Hug a tree in Yosemite - in the Mariposa Grove AND in Hetch Hetchy Valley

Restored Mariposa Grove Open to Public

Let's Restore Hetch Hetchy Next

Abraham Lincoln decreed in 1864 that Yosemite's Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias was to be protected for all time.

Thanks to the National Park Service and the Yosemite Conservancy, Lincoln's decree is intact. After a four year restoration project, the grove's concrete parking lot and pathways have been removed and it is again open to park visitors.  The project was not for merely aesthetic reasons - the concrete was inhibiting natural soil decomposition and groundwater recharge. The trees - many over 1000 years old - were at risk. The outlook for their long-term health is now much improved.  

At the project's groundbreaking in 2014, elected officials and park service brass couldn't love Yosemite enough. They one-upped each other as they delivered inspiring descriptions of the need to protect the grove as part of Yosemite's integrity and legacy. The Superintendent described the "excess concrete" in the grove as an "embarrassment to Yosemite". He was right, perhaps, but how would one then describe the O'Shaughnessy Dam? (After the groundbreaking, the Fresno Bee was kind enough to publish our editorial opinion: "The Elephant in Yosemite Park".)

So, visit the Mariposa Grove and hug a tree - figuratively, that is, unless you have very long arms.


A visitor shows why tree-hugging among the giant sequoias is more figurative than literal.

Photo: Wikipedia/Public Domain

Speaking of hugging trees, some of the online comments in response to the San Jose Mercury News article on our court hearing were rather negative. A reader named "Taxpayer" opined "Tell these people to go back to their Subaru's, Birkenstocks, hug a redwood tree and leave these decisions up to grown ups". 

They say you're not supposed to "read the comments". I did, however, and this one stuck with me. Subarus? Birkenstocks? The math nerd in me says there may well be some correlation. I wish I had the data to measure it. Both references, however, seemed to say more about the person who made the comment than about us. 

Disliking Subarus and Birkenstocks does seem a bit petty. That's OK, we are all entitled to a little pettiness now and then. But who doesn't like trees?

Joyce Kilmer liked trees. He was an American writer & poet who wrote:

I think that I shall never see 

A poem lovely as a tree 

My son Hector likes trees as well. When he was in the Navy, his "handle" (for radio communications) was "treehugger". The name was given as a bit of a macho tease but he wore it with pride. 

When Hetch Hetchy is restored, the river, sedges and animals will come back very quickly (see 1988 NPS report). The trees will comeback more slowly, so we will be able to put our arms around them in full embrace when they are young. As the trees mature and expand in girth, tree-hugging in Hetch Hetchy may be more figurative - as it is in the Mariposa Grove.