Jordan, our guide and driver for our 15-day tour of national parks, thought the giant sequoias of Tuolumne Grove were the perfect way to start out visit to Yosemite.
And he was right.
Toulumne is one of three sequoia groves in Yosemite, and has about 25 mature trees, all with their distinctive red wood. The other groves are Mariposa (closed for restoration work until June 2018) and Merced.
We checked out a slice of a huge sequoia that was cut down many decades ago. The timeline marked on the slice shows that the tree, when felled, was more than 2000 years ago, and the bark was more than one-foot thick.
We followed the path down what was the Big Oak Flat Road. It was one of the earliest tourist routes and, even though it was treacherous, it was popular with miners, ranchers and loggers.
Back then, sequoias covered an extensive range, but today they grow only in isolated groves on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains. To survive, the sequoias need moisture (mostly from winter snows) and periodic fires to reduce the number of competing species and open the forest canopy.
Jordan spotted two kinds of pine cones—one complete and one well munched by wildlife, probably squirrels. We even saw an ‘offending’ squirrel, as well as a deer in the distance.
We also had the chance to see the sequoia with a hole cut through the middle, and one that had fallen many decades ago.
In looking up information for this post, I discovered that the name sequoia was given to these trees by Austrian botanist Stephan Endlicher in 1847. He never explained why he chose that name, but the most common guess is that Endlicher, a linguist as well as a botanist, named the genus in honour of Sequoyah, the inventor of the first Cherokee writing system. I hope that’s true.