Two days after Mariposa Grove opened to the public after three years of refurbishing, I joined the Oakhurst Senior Hikers on their eight-mile trek June 17 from the snow play area and around the back gate following a forgotten dirt road into Mariposa Grove.
I’ve hiked this road several times in the last few decades. My most memorable adventure was eight years ago when Clem Bingham and I after a snowstorm decided to complete this loop into the grove trying out our new snowshoes. This was a new and exciting experience for both of us, forging our way through virgin snow with drifts over 3 feet. At that time Big Creek was our main obstacle. Over the years without maintenance this creek had cut a deep crevice across this forest road. With the addition of deep snow, I had to remove my snowshoes and dig steps into the snow bank to climb out of the creek’s crevice. Thankful today we do not have this problem. First of all – no snow. Plus, this road has been maintained and I’m looking forward to previewing the new upgrades to the grove.
After the three-year closure I was not the only one curious of the grove’s makeover. Hikers arrived from Mariposa, Fresno, Madera and Stockton to join our Oakhurst group on this adventure.
Once this back road ended at the Mariposa Grove boundary one could witness the improvements. Pathway surfaces have been updated with boardwalks and new walkway surfaces consisting with a mixture of natural tree sap and other ingredients located within the park’s natural settings. Protecting the giant sequoias are improved railings lining these walkways to preserve the natural surroundings of these 300-plus giant sequoias. Trail, routes and historic identification signs with enlarged directional maps are new for those updated routes throughout the grove.
The Galen Clark Tree was the first giant sequoia viewed by Galen Clark and Milton Mann in 1857. His tree is located east of his cabin on a previously cut trail along the route to Wawona Vista Point. Also another junction trail route leads into the Sierra Wilderness. This trail treks to Biledo Meadow and check your map before hiking this wilderness trail for time and distance. Galen Clark is also credited for naming Mariposa Grove sometime after his original discovery. Its location is within the county of Mariposa.
Three of these giant sequoias are among the 30 largest in the world. Grizzly Giant estimated at between 1,900 and 2,400 years old and is proudly the oldest tree in this grove. The largest by volume is the Washington Tree and the tallest is the Columbia Tree. If one cannot locate these giants, there are many other giants to gaze upon and be amazed of their gigantic size.
On my return I became confused with the new updates and relied on my memory referring back to my previous visits. I took the wrong trail which I thought was a shortcut back to the dirt road, but I was on my way toward Wawona Vista Point. Now this mistake became a positive decision. I needed new photos of the Galen Clark Tree and his tree was along this pathway. Now to double back to the junction and continue descending on the Perimeter Trail to locate the shortcut trail back to the dirt road leading to the park’s boundary.
Today’s adventure lasted over six hours and covered almost nine miles. I was lacking time to visit the new museum at the grove’s main entrance, so I’ll schedule another visit to complete this adventure. The improvements I experienced will more than make anyone’s visit a memorable experience into this grove of giant sequoias.
Tony Krizan writes a regular outdoors column for the Sierra Star. Contact him at email@example.com.