Sunday, May 27, 2007 ;
Woke early today cos it is the Memorial Day Weekend. We expect hordes of tourists and locals to descend upon the park. Staying miles away from the park would be a disadvantage so we had to rise even earlier.
Explored another hwy this time. Hwy 120. Quite pleasant, with a lot of bends too, following mountain contours, but nothing as bad as Hwy 49. Maybe every hwy will pale in comparison to 49 henceforth? :-)
Read from guide books and websites that the Mariposa Grove of Sequoias are so popular that the car park often is full by mid-morning. This day though, it was already full when we arrived, so we had to park at the South Entrance and wait for the Wawona Shuttle. Not only was the wait for the shuttle very long, the queue was long too.
The Grove was beautiful and majestic indeed. We first took a tram ride to get an overview of the whole grove of sequoias and also to pinpoint a possible trail we would like to hike later on. We got off the tram halfway and then hiked the way back to the shuttle stop.
Surprisingly, though there were many people in the Grove, most of them were on trams or clustered around the carpark area. The trail which we hiked seemed to contain us alone, and thus, we got to enjoy solitude here too - just the giant trees and us. Awesome grandeur.
Fallen Monarch (above). No tap roots, hence, can topple easily. (right) ds1 dwarfed by just the roots.
Telescope tree (above). The hollow caused by a fire goes through the tree such that when you look up from the bottom, you can see the skies. Try as I might, even if I lay down on the dirt ground, my camera cannot take the whole length of any of the sequoias. :-)
(above) Clothespin tree. A fire burnt out a part of the tree such that it looked like a clothes-pin.
Fires used to be put out and prevented but later they realised the importance of forest fires to the survival and reproduction of sequoias. Hence, now they practice prescribed burning. Something like controlling the spread, the timing and duration of the fire. So that sequoias can survive but yet the fires not cause any other harm or damage. (Naturally, fires burn every 3-8yrs)
How do the fires help? Sequoias, unlike the other surrounding competitors (the more agressive pines) contain tannins in their tree sap. They also have asbestos-like bark. Thus they won't get easily burned down during the fire, and the resins in their sap are fire retardants/ resistant. We saw many blackened charred remains of pines in the grove (below).
Thus, each fire actually clears an area and leaves gaps where young sequoia seedlings have a chance to sprout without competitors.
Above: It is very interesting, the cones of the sequoia and pine compared. Like the mustard seed analogy in the Bible, the giant sequoia's cone is the smaller one on the right. But what a huge gigantic tree it turns out to be!
Above: The faithful couple. Joined at the base, seemingly as one tree, but they are actually 2.
Above: Grizzly Giant. (right) see the tiny people at the base of the tree? I had to get very far away to take in more of the tree (plus the people), but still can't capture the whole length!
rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow