May 24, 2015 – Another early start, but this time with lots of sun. We wanted to get on the road quickly since our first destination was the Mariposa Grove. We got there around 9am, and while the parking lot was crowded, it wasn’t yet full. There were, however, lots of very loud, very excited people.
We quickly started our hike to the Upper Grove, and were glad to see that the tram wasn’t yet running. In fact, Yosemite is taking out the tram during the Mariposa restoration scheduled to open in Spring 2017. Keep in mind that the grove will be closed until then, and you’ll have to get your big tree fixes in elsewhere. Tuolumne Grove, Sequoia National Park, and Muir Woods are two alternatives that we like.
Our route of choice was the Outer Loop, at least for a bit. We eventually cut back in towards the roadway, since that was the quickest route to the Grove. The Upper Grove is one of our favorite spots in the park. Huge (really, really huge) trees dwarf the small cabin there, and the entire place is incredibly peaceful. You also loose all sense of scale when surrounded by so many very tall trees, in a way that I never have when walking through Manhattan.
Normally we turn around and head back, but today the weather was perfect, so we decided to continue on up the stairs and further into the forest. As we walked we began to be surrounded by Sequoias, and were able to see over 20 trees from some spots on the trail. When given the choice of left or right, we picked left. Louisa thought it might take her towards a ridgeline; it actually led to an overlook at Wawona Point. Somehow we were the only ones there, and had the spot to ourselves for about half an hour before other hikers appeared. On the way down we took the Outer Loop, making sure to head towards the parking lot and not the Wawona Valley. We passed less than a handful of people, and enjoyed our time meandering around the Sequoia and Sugar pine trees.
Our plan was to head into the Valley for lunch. Instead we found a parking spot along the side of the road on the way out of the park and had a picnic lunch in the car (since the Valley was closed to additional car traffic – we were caught in that yesterday, and it took an hour to get from Bridalveil to the Falls parking lot). We headed through the brush and found the trail running along El Capitan. The trail was perfect for a stroll. Many others were headed down the trail to play the “spot the climber” game, where people pointed out the climbers heading up El Capitan. However, given the number of people in the Valley, the trail wasn’t very crowded, and we were able to enjoy a nice, bird-filled walk.
Afterwards we didn’t even try to fight the traffic back into the Valley. Instead we headed towards Oakhurst, where we had great pizza and beer at Round Table Pizza. We also discovered we really miss having easy access to mountains and hiking. Finally the Valley cleared out, and we had a peaceful drive back into the park around 9pm.