On our first morning in Sequoia National Park (having explored some of the Giant Forest the previous evening), John and I drove through the Giant Forest to the Moro Rock trailhead. There we climbed up to the summit of a granite dome that is notable for having a readily accessible concrete stairway built into it (complete with railings… at least for part of the way!) for non-climbers such as myself. Trivia of note: the unlikely stairway itself, an engineering and construction feat, is in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
Alongside panting tourists and some more well-prepared hikers, I carefully walked up the 1/4 mile (300+ feet elevation gain) of stairs, treated to incredible pine and chaparral-blanketed mountain vistas all along the way.
After this little adventure, we continued following the footsteps of John Muir by visiting Crescent Meadow—which he nicknamed the “Gem of the Sierras.” Muir writes about it in an essay on pioneer Hale Tharp:
“Resting awhile … it seemed impossible that any other forest picture in the world could rival it. There lay the grassy, flowery lawn, three fourths of a mile long, smoothly outspread, basking in mellow autumn light, colored brown and yellow and purple, streaked with lines of green along the streams, and ruffled here and there with patches of ledum and scarlet vaccinium. Around the margin there is first a fringe of azalea and willow bushes, colored orange yellow, enlivened with vivid dashes of red cornel, as if painted.
Then up spring the mighty walls of verdure three hundred feet high, the brown fluted pillars so thick and tall and strong they seem fit to uphold the sky; the dense foliage, swelling forward in rounded bosses on the upper half, variously shaded and tinted, that of the young trees dark green, of the old yellowish. An aged lightning-smitten patriarch standing a little forward beyond the general line with knotty arms outspread was covered with gray and yellow lichens and surrounded by a group of saplings whose slender spires seemed to lack not a single leaf or spray in their wondrous perfection.
Such was the Kaweah meadow picture that golden afternoon, and as I gazed every color seemed to deepen and glow as if the progress of the fresh sun-work were visible from hour to hour, while every tree seemed religious and conscious of the presence of God.” —John Muir
Crescent Meadow is a gloriously lush, marsh-like, medium-sized meadow ringed by sequoias and other conifers, quaking aspen trees, and fern-carpeted slopes, adjoined by the equally beautifully (and less tourist-y) Log Meadow. The fragile meadows themselves are protected from the trampling of visitors, so we took a leisurely hike in the forested areas looping around the two meadows, stopping to snack on trail mix while watching deer snack on leaves. The atmosphere was idyllic as we took in the delicate music of a small creek (a common feature of the forests and meadows in the area) and the colors of diminutive, elegant wildflowers, which were plentiful in this moderate late-spring weather.
Hoping to reach our room at the historic Wawona Hotel before dark, we made the 2 1/2 hour drive up through the southern gate of Yosemite National Park and into Wawona, where we enjoyed yet more beautiful meadow and forest scenery on a sunset hike on a loop trail around the (mosquito-infested yet lovely) meadow adjoining the golf course across Highway 41 from the hotel. Tucking into dinner in the super-quaint old fashioned dining room then settling into our room, we prepared ourselves for the following day and our first glimpse of the great Yosemite Valley.
Return to the On the Road to Capture John Muir’s Yosemite to view the other entries in this series.