A few feet beyond this marker you could see more large sequoias and a building which turned out to be restrooms. Just beyond the restrooms there, in the midst of a stand of redwoods was the museum. The sight causes you to forget the distance hiked as you become engrossed in the amazing view in front of you. This little cabin surrounded by giant trees making it appear as though it is a little play house in a forest. Almost as if you have entered a different world. I felt like an ant playing among a few trees. This was a feeling I have never experienced before and not sure how to understand it now. Thinking back, it makes me laugh and appreciate the feeling was so odd. Always exploring looking for new experiences. This was definitely a new experience. It’s not like being in an airplane with everything else near the ground looking so small. If allowed, you will feel inferior to the surroundings becoming afraid of nature and any animals that might come your way. Fearing they will also be giant in scale able to squash you like a bug with no defense.
After taking in these impressive moments we continued on to reach our destination of the Fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree. The trail continues up in elevation a little more ending near a paved road used by the tram and a large tree laying on the ground. This is a great opportunity to explore a giant sequoia up, down, inside, and out. You can get a sense of just how large some these trees get as their diameter is taller than you are when lying on the ground and the length just seems to keep going. The children spent several minutes playing around inside this tree and climbing on top of it (after I showed them how to get on top of the tree of course). This tree alone may not justify the hike but along with the trees near the museum it was definitely worth it.
Having to hike back we decided it was time to get off the fallen tree and begin our journey back to the vehicles. As we headed back we took in as much of the sequoias as possible and the feeling of being extremely tiny in this world. One more stop to re-fill water bottles at the museum and another bathroom break. We were off taking the same trail looking forward to sitting down on a cushioned seat again. Shortly after heading back down the trail we encountered another family wondering the same thing we did at that point – “are we close yet?” Laughing we explained how close they were and those were our exact thoughts at that same area on the trail. There was a sense of relief in their faces knowing their destination was near. Funny to be on both sides of wondering just how much further at that spot on the trail.
Our hike back took only half as long as it did to get up to the museum as this time it was all down hill. The joy of being back at the parking lot brought a stop to the gift shop for ice cream before letting the vehicles do the work for awhile as we headed to get the monopoly board signed before leaving Yosemite National Park for the last time. The children all slept well that night. Probably the adults too!
A few days after hiking in Mariposa Grove, we were intrigued by the lure of the Fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree further up the trail and decided this would be a nice hike to end our time in Yosemite. According to the sign posts along the trail this was a little over 4 miles to hike. Using My Tracks from Google, we hiked over 5 miles almost 6 miles (in an effort to appease our travel companions from HobbyJeep.com). Either way this is a long distance for a 4 year old (the youngest of our group of 9) to walk and she did this remarkably well.
There is an alternative to hiking to the Wawona Tunnel Tree, you can purchase a ride on the tram going from the parking lot to the tree and back taking just over an hour. There are a couple of reasons this did not fit into our objectives. Cost was the first deterrent. For a group of 2 or so the cost isn’t so bad but for a group of 9 the expense became larger than we were comfortable with. Next, the challenge of a hike this distance for the kids would be a good experience. Finally, the tram only stops twice for people to get on and off to explore these incredible trees. We didn’t find this out until after we got to the museum near the tunnel tree. By hiking we were able to walk among many sequoias and enjoy the trail. In addition, for the Monopoly Travelers, this was a good opportunity to experience a nice hike before heading to Isle Royale National Park where hiking would be our only method of travel.
Armed with a pack consisting of fruit and trail bars along with plenty of water and our cameras it was off to the trail. Don’t forget the med kit as scratches are very possible. The first mile was familiar as we reached a number of trees visited a few days prior such as the Grizzly Giant and California Tunnel Tree. Soon it was on to new trails exploring vistas we haven’t seen in search for more amazing vistas. After hiking about 2 hours we were starting to wonder how far away it was as we hadn’t passed anyone in a little while. It is at these times your mind plays tricks on you as you begin to wonder if you missed a turn somewhere or took a wrong turn earlier. Fighting these detrimental thoughts we pressed on and approached the top of the hill we had been climbing to entire time and found a trail marker. In addition to the mileage we were also climbing about 800 feet in altitude. The marker told us we were near the museum and still on the right track.
The planning for this summers Monopoly National Parks board trips are in full progress. Our destinations include Yosemite National Park which includes a stop at Ahwahnee for dinner and Isle Royale National Park. These were expected to be fairly easy trips to plan because we’re meeting some friends in California and then heading to Yosemite for a few days. This is a somewhat familiar area for us as we have been there visiting various friends and relatives so we have a good idea of what we need to do and where to go. Isle Royale is the closest park to us on the Monopoly Board so again should be fairly easy to plan for.
As is often the case, what should be the easiest may turn out to be one of the biggest challenges. The challenges with Yosemite come in from finding a suitable place to stay. We questioned camping however that idea came a few days to late as it was a few days after campsite reservations became available. Apparently campsites fill up minutes after becoming available. Who knew? Certainly not me. A good learning experience. There’s a few options left but we probably should get it nailed down soon or there may be no more options left.
Isle Royale is one of the locations I was most excited to see since it is practically in my own back yard and yet provides a very different atmosphere than I am use to. Since this is within a few hours drive time (~5 hours to be exact) we could take a quick trip to Northern Minnesota, hop on a boat for a couple of hours, tour the area close to one of the visitor centers, and get back on the boat for a return trip to our car and be done. Did I mention that this park requires special transportation since it is on an Island in Lake Superior? Interestingly this is the one place where Minnesota and Michigan border each other.
I have wanted to camp in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area for a number of years and have not fulfilled that desire. Camping on Isle Royale would qualify in my opinion. Unfortunately we are restricted to 40 pounds of gear each on the boat without further costs. The boat ride already is getting more expensive than I was counting on at $67 per person per way bringing a total for 4 of us to $536 just to get there. That does not include a fuel surcharge, parking, and park fees. In order to camp on the island we are going to need full camping and hiking gear including a tent, backpacks, food, water, cooking supplies, etc.…
I don’t’ think my 10 person tent is going to work very well on this trip. It could very well weigh 40 pounds all by itself. When the realization of what we are up against hit me it was very daunting and exciting. Never camping while hiking before makes me a little nervous. Now add that I’m going to be going with my wife and two younger children really added to this nervousness. I’ve been spending countless hours researching Isle Royale and what is needed in order to make this a great experience for all. My nerves have been settling after reading and looking at necessary equipment. The excitement is returning for mid-August when this trip is planned for. Fortunately I started planning for this early enough to locate what we need and practice a little before we go. Now the big question is – can I carry 40 pounds of gear while hiking for several days? Also, can we fit everything we need into the packs for me, Karen, and the kids? Okay, so there are more than just one question at this time. In addition, we are hoping to include Voyageurs National Park for a few days. This also presents challenges since much of this park requires a boat. Still much to learn and prepare for.