This morning we had a nice breakfast of bagels and fruit, and then got into the van to venture out into Yosemite. When we entered Yosemite, we were at an altitude of 9945 feet. There were snow covered peaks everywhere and we were in an alpine zone. Charlie stopped soon after we got into the park at an overlook spot. I was able to learn about the various zones that you see in Yosemite. At the northeast corner of the park, where we started out, you are in an alpine zone (altitudes of 9500 to 13,000). A few hundred feet above us, you can see that trees do not grow due to the rugged, dry landscape, wind, and intense sunlight. There is still a decent amount of snow, or at least what we would consider decent in SC. As we travel along the Tioga Pass through Yosemite, we are able to see many different elevations from the sub-alpine (8000-9500 feet) down to the upper montane (6000-8000 feet) then to the lower montane (3000 to 6000 feet) and finally down to the foothill zone (1800-3000 feet). I loved seeing the vegetation change as we descended in altitude all the way down to the lower montane zone at. I haven’t yet bought a good tree book, although I have looked for one. I will definitely be getting a tree book of some sort while in Yosemite (I keep a book of eastern trees in the camper, but I think many of these trees aren’t the same that we see in the eastern part of our country.)
After we received our park map, we decided what we wanted to do. We had previously decided that we wanted to see the Giant Sequoia trees here at Yosemite since we had decided to skip Sequoia National Park, so we decided that the Sequoia trees were our first priority. We drove to the opposite end of the park from where we started in order to see the trees. It was a good 3 hour drive to get down there. We had no idea it would take so long, but we got a good feel for how big Yosemite National Park really is. Of course, there was also road construction going on, so that slowed us down a good bit. Going from the rocky, snow-covered peaks of the Sierra Nevadas, to the granite cliffs, then all the way down to the valley beside the Merced River, and finally to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias was one beautiful, unique vista after another.
When we finally made it to the Mariposa Grove where the Giant Sequoias grow, we got out of the van ready for a hike. All that time in the van had us ready to stretch our legs. The children were awed by the size of the Giant Sequoias. They definitely impressed me too, but I was also impressed by the size of some of the pine trees that grow there. We hiked around the forest for about 2.5 miles seeing some of the Giant Sequoias that are in Yosemite. I learned that Sequoias and Redwoods are not the same tree, although they are both in the cypress family. Sequoias reach a huge diameter in their trunk and grow in drier mountain climates but do not grow as tall as Redwoods. Redwoods do not grow as thick as Sequoias and grow in more moisture-rich coastal settings. We also learned that many of the largest Sequoias were fenced off from us walking in close proximity to them because they have very shallow root systems that can be damaged by too much traffic over the top of them. After a wonderful hike, we were back in the van for the LONG drive back to our campground on the opposite side of the park (that only took us about 3 hours).
Dinner was ready for us in the crockpot when we got back, so we had a delicious soup and went to bed anxious to see more of Yosemite the next day.