That was Saturday’s word of the day, according to our guide, National Park Ranger Dick Ewart. Dick led a group of 15 of us on a hike through the lower Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias in Yosemite National Park. He entertained us with personal stories, Yosemite history and the reasons that sequoiadendron are SUCCESSFUL and survive.
Dick informed us that the name for the sequoia trees comes from Chief Sequoyah (c. 1770–1840), a Cherokee who never lived in California and who created a system of writing in the Cherokee language. He surprised us with a tale of newspapers being flown to the former Wawona airport with a fly-by newspaper drop at the Forest Service look-out atop a nearby peak. He showed us the auger marks on the inside of the Tunnel Tree, where the drilling through the tree began. And he reminded us that continued fires are essential for the sequoiadendron to survive and that the Park Service has SUCCESSFULLY re-introduced fire into the forest.
We started early, under clear 8°F skies, and were the first people to reach the Mariposa Grove that morning. The giant sequoias are awe-inspiring any time of year, but they take your breath away when viewed in their covering of winter snow. The loudest sound of the day was snow crunching underfoot; the faintest, the sound of a chickadee. We kept moving to stay warm and stopped in tiny, sunny open spaces to capture the slightly-warmer rays of the sun.
The conversations were wide-ranging and included much about the intersection of humans and nature in Yosemite. The definitions of “appropriate” behavior and development continue to shift. A new draft Merced River Plan was released last week—it is the Park Service’s third attempt to strike an acceptable balance between the public demand for access and protecting the park’s resources. By 3 p.m. we were back at the parking lot, saying our good-byes to our fellow hikers and to Dick, who had made the day so much fun.
The Yosemite Conservancy sponsors four snowshoe treks each winter. This was the first of this winter. Check out the Conservancy’s website to learn about the others and to learn about all the wonderful work being accomplished by the collaboration between the staffs of the Conservancy and the Park.