The Giants of California

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Bachelor and Three graces

No, we are not talking about the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants, but rather the majestic largest trees on the planet – the Giant Sequoias.  Along picturesque highway 395 is the gateway to Yosemite National Park from the east.  No, we did not stop at Yosemite on this trip, but we did spend about a week there a few months before our retirement.  Since Yosemite National Park is located in the Eastern Sierra we decided to insert our past excursion to the Giant Sequoias at Mariposa Grove.  Our previous blog was about the Ancients, this one is about the Giants.

Mariposa Groove

Mariposa Grove

These giants are not the oldest living things, that title belongs to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine tree that we talked about in our previous post.  In total volume, the giant sequoias are the largest living things known to humans.  However, they are far outlived by the Bristlecone pine (4600 years old while the Sequoias only make it to around 3266 years).  The Bristlecones grow extremely slowly, while the Sequoias owe their size to rapid growth rather than their age.

We took the tram that winds through the Giant Forest, where we were awestruck by the Sequoia’s grandiosity and their massive trunk size.  They are not only tall, (you have to crane your neck straight up to see the top), but they are also broad – a car can be driven through some of them!  We got off the tram and hiked down to get a closer look at the many incredible giants in the forest.  We were indeed the dwarfs walking among the giants – an indescribable feeling.

Meet a few of the Giants…from the Mariposa Grove.

The Grizzly Giant is number 26 on the largest tree list and is estimated to be 1800 years old.  It is indeed a grizzly – its tall, its huge and enormous!

Grizzly giant

Grizzly Giant

Trunk of Grizzly Giant

Trunk of Grizzly Giant

The Clothespin Tree is named as such for it looks like a clothespin from afar.  The natural tunnel caused by numerous fires is wide and can fit a car.

Clothespin Tree

Clothespin Tree

Mariposa Tree

Mariposa Tree

Bachelor and Three graces

Bachelor and Three graces

The fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree collapsed in 1969 under a record snow load after being weakened by the massive hole in its base.  Note that the Sequoias do not have deep taproots, rather the roots are spread out as far as 150 feet fairly near the surface to provide a stable base to balance its massive size.

Fallen Monarch

A Fallen Giant

The California Tunnel Tree was cut in 1895 to allow horse drawn stages to pass through and is the only remaining tunnel tree in the forest.

California Tunnel Tree

California Tunnel Tree

Because the Yosemite National Park is world-famous, it was, of course, crowded during the summer with traffic and parking somewhat problematic.  The shuttle that services the thousands of visitors are overly crowded as well.  Our tip – if you visit during the summer be sure to get into the park as early as possible every day.  Despite the crowds, the magnificent beauty of Yosemite is unsurpassed.

On this trip, we camped at Yosemite Pines Campground in Groveland, which is about 30 minutes from the west gate.  Betsy had to be parked outside of the park due to her size.

A few of the many stunning vistas and natural beauty of Yosemite National Park, gem of the Eastern Sierra.

Yosemite Valley

Stunning Yosemite Valley

Hetch Hetchy

Controversial Hetch Hetchy, also known as the Little Yosemite

Half Dome at Glacier Point

View of Half Dome from Glacier Point

Top of Vernal Falls

Top of Vernal Falls, a few days later three visitors fell to their death as they climb behind the guard rail

Defying the odds – Ancient Bristlecone Pine Tree

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Gnarled Bristlecone

We are so behind with our storytelling not only because we’ve had no internet connection but also we are having so much fun and enjoying so much beautiful scenery.  For now lets go to White MountainContinue reading

State of Arrested Decay – the Ghost town of Bodie

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Downtown Bodie

A must-see along scenic 395 (if you like ghost towns as Steve does) is a landmark, Bodie State Historical Park.  Bodie is the remains of the famously rowdy gold mining town sitting at 8,375 feet elevation, located northeast of Yosemite National Park 13 miles east of Highway 395.

Panorama of the Bodie the Ghost Town

The remains of the baddest rowdy town of Bodie

Only about 5 percent of the buildings remaining from the 1880’s are still standing in perhaps the West’s best preserved ghost town.  The Park Service keeps them in a state of “arrested decay,”  protected but not restored.  What this means is they will replace items that break (like roofs and stairs), but they do not completely restore anything.  This leaves most of the buildings looking very much as they did well over 100 years ago.  The interiors are maintained as they were left, providing a snapshot of the past.  Looking around, we observed golden hues of wood weathered by more than a century of wind, rain, sun, snow and leaning walls propped up by old beams. Continue reading

Some hidden gems along the Eastern Sierra – Scenic 395

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Convict Lake

We’ve been on this road before, yet the scenery on Highway 395 remains awe-inspiring. We had never explored much of what lies beyond the highway, the less-traveled roads that brought us deep into the area’s natural wonders and very colorful history.  Folks who have a strong interest in geology would find this place paradise.  For us who simply want to gawk and experience its beauty, it’s best to simply spend as much time discovering hidden corners and appreciate it firsthand.  We are a couple of weeks late in enjoying the full fall splendor, as the autumn colors are beginning to fade and the temps are dropping.  And yes, we realize we can’t do it all at once – especially with some areas already closed for the season.  However, there were enough beautiful sights here to persuade us to extend our stay for a couple of days.  We will come back again to do more of our favorite outdoor activity – hiking.  There are many opportunities here but we are somewhat rushed to outrun the winter weather.  I know what you’re thinking – oh those poor people with nothing else to do but follow the sun! Continue reading

Begin Eastern Sierra Scenic Byway – Mono County

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Bridgeport Reservoir with Sawtooth Ranges in the background

In the past we have driven over most of highway 395 but never stopped to smell the roses, for we had to go from point A to B and overlooked many beautiful locations.  Besides, those times we drove during summer and winter season and it is quite different now in  the fall.  We will be sharing beautiful sceneries that are often overlooked by Californians when driving through this road, us included. Continue reading

Our Alaska adventure parting thoughts and stats

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Above is Our Alaska Adventure Route, the red pins on our way in and the purple ones on our way out.

Exploring Alaska on our first year of full-timing was considered ambitious and brave by some of our friends.  But we’re so glad we did it!  The experience taught us so much in a very short time.  We learned to navigate tight spaces, deal with rough roads, make due with minimal utilities and live in remote campgrounds with like-minded adventurers.  We have synchronized to perfection our tasks of moving in and out of tight sites and hooking and unhooking the tow.  We feel more than ready to live on the road full time from now on. Continue reading