Yosemite in the Fall Part II: Land of Diversity
What do you think of when “diversity” comes to mind? Well, for me California and it’s not because of the people. This blog isn’t a social commentary you know. The real diversity here presents itself in the contrast of the landscape. From the great Pacific Ocean to the Sierras, to the Mojave Desert. The Golden State is truly a treasure. Day two in Yosemite would take us a few miles north of the valley to an area less traveled during the fall. After the previous days’ hike, my knee reminded me how important it was. While hiking uphill is physically difficult – (cardio wise), going down can be brutal on the knees. Today, we would head up to the Tioga Road and stroll around. Not a “zero” day of hiking, but close.
The Tuolumne Grove of Sequoias is a collection of approximately two dozen of the gentle giants on the western end of the Tioga Road near Crane Flat. There are actually three sequoia groves in Yosemite, this one is the easiest to see. These specimens usually grow at specific altitudes between 6,000-7,000 ft. They are the largest living things on earth. The coastal redwoods in California are taller, but the sequoias are more massive. We just had to see the Dead Giant which was over 29 feet wide at the base with a tunnel that was cut through it in 1878.
I didn’t realize until we started our walk to the grove that we would descend about 500 ft. It was slow going, my knee testing my pain tolerance. Man, would I be able to make it through the week with this knee? I was determined to finish this one and hit the drugstore in Oakhurst for a remedy tonight. Once we leveled out, the grove was peaceful and quiet. The only sounds were the occasional woodpeckers. Mary found one of the largest cones I ever saw. Imagine this thing falling on your head from over 150 ft.
The walk uphill was uneventful, the pain less – nothing a few motrin couldn’t deal with. We had a picnic in the parking area and watched people come and go. Most of the tourists were foreigners. Funny how they were drawn to this awesome place too. I’ve since discovered that the adventurous Europeans love the American back country. Where else can you “freely” roam?
We decided to head east on SR120, the Tioga Road. The Park Service would be closing this road next week in preparation for winter. We expected to find crowds along the way, but were pleasantly surprised to run across no more than a few cars the rest of the day. Olmstead Point with its wide open views was simply amazing. Clouds Rest, was appropriately named as passing clouds brushed its’ summit. Continuing to head east, we came up on a nearly vacant Tenaya Lake. We parked at the east end to see if we could navigate around the lake and find a trail. After a half mile or so, we discovered the recent rains had swamped most of the shore.
The only sounds were the wind blowing through the conifers and the waves lapping the shore. Driving to the west end of Tenaya, we made our way along the shore, hopping from slab to slab of granite, over boulders and through the bogs. Hoping that we could reach the south shore, we were disappointed to find an area that would normally be accessible, under 2 feet of water. The trail was in sight, but just out of reach. It was in the 40’s and not wanting to get wet, we settled on exploring the shoreline.
All in all, a trip to Tenaya Lake and Tuolumne Grove in the fall are quiet getaways and decent places to picnic. No crowds and a good place to explore.