We arrived via the south entrance and made our way towards the Mariposa Grove, the park’s largest grouping of giant sequoias. At least 500 of these amazing trees grow here, and we took the trail to see some of the most famous ones. These trees are the largest of all living things and seem to symbolize survival against all odds. They are so majestic, and it’s hard to contemplate that some are more than 2,000 years old.
The Grizzly Giant, perhaps the most famous of all the giant sequoias in the park, measures 96 feet in circumference and 27.6 feet in diameter at its base, and it is the tree that everyone wants to see. I can certainly understand why. We also admired the Bachelor and Three Graces, the Fallen Monarch and the California Tunnel Tree on our hike.
|The Base of the Grizzly Giant|
|The Grizzly Giant|
|Bachelor and Three Graces|
|Sarah at the Fallen Monarch|
Tunnel trees were an early form of tourism promotion, and visitors lined up to drive through them. My mother often recalled driving through one of the tunnel trees when she visited the park in the 1940s. Obviously cutting a hole in the base of a giant sequoia is a practice that is frowned upon today, but I’m secretly pleased that one of these trees survives for us to see.
|Tim at the California Tunnel Tree|
The Mariposa Grove is particularly significant to the National Park Service, and images of giant sequoia cones are embossed on belts and hatbands worn by national park rangers. The cone is a symbol of the preservation of this special place.
|Belt Worn by National Park Rangers|
|These Giant Sequoias Are Just Babies|
The Mariposa Grove is located near Wawona, a historic community that preserves many of its pioneer buildings. The Wawona Hotel, one of the park’s historic lodging options, is a charming place and we explored the lobby.
As much as I enjoy the southern part of the park, it is Yosemite Valley that draws me in. Catching my first glimpse of Half Dome, El Capitan and Bridalveil Falls spread out before me was just as breathtaking today as the first time I saw it. I stood and stared and probably shed a few tears. It’s that beautiful to me. I hoped that Tim would find it to be just as special.
|No Photo Can Capture the Grandure of Yosemite Valley|
We drove through the valley, and I resisted the urge to ask Tim to pull over so I could photograph each spectacular sight. Instead, we headed for our campground and settled in. The campgrounds in Yosemite Valley are nestled among pine trees and are very scenic. Although there are no hookups, we are prepared for a couple of days.
We had early dinner reservations at the Ahwahnee, one of my favorite national park lodges. The dining room at the Ahwahnee imposes a dress code, one of the few lodges to do so. We didn’t mind, however. It was actually a treat to dress up for a change and leave our hiking and traveling clothes behind.
Not only is the food at the Ahwahnee superb, but the experience of dining there is just as wonderful. The dining room is a spectacular space that originally seated 350 guests. The magnificent views beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows provide a scenic backdrop to this elegant hall. We started the evening with a delicious country pate appetizer. My entrée was haddock, and it was one of the best entrees I’ve had in recent memory. Tim’s steelhead trout was just as good. We shared a wonderful cream brulee trio for dessert, and the pistachio was especially good. All in all, it was a memorable evening and satisfying in so many ways.
|The Ahwahnee Dining Room|
|The Grand Window View|
|Doesn't Tim Look Nice?|
|Tim's Steelhead Trout|
|Creme Brulee Trio|