RETURN TO NATURE (ISH): There was a day, oh, long about the mid-century, when snack bars and gift shops and parking lots regularly sprung up across this great land on the grounds of a natural wonder or ancient site, very often in close quarters with the treasure in question. Many planners and preservationists have taken a different approach over the last few decades, not only not adding a gift shop that's cheek-by-jowl with a natural wonder, but also stripping away what was added over the last century. The purpose? To again let nature flower and the processes of time take their course without our sticking our hand in (well, sticking our hand in too much). The Restoration of Mariposa Grove, that stately clutch of trees inside Yosemite National Park, is one such wide-scope project that falls in this category. It's a visionary project that Yosemite Conservancy sums up thusly: The project is "an ambitious, multiyear effort to preserve these majestic trees and reverse 150 years of development by balancing visitor needs with ecological patterns." This means that various features around the grove, like trails and such, may be closed "intermittently," while one main feature is set to disband forever: The Big Trees Tram Tour.
FINAL WEEKS: The tour, which takes headphone-wearing visitors among the giants, will run through its typical season, which ends come November. After that "it will permanently end," says the Mariposa Grove site. If the tour isn't your thing, you can still visit Mariposa Grove in the coming year or two, but you might check ahead to see the stage the project is at. Yosemite has also provided other locations where big trees can be found, such as the Tuolumne Grove and Merced Grove, which are both in the park, and Nelder Grove, which is in the Sierra National Forest.