YOSEMITE – It is always a treat to take a walk or hike in Yosemite National Park (YNP). As the seasons change so does the scenery, with such rapid grace sometimes that nearly every moment on the trail reveals a fresh secret as you move through a landscape filled with treasures of long ago that remain today.
Have you ever taken a guided walk with professionals along to help translate the language of history as you traverse its path?
Now visitors have a chance to do so, on two different hikes inside the Park, both led by area archeologists who really know the lay of the land and the stories that go with it.
Photographs by Virginia Lazar. Click on images to enlarge.
The Redwoods in Yosemite is offering special summer tours of historic Wawona inside YNP. For a fee, guests on the trail can learn about the plants, wildlife, history and habitats of the pristine and ever-evolving forest.
Both guided tours are considered easy-to-moderate in terms of difficulty, with minimal elevation gains. Each tour lasts between 1.5 to 3 hours and the hike runs 2 to 4 miles in length. Walkers must be in good physical condition to participate, and dressed in a manner consistent with safely hiking. Prepaid reservations are required 24 hours in advance.
One choice is the Wawona Meadow Loop. The 3-mile journey takes off Fridays and Sundays at 9 a.m., lasting until 11 a.m. or later, depending on the group. To get to the meeting point, cross over to Wawona Golf Course on the first road located directly across from the entrance to the Wawona hotel, and gather at the trailhead. Parking is adjacent to the trailhead.
This is a nice, mostly shady walk that takes visitors through a series of incredible vistas, from stream to fields and mountains. Not only is the big view outstanding at every step of this trail, the small view is not to be missed either, thanks to the guides.
Redwoods’ guides Adam Crowther and Adam Wilde are both archeologists with the Forest Service in the Bass Lake Ranger District. “The two Adams” were a valuable resource when it came to identifying everything from miner’s lettuce to Ponderosa pines, named after the word that means “massive.” Taking a group of volunteers from the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau along on a guided hike, the two Adams talked of wolf lichen, tree tags, paper wasp nests, and more, all as the sweet smell of incense cedar wafted through the slowly-warming woods.
We were reminded on our walk, among other things, that there is no blue quite like the blue of a robin’s egg, exposed after its occupant had grown and flown away. Wawona Meadow Loop is one of just three trails groomed for dogs inside Yosemite, so it’s okay to take Rover as long as you’ve got a 6′ leash and a scoop for poop.
For an opportunity to see Wawona’s historic swinging bridge, take the 2-mile, 2-hour tour on Fridays and Sundays that starts at noon. For the swinging bridge, meet at the Redwoods in Yosemite Registration Meetings and Events Center at 8038 Chilnualna Falls Road in Wawona. This walk takes you from The Redwoods property through the forest to one of the area’s least known and most charming relics, where water rushes beneath your feet. That rushing water is just one of the reasons to wear proper shoes and socks for what you may consider light hiking, or serious walking. Either way, as long as you’re comfortable, you’ll have a grand experience.
We learned of the four species of lupine, the dirty deeds of the California borer beetle, and the importance of riparian meadows, where Yosemite’s first people could prepare food and watch for game coming out of the hills. Later, that same land was patrolled by Buffalo Soldiers in the United States Army, and even more recently, was an airstrip. Nothing was off-limits for questions, provided the basic “take only pictures, leave only footprints” rules of Park hiking were followed. The tours and their guides come highly recommended.
The cost for adults to go on one tour is $29, and kids 5-12 are charged $19. There’s a family rate to cover 2 adults and 2 kids for $77 per guided tour.
The Redwoods also offers a discount to those who go on both hikes: adults on two tours pay $39 each and kids pay $24. The family of 2 adults and 2 kids goes on both hikes for $99.
A 10% discount applies for Redwoods guests. If you’ve never stayed at the Redwoods in Yosemite, check out the website and give them a call. Manager and outdoors-guru Donna Davis explained that the meeting and events area at The Redwoods is undergoing a dramatic overhaul that will enable the facility to host even bigger and better events in the future. As a bonus, their gift-shop fridge is full of yummy organic salads and more for sale to the hurried – or unhurried – traveler. Happy trails!