“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
-Henry David Thoreau
Day 3 – Mariposa Grove
My last day in Yosemite was my “easy” day, I drove to the southern end of the park and hopped on a shuttle bus into Mariposa Grove, an area with massive, ancient sequoia trees. There are two sections here, the lower and upper grove, and you can see nearly everything there is to see with only 4 or 5 miles of light hiking with moderate elevation gains.
I found most of the impressive trees to reside in the upper grove. The lower grove has a toppled sequoia, Grizzly Giant (the largest in the park by volume), and a photo op in a “tunnel tree,” one that’s was hollowed out to allow for the passage of cars and wagons. Now, you can only walk through them, which is fine, as treading near the roots of the trees can damage them.
In the upper grove, you’ll find the towering giants with the sheer bulk that’ll stop you in your tracks. Even though they look impressive in pictures, it’s impossible to appreciate the scale and majesty of these giants unless you come upon them in person. I spent several hours in the park wandering from tree to tree, stopping multiple times to read and enjoy the quiet.
Another thing you’ll notice about the grove is the smell. If I could bottle up that aroma of pine and sun-kissed wood and bring it home, I’d do it in a heartbeat.
It was here that I encountered the most dangerous thing I’d come across in Yosemite. A pine cone. As I walked down the trail in the upper grove, I heard a long whistling sound and a thunk as one of the giant cones that hang from the trees hit the trail twenty feet in front of me. It was larger than my 32 oz. water bottle and weighed more than it full. I remembered how the bus driver on the ride of to Glacier Point had said that lumberjacks called these pine cones widow makers, and now I could see why.
And with that, my trip to Yosemite was ended. I came away with an even greater appreciation for the national park system. When the park was founded, a stone company wanted to mine the limestone from El Captian to build homes. Without the protection of this national park, that awe inspiring sight would have been taken from millions. Back in the early 1900s, when they talked of preserving these lands for future generations, they were talking about me and everyone else in that park. And this American icon has led to the preservation of countless other natural wonders across the globe.