Tag Archives: Yosemite National Park

Expedition to the Fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree continued…..


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!

Expedition to the Fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree

Fallen Tree Description

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.

The Youngest Member of Our Group Hiking to the Wawona Tree

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.

Fire, Death, and New Beginnings

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.

Wildflowers of Yosemite

Spotted Coralroot Orchid

One of the wild orchids found in Yosemite – a spotted coralroot.

Applegate's Paintbrush

In this cluster of Applegate’s Paintbrush the flowers ranged from orange to yellow. One of the yellow flower heads can be seen in the background near the top.

Western Wallflower

Some Western Wallflowers near a fallen sequoia that has survived a forest fire.

Wild Iris

A close up of an Iris.

Yosemite '12 208

Another Iris with a wild strawberry flowering in the left side of this photograph.

Blue Flowering Shrub

I’ve been unable to identify this flowering shrub at this point so any help would be appreciated.

Locust Tree in Flower

This appears to be some sort of Locust Tree in bloom.

Moss Covering Trees

Maybe not a flowering plant but I loved the bright green moss covering the bark of these trees.

Closeup of the Moss

The moss close up.

Snowflowers on the Hillside

This hillside was devoid of any other vegetation but these snowflowers insisted on flowering.

Close up of a Snowflower

One of the snowflowers close-up. They were near the end of their blooming period.


White cinquefoils in full bloom.

Wild Lupine

Wild Lupines were blooming in many areas of Yosemite during June. Many of them were 3 – 4 feet tall along the roadside while others were maybe a foot in height like this one.

Mountain Dogwood

The Mountain Dogwoods were near the end of their flowering stage but there were still a few showing off for us.

Phlox Creeping Out From a Boulder

It’s amazing where plants can live. Even under this boulder phlox can survive.

Dinner at the Ahwahnee

Dinner at Ahwahnee

In place of the luxury tax on the traditional Monopoly Board, the National Parks edition has Dinner at the Ahwahnee which is located in Yosemite Valley inside the Ahwahnee Hotel. This is an upscale restaurant requiring a casual dress attire or more in order to enter and be seated. There were those wishing to dine that did not have the proper dress attire of collard shirts and long pants or a dress, skirt or slacks and blouses for the ladies who were given two choices: either borrow the proper attire from the hotel or dine elsewhere.

The Entrance to The Ahwahnee Hotel with Thurman the Truck Just Off to the Side.

We had made reservations a week earlier as our schedule was tight and we wanted to be sure and fulfill this location on our board as there are no intentions of returning to Yosemite National Park before this board game is complete. As our time neared, as usual we were running a little late so I quickly made my why to the host stand to check in and let them know we were running late but were there for our reservations. The host looked at me with my t-shirt, shorts and hat just about to remind of the dress policy when I cut him off explaining that we would be late because we needed to change before being seated. Turning back towards the rest of my family we proceeded to a changing area. Many of you would call it a restroom but for us it was our changing room for the evening.

The Ahwahnee Hotel and Restuarant During the Day

Returning to the host stand waiting to be seated the host once again asked if we had reservations to which I replied yes, gave him the name and mentioned I was the one who moments before stopped by. Surprised he said he didn’t recognize me and quickly found us a table. I guess that could be considered a good thing. Once seated we were given drinks and bread along with being introduced to our waiter George. George has been at that restaurant for 42 years and is the most senior member of their staff. It seemed fitting that we should be served by the most senior member in our efforts to complete this board.

Inside This Historic Dining Room

Once inside the atmosphere was beautiful. Built with numerous windows to take in the sights of Yosemite while dining and decorated with stone and wood added to the overall experience of this park. It has been obviously updated since originally built to include electric lighting but still gives the feel of dining by candlelight for an authentic experience. A piano was softly being played to add to the ambiance of this historic dining room. During the evening we recognized many of the songs being played as the kids have practiced most of the music during their efforts to learn how to play piano.

Having looked over the menu on-line we knew ahead of time the selections available for dinner along with the hefty prices for those plates. In past experience when a meal is fairly pricey the portions are generous as well. In this case I was somewhat disappointed in the amount of food we received for the cost. Anticipated generous portion sizes we had determined ahead of time that we would share meals allowing us enough room for dessert in the end without any leftovers. Turns out we could have each had our own entrée and still had room for desert.

My Rotisserie Chicken

I indulged in the rotisserie chicken which comes in a seafood sauce. I’m not a fan of most seafood so I was living on the edge to begin with. The chicken was excellent and the sauce was to match except for the scallops and that is strictly due to the texture of scallops which I do not care for. In addition I ordered a spinach salad which was small but delicious. To end our meal we ordered a red velvet cake. This was definitely the best part of the meal! Sorry, no photos of the desert as the batteries died on the camera. We ate it to fast and didn’t think of capturing this with the camera first.

Enjoying Dinner at the Ahwahnee

Finishing desert it was time to locate the Monopoly Board to get another property signed. I made my way back to the vehicle we were using to locate our board along with the pen to be used and hurried back. Night was fleeting and we wanted to get to the top of the mountain for the sunset and take in a clear star filled sky later. Discussing our intention of our travels with people at the host desk they suggested George be the one to sign it (it wasn’t until this moment that we were informed of his tenure at the Ahwahnee). They quickly fetched him and the board was signed. Completing our experience we explored more of the hotel and headed out to witness the end of another day.

