On 4/12/18, we drove to Tuolumne Grove at an elevation of 6,000 feet. It was cold, but not quite freezing & covered with a thin layer of snow. The forest was magnificent. The giant sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) were huge & amazing. I’d never seen a tree anywhere near that large before. Even coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) aren’t that big. The pines were also much larger than any pine I’d ever seen. It was truly an ancient forest. We walked on a trail that was partly covered with snow. The distance was about 2.5 miles round trip. Tuolumne Grove is one of 3 giant sequoia groves in Yosemite National Park. It contains more than 20 mature giant sequoia trees in the midst of a lush coniferous forest also including pine, fir & dogwood.
Giant sequoia are the most massive trees in the world. Some have grown to 300 feet with diameters of 56 feet near the base. A range of 160 to 270 feet in height with trunk diameters of 20 to 26 feet is more common. The oldest tree is more than 3,000 years old. They can produce as many as 11,000 cones & disperse more than 300,000 seeds annually. Giant sequoias grow in the western Sierra Nevada. They are scattered among 68 groves that cover less than 36,000 acres. They grow at elevations averaging 5,600 feet in the north & 6,300 in the south of their range, mostly on southern slopes in the north & northern slopes in the south.
Giant sequoia were discovered by Europeans in 1833. Logging began in the 1850's & removed a third of the big trees. A preservation effort started in 1864 & increased in 1890 with creation of Yosemite National Park & Sequoia National Park. Giant sequoia can be found in Seattle parks & gardens. They are easy to grow, but require a lot of space.
After spending the night in Modesto, we drove to Yosemite National Park. The foothills of the Sierra Nevada were beautiful. We stopped along a rural road just inside Mariposa County to take photos. We stopped again in the small town of Mariposa to buy groceries, some of which we ate for lunch. The drive along the mountain roads was lovely with many manzanitas & redbuds in bloom.
Yosemite Valley was disappointing. It was smaller than we expected by half: the valley half as wide, the mountains half as tall. It was less impressive than many other mountain valleys we had seen in the Cascades & Rockies. I kept thinking of the very tall & impressive Teton Mountains in Wyoming. It was the first time we had seen the Sierra Nevada, where the mountains are taller than the Cascades. We usually see the Cascades from a much lower elevation. The elevation of Yosemite Valley is 4,000 feet/1,200 meters. It makes sense that the mountains wouldn’t be very much higher than that.
It’s a fairly narrow valley. There are lots of trees that obscure views of the mountains. And there have been many forest fires in Yosemite National Park & the surrounding national forests. The dead & blackened trees were disturbing. The ground was trampled by millions of tourists. Yosemite is the most visited national park in the US. The area around the Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly the Ahwahnee Hotel) built in 1927, was like a small city. The ground was covered with cabins, tent cabins, employee apartments, stores, roads & parking lots. It did not feel close to nature.
Our friend was irritated by our attitude. I tried to joke when I pulled out my camera & said, "I'll just have to work with what we’ve got here." Although she laughed, that irritated her even more. She has an annual pass & comes to Yosemite several times a year. It takes 2.5 hours to drive from Modesto. She suggested we walk on the trail to Mirror Lake. That was much better. We walked on an asphalt road that had been closed to cars. The forest plants were less damaged by foot traffic. There were beautiful & impressive views across the lake to mountains including the famous Half Dome.
This blog began in 2008 as Metropolitan Gardens to provide information on gardening in Seattle & places like it. Click on Gardening in Cascadia. The blog expanded to include Parks P-Patches Public Gardens in the US, Canada & Europe. Then Nature was added. (The difference between nature & gardens is intent. Nature happens. Gardens are planned.) Many recent posts are not about Seattle, or even Cascadia. They are Urban Landscape: streetscape & architecture. Cascadia is the region including the Cascade Mountains of Washington & Oregon. If you want to contact the blogger, leave a message in comments. Comments are moderated & private messages will not be posted.
The city of Seattle rests between 2 bodies of water: Puget Sound & Lake Washington. Puget Sound is a substantial part of the Salish Sea & a very small part of the Pacific Ocean. The Salish Sea is set apart from the Pacific by the Olympic Peninsula in the state of Washington & Vancouver Island in the province of British Columbia. The dense, wet clouds of the Pacific Ocean travel as far as the Cascade Mountains, near the Salish Sea & not very far from the ocean. East of the Cascades lies the desert of the Columbia Basin. The moist, temperate climate of Seattle extends south to northern California & north to southeastern Alaska. The Pacific Northwest Coast from San Francisco Bay to Cook Inlet shares a flora dominated by evergreen coniferous forest. The central portion, west of the Cascade Mountains, is called Cascadia. The climate is cool & wet from fall to spring, warm & dry in summer. The Olympic Mountains block Seattle from much of the Pacific rainfall. Seattle is drier than the Atlantic coast of North America & northern Europe, cooler in summer & warmer in winter. It lies near the latitude of Paris & Quebec City.