In October, my husband and I took a six-day trip to Yosemite. I’ll cover the hikes we did in this series of blogs.
I was so looking forward to hiking the Yosemite Valley Loop Trail. It’s supposed to be eleven-plus miles of beautiful valley scenery without many people. I anticipated up-close views of plants and animals and no heights to fear! Unfortunately, it was not to be.
The hike started out well enough. We parked at Yosemite Village then walked along the trail toward lower Yosemite Falls. From there we hiked past Camp 4, crossing Northside Drive and out toward El Capitan.
However, by Camp 4 the hike quickly descended into a smoky abyss! A controlled burn near El Capitan really choked up the air. I was hoping we could hike through and past it, but we both got bad headaches and I felt kind of sick. We turned back three miles in.
Controlled Burns in Yosemite
Yosemite personnel do controlled burns whenever weather conditions are right. It is part of their strategy for preventing large forest-fires. The burns can take place any time of the year at short notice. Because of this, visitors cannot rely on the Yosemite website to find out if a controlled burn is planned. The best thing you can do is to have back-up plans for the days where the smoke is really bad.
Luckily, we were staying out of the valley at the Wawona. The people I really felt sorry for were the campers in Camp 4, the climbers attempting El Capitan that day, and the people staying at Yosemite Lodge. By the time we got back to our car, it was smoky everywhere. So we drove back to the Wawona. I bet a lot of people drove out of the valley that day.
We ate a picnic lunch on our nice deck chairs at the Wawona, then took a nap to recover from our headaches.
After 30 minutes, I woke my husband. I had to insist that he get up. I was not going to end our day with that lousy six-mile hike through the smoke! So we drove four miles up the road to the Mariposa Grove and hiked another six.
The Mariposa Grove
The Mariposa Grove is home to some of the biggest trees on earth–the giant sequoias. They can grow up to 290 feet tall with a diameter of 36 feet. They can also live more than 3000 years!
Usually, you can leave your car at the Mariposa Grove parking lot and a shuttle will take you to the trailhead. This time, however, they were repairing the road, so the only way to get to the grove was to hike the two-mile Washburn Trail.
The Washburn is a nice trail, but if you are starting late in the day, it can really cut into your time. Also, it’s a moderate trail, but not for people who are overweight or out of shape. The altitude gets you too. We passed plenty of people that I’m sure had to turn around before they got to the grove.
Because we started so late and wanted to make sure we got back before dark, we only hiked a mile into the grove. We got a good taste of its wonders though, and plan to go back again next year! Here are some photos to entice you as well. And for more information about the Mariposa Grove, go to the Yosemite national park website.
Stay tuned for another blog about hiking in Yosemite, and please subscribe if you haven’t already! Thanks!