The Ahwahnee at Night

Exploring Yosemite

Yosemite Falls Upper and Lower

Before leaving on this adventure I had heard about and seen pictures of Half Dome and several of the waterfalls. I also new that this was the third busiest national park in 2011 so there were likely to be a lot of people visiting during the summer. We had made reservations at the Ahwahnee Hotel for dinner as this holds a spot on the Monopoly National Parks Board. Other than that, I didn’t even look at a map or things to do before making this trip so I didn’t even know where we needed to go for dinner. Part of this was due to the craziness of spring with school activities coming to an end along with extracurricular activities ending and all of the end of year celebrations that go along with that. Being a horticulturalist I was also working hard in the yard as life was returning and getting things ready for the up coming summer. Part of my lack of preparation was wanting to be somewhat surprised and flexible to explore whatever caught our attention.

A Giant Sequoia

After arriving at our overnight lodging we headed to Yosemite National Park for a few hours of adventure. We stayed outside the park in Oakhurst as many of the areas inside the park were filled before we could make reservations and the cost was somewhat less. There was no disappointment as we headed to Mariposa Grove to get a glance at the giant sequoias. I have seen some large trees but these were almost unbelievable they can grow so large. There were a lot of people walking around which I expected but there were still areas of solitude allowing us to listen to nature around us so all was good. As night was beginning to fall it was time to leave and hopefully catch the setting sun over the mountains.

Half Dome

Our first full day provided us with warm temperatures and blue sky as Glacier Point was our first destination for the first glimpse of Yosemite Valley. Along the way we stopped a time or two to take in the sights. There was even a park ranger filming a video. Not sure for what, we didn’t ask but this is California. Filming is expected I think. Once arriving at Glacier Point we started to get a taste of all of the other people visiting. Parking became a little more of a challenge and there were plenty of lines for the bathrooms. Make sure you plan extra time if going during the summer for lines and finding parking.Views from here are phenomenal! All at one time you can see Half Dome and several waterfalls along with most of Yosemite Valley where people are full of activity. Bring binoculars and you can see people climbing Half Dome. They look like ants busily exploring one area or another.

Yosemite Valley

As early afternoon could quickly turn into evening we decided it was time to go down into the valley and locate the location of our dinner plans. It takes about an hour to get into the valley with plenty to see along the way. You may get carsick as there are many twists and turns jolting you from one side of the vehicle towards the other as you meander down the road. Along the way there is a tunnel carved out of the mountain adding to the interest of the trip. Once out of the tunnel you are struck with an amazing and popular view of Yosemite Valley. Moving on towards the village we stopped and became mesmerized by the base of a Bridalveil Falls. Watching as the water plunges toward you and feeling the mist as the breeze directs the falls towards you was well worth a few minutes to stop. Continuing on we began to feel the presence of so many people as the only way to find parking was to wait for another vehicle to leave. With an hour or so to spare before dinner we stopped at the visitor center to look over the exhibits and took in a quick ranger program. Then it was off to the Ahwahnee for dinner.

Sunset on the Way Back to Glacier Point

After dinner it was time to take in a little wildlife viewing, sometimes a little closer than desired, and off to find a nice location to see the sunset and possibly take in the night sky. Off to Glacier Point once again as this is partially on the way back to our hotel and was high enough we could possibly still catch the setting sun. Along the way a Coyote decided to play chicken with the vehicle. We won. (there were no animals injured during this adventure) Unfortunately we missed the setting sun and had to settle for the evening sky and wait for the stars to appear. As the night grew darker we could see hikers as they descended from Half Dome using flashlights (In the photo below if you look hard enough you can see bright light on the left side of Half Dome towards to bottom. That is a hiker descending). Being exhausted from the day’s activities it was time to return to the hotel and catch a few hours of sleep.

Night Sky Over Half Dome

The final day was filled with a 5 mile hike to explore many of the sequoias in Mariposa Grove. For many it may seem odd that we could fill a day with this short of a hike but I would like to mention we were with 5 children and the youngest was 4 years old. This is not just a straight hike, there are many stopping points along the way such as playing in the water whenever there is a stream, climbing any available rock, and playing around the trees. This does not even include the water, snack, and bathroom breaks. Are you starting to understand? Besides, it was not a race but an opportunity to explore our surroundings. I was amazed at the number of people we encountered along the way. How do you keep things as natural as possible when there are so many people beating the trails through the forest? This is the dilemma for the National Park Service. Maintaining nature while allowing as many people as want to explore it. After the hike it was off to find a ranger to sign our board and get something to eat. There is so much more I would like to do but that seems to be the case at most of the parks. Our Monopoly Travels were never meant to be full explorations, just a taste of what each park has to offer in an attempt to experience different landscapes and cultures that the United States has to offer.


More Giant Sequoias

An Easy National Parks Trip?

Yosemite  Dinner at Ahwahnee     Nat'l Parks Image Map     Isle Royale

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.

Map Showing Location of Isle Royale

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.… This Tent is a Little Big for Hiking

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.