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Grizzly Giants and Tree Tunnels

[Yosemite National Park, CA]

Today was mostly driving. We left LA early in the morning so that we can get to Yosemite in time to do one of their shortest tours – the 75-minute tour of the largest grove of sequoias in the park, Mariposa Grove. The grove contains several hundred mature sequoias, but some of the most distinct ones have been named and are part of the tour.

Our first stop was the Fallen Monarch, which fell more than 300 years ago but has not decayed yet. Sequoias are resistant to decay and insects, which means that even after they fall down, they hang around for a long time. The root system of this tree looked huge, and we were starting to get a sense of how big these trees really are!

Just a little bit further down was a group of four trees that shared a root system – so much so that if one fell down, it would likely take the others with it. These four were called Three Sisters and the Bachelor because three of them were close together, while the fourth one was off to one side.

The Three Sisters (left) and the Bachelor (right)

The Three Sisters (left) and the Bachelor (right)

We went by the Grizzly Giant next. It’s the biggest tree in the grove by volume, and one of the oldest at almost 1800 years old. It is the 25th largest sequoia in the world. Right next to is it the California Tunnel Tree, which had a giant tunnel cut through it in the late 1800s to allow for coaches to pass through it as a marketing ploy.

The Faithful couple is a set of trees that grew so close together that they intertwine at the bottom but have separate tree tops. Normally, when sequoias are close together, one tree will eventually “win” and take over completely but in this case, the two trees were so evenly matched that they both survived and merged together.

The Clothespin tree was really interesting and I was kinda bummed we didn’t get to get off our tram to see it from up close. Over the years, low-level ground fires carved a huge fire scar through the middle of the tree – a scar big enough for a pick up truck to pass through. The tree is able to survive because the heartwood is only important from a structural perspective; what’s important for the tree’s survival is located in the outer layers of the tree.

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The Clothespin tree

The Telescope tree was another one we drove by but didn’t check out. Fires had hollowed out the entire length of the tree so that if you stood in the middle of it, you could look up and see patches of blue sky.

We also went by the Fallen Tunnel Tree, which was one of the most famous trees in the grove until it fell in the late 1960s during a snow storm.

Fallen Tunnel tree

Visiting the Mariposa Grove was pretty awesome; I hadn’t seen anything like the giant sequoias before, but I can’t wait to see the sights this amazingly beautiful place is best known for – Half Dome, El Capitan and the falls.

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