$26: Tuolumne Meadows Campground, Yosemite National Park (CA)
I am camping in Yosemite in July.
I’ll say it again.
I am camping
After I wrote yesterday’s blog post, I set my mind to a California route from Yerrington Nevada. I really wanted to camp at Deadman. But every time I envisioned that 26% grade over Sonora Pass, I broke out in a cold sweat. I tried to breathe through it, but came up with another plan.
Why not go over Tioga Pass on highway 120? It’s an easier ascent and descent. Maybe if I get there really early, I’ll get a walk-up site in one of the campgrounds. And if not, I’ll have a beautiful drive through and camp somewhere on the West side. Maybe even an early night in Livermore.
But, I had no reservations. In July.
It has been instilled in me since birth to avoid Yosemite in the summer.
Early on I learned: don’t talk to strangers, don’t touch the toilet seat at a rest stop, and don’t camp in Yosemite in the summer. The crowds, the heat, gridlock on the valley floor, the crowds. Did I mention crowds?
We Northern Californians were smarter than that. We knew places to camp that were just as nice, but more remote. Lesser known.
We camped in the popular parks in the off-season. I’m pretty sure the last time I was in the park was a cold November when I was nine. We had Chicken a la King on Roman Meal bread for Thanksgiving. And it was great.
Our campground had a place to faux-prospect for gold. See – on the right.
I remember it was cold. The days were short.
But here I am. Fighting every instinct. Expecting to get a tap on the shoulder from a park ranger, “Move along, sir.”
After a 4:45am start from Yerrington, NV I arrived at the campground at about 7:30am. The “Campground Full” sign was out, as it had been at every state and national campground outside the park, and over Tioga Pass.
A half-dozen folks were bundled up (it was 38 degrees) waiting for the Tuolumne Meadows Campground office to open at 8am. One brought her own chair. They knew what they were doing. They had done this before. I pulled in and waited.
The latest campground gossip was that reserveamerica.gov (Yosemite’s campground reservation service) had double-booked the campground. I found out is was true. Tuolumne is half reservation and half walk-up. Starting August 1, reservemaerica had released the whole campground. The ranger pointed to my trailer, and indicated that trailers that size would not be finding sites beginning then.
But I got a spot at the campground. You may know her two more famous sisters.
Allow me to introduce their Native American half-sister
And her Campground
I unhooked the trailer. One of the early-birds had recommenced Tenaya Lake for the kayak, and I headed that direction. Beautiful lake, but maybe I’ll do that tomorrow morning near dawn. That would be amazing.
I headed down the windy road towards Yosemite Valley. I rounded a corner at Olmsted Point, and was stopped in my tracks. Look at the over-the-shoulder peek-a-boo look from Half-Dome. Seemingly, from above. There was a telescope trained on the ant-trail of hikers tackling it.
In an hour and a half (55 miles), I was entering the valley. There were certainly other cars, but not too many to drive much slower than the posted speeds. The turnouts were getting more full. As I saw more iconic and familiar landmarks, I kept pinching myself to remind myself I was seeing them – in the summer. At the height of their beauty.
I had to stop at Bridalveil Fall. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it full of water.
Broken toe be dammed, I needed to see and feel spray on my face.
Yes, it was busy. But beauty like this was meant to be shared.
I had survived the gauntlet, and headed back to camp to put my foot up.
I’ll say it one last time: I am camping, in Yosemite, in July.