Trees planted today are not for us but for future generations. Mariposa Grove is the largest of three Giant Sequoias groves located within Yosemite National Park and it contains approximately 500 mature giant sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) which are all over 1000 years old. These magnificent trees are why most of the visitors and hikers love to come here to explore this beautiful grove. These areas are also being protected for the benefit of future generations since 1864 after President Lincoln signed the protection legislation. I am so glad to have the opportunity to visit Mariposa Grove in late Apr 2015 (we made it just on the cusp of opening as it was closed for a longer period due to a snow storm). The grove is usually closed from November to about mid-April and only accessible during these months via foot or snowshoe. Again, lady luck is on my side as it was closed again for Mariposa Grove restoration project that started in July 2015 and will only re-open in 2017.
Upon arrival, we realised the trams would not be running until later in the season. This meant I would be experiencing my first ever hike. So we took the natural trail on foot instead, wandering among the tall red trees, rustling wind in the trees, breathing fresh scent of the pines and firs and everything just seemed so magical. I felt so tiny standing next looking up to these majestic trees towering over my head! Looking at these huge trees seemed like taking a glimpse into the past and the little growing sequoias makes one felt comforting as knowing what the future generations will see in time to come.
The start of the trail can be accessed from the parking area, head towards the direction of the Lower Grove and hiked up on the slopes to the Upper Grove. You may want to download the official brochure/map here to plan your route. Along this trail you might see some trees having a signboard, hopefully the visitors will take notice and not harm the roots unintentionally as it is spread out near the surface to capture water.
What was supposed to be an hour turned into six hours of hiking, quite an experience for a first timer! We set out on a trail that would lead us to the Mariposa Museum which ended up being closed. At this point, I got distracted by a squirrel playing and decided to climb up the bark of a fallen Sequoias to get a better picture. As karma would have it, I lost my footing and slipped down in the midst of snapping shots. Although I was in pain (I didn’t know it at the time but I had actually fractured my tailbone) we decided to keep hiking on. So do be careful and watch where you step.
After an hour has passed, we found the trail narrower and less obvious together with fallen sequoia trees along the trail. The trail seemed to be endless and directions along the way were kind of confusing, hence our progress started to slow down. We had gotten so far and it did not make any sense to walk back to Mariposa Grove. We got to a fork in the trail that was not shown on the map. We selected a trail and thought at most it would take us one hour to get back to the carpark, we were WRONG! It ended up being an additional five hours instead! Although we didn’t know it at the time we ended up on the Outer Loop Trail to Wawona. Along the way I was actually on the lookout hoping to see a bear so that I can take some pictures at a distant (nope, has no intention of taking a selfie). But sadly, not a single bear was sighted throughout the trail. Or rather, maybe the bears saw me without me realising it.
Two hours into the trail, we started to get worried as we knew sunset was fast approaching and our water was depleting. Anxious that we would get lost in the woods at night with no food and water, we started walking faster. But the path just seemed like it was going around the mountain with plenty of slopes. We tried using the GPS to figure out our whereabouts and determine where we were heading but the map would not load since there was no data coverage. We even tried to call 911, hopping that someone may be able to direct us out of the woods but to no avail. Our phones simply had NO network coverage. We had to rely on the compass on our phones (which didn’t do much).
After walking for another hour and a half, we finally heard cars, I never thought I would be so happy to hear the sound of traffic. When we finally saw the road 20 minutes later, we couldn’t be any happier. That happiness soon faded when we realised we were still over two miles away from the carpark. We knew neither of us wanted to walk any further so we spent 30 minutes trying to hitch a ride. The first ten minutes no cars passed and the next twenty minutes we were ignored. Finally a couple with their two toddlers stopped. They hesitated out of fear but decided to let us take the passenger seat together. We were so grateful to them and thankful for the company after five hours of not seeing another soul and fearing for our lives.
Don’t be afraid of the unknown, take the first step out and start exploring!