered a great cluster of butterflies (“mariposas” in Spanish) in the foothills of the Sierras and so a creek, then a county, then a grove were named.
Roots of the sequoias are usually no deeper than six feet, but may spread out more than 150 feet which helps provide a stable base. Very few young sequoias can be found because people used to suppress naturally occurring fires in an effort to protect the forest. What they didn’t realize until the 1960’s is that lightning-caused fires are a normal and necessary part of nature’s delicate balance. Lightning fires burn away leaf litter and other ground cover leaving a thin layer of nutrient-rich ash on the soil. Heat from the fire dries the sequoia cones and out pop fresh seeds on a perfectly prepared bed.
Suppressing fires is a perfect example of Maya Angelou’s “when you know better you do better”. As we walked by many charred trees from prescribed burns, I couldn’t help but wonder what else in nature we’re interfering with in an effort to “protect” something.

We noticed that as we gained elevation we lost crowds and were pleasantly surprised at how many foreign tourists we encountered on the shuttle and trails. We estimate we hiked just under six miles (one of these days we’ll get a pedometer) and total gain was about 1,200 feet. An absolute delight was when we reached Wawona Point Vista at 6,810 feet. Nothing but trees in every direction, aside from a few pockets of snow, and we were the only ones there! We sat for quite a while taking in this stunning view.
Our first experience in Yosemite definitely did not disappoint. After about five hours in the park we had just enough energy to sit by a campfire back home with our attention split between the flickering flame and the twinkling stars.

On point

On point
Colette enjoys the grandeur that is Yosemite National Park.


Giant, Grizzly Giant that is

Giant, Grizzly Giant that is
The Grizzly Giant is one of the largest trees in the Mariposa Grove and is estimated to be 1,800 years old. That huge limb on the right side is almost seven feet in diameter, larger than the trunk of any non-sequoia in the grove.


Perspective: Little Red and Big Red

Perspective: Little Red and Big Red
At 5’4″, it would only take 53 Colettes to reach to the top of these Sequoias.


Painted Forest

Painted Forest
A HDR blend of Colette and a giant Sequoia


Flutterby Little Butterfly

Flutterby Little Butterfly
Mariposa is Spanish for butterfly, and the grove was named after Mariposa Creek, which was named after the large quantities of butterflies that Spanish explorers discovered there in 1806. This butterfly befriended us for five or more minutes until I finally had to run him off so that we could continue hiking.


Can We Be Friends?

Can We Be Friends?
Colette watches a butterfly resting on her trekking pole


Color Me Beautiful

Color Me Beautiful
I’m normally not a fan of selective color, but the vivid orange of this little butterfly screams for attention


All Wrapped Up

All Wrapped Up
Standing inside the base of this monstrous Sequoia puts perspective on the sheer size


Wash Time

Wash Time
The Clothespin Tree earns it’s name for obvious reasons, caused by numerous fires. Scale is deceptive however, as you could fit a car into this opening.


Snow. Shoes.

Snow. Shoes.
Colette hikes through some snow in the Mariposa Grove at the southern end of Yosemite National Park


Long Way Down

Long Way Down
It’s a long way down if you slip off this ledge at Wawona Point.


Reflection

Reflection
Taking a moment to absorb the vast forests of Yosemite from Wawona Point


Shooting the Gap

Shooting the Gap
Colette hikes the trail between monstrous Sequoias


The California Tunnel Tree

The California Tunnel Tree
This is the only standing tree with a tunnel cut through it since the Wawona Tunnel Tree fell under a heavy snow load in 1969. Colette provides a good perspective of the sheer size of the tree and the tunnel.


The California Tunnel Tree

The California Tunnel Tree
This is the only standing tree with a tunnel cut through it since the Wawona Tunnel Tree fell under a heavy snow load in 1969. Colette provides a good perspective of the sheer size of the tree and the tunnel.


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