Tuolumne Meadows and EnvironsSo, to break my recently established, injured-person's lifestyle and actually leave the house for something other than work, I took a long overdue vacation with Steven, and we went up to Tuolumne Meadows.
I have 'a thing' about Tuolumne Meadows, which is funny, because I've spent so little time there. TM was the end point of the backpacking trip up the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River in 2000 (caution, one-way link), the trip that started at the Hetch Hetchy dam and reservoir and gradually, over more than 10,000 feet of climbing mountains adjacent to the river, ended at TM. That was a SPECTACULAR trip: it took place in my favorite river canyon in the world, was my first back packing trip with Steven, and was the trip that inspired him to invite me to live with him. (All together now: awwwww.)
Tuolumne Meadows was a one-night stopover during our 2002 Yosemite High Country trip, which was really two, smaller trips: a short stay in the Valley, with a day hike down from Glacier Point; and a backpacking trip from TM down to the Valley over several days via the Rafferty Creek trailhead. (Both mini-trips were made possible by the bus services provided from the valley: there's a Glacier Point hiker's bus, and a Tuolumne Meadows backpackers' bus. The schedules are limited, so plan ahead.)
Dana Meadows and TM were what made us feel like we returned home after our 2004 sabbatical travels in the Southwest's national parks: I nearly cried just smelling the air as soon as we entered Yosemite through the Tioga Pass entrance. And TM was where we took my dad for his first camping trip in many years in September of 2004, which was a lovely, chilly fall trip. (No, I've never posted any photos from the many rolls of film I shot. Ah, well.)
Considering how many times I've visited Hetch Hetchy in any season, or how often Steven and I have visited the Valley in winter, it doesn't seem like I should have much of a connection to TM. But you don't know that all winter, I read the weekly dispatches from the winter TM rangers at the Tuolumne Meadows winter conditions page, where I watch the snow pile up, week by week, and then read about avalanche conditions, wildlife sightings, long nights, and then the long, long effort to get the Tioga road cleared of snow (and boulders, and downed trees) by July of each year. All the places I love to hike share similar conditions to TM, and so I live vicariously through the rangers (who, unlike me, can cross country ski) until the road to the high country is open, and backpacking season is REALLY here.
I LOVE backpacking season.
Anyway, the lowest snowfall we've had in 28 years or so meant that TM opened unseasonably early (May 11th!!), and the campground opened mid June, after I'd been checking the Yosemite campgrounds page every day...
We went to camp in the regular campgrounds at Tuolumne Meadows from June 20th through the 24th, before word really got out that the campgrounds were open. We scored a site near the river in the "A" section, far from the few motorhomes, generators, and other nature-avoidance-devices that populate other sections of the camp. This was my first trip away from home since I broke my arm. As you've seen in the contraption photo, I was terrified of doing something stupid, or having my brace grab passing trees / rocks / bears / random-bone-breaking-video-game-obstacles, and so I got an elbow pad, and looked 5% more ridiculous than I already did. (My lack of hair control accounted for the final 20% of additional ridiculousness that pushed me over into clown territory: luckily, the brace distracted most people from that.)
On our first afternoon, after blowing a hose on the way into the park, being trapped in a turnout until the car cooled down, and having to take a side trip to the garage in the valley to procure replacement hose for Steven to install, we made it to camp, and milled around the meadows themselves for a while. That was pleasant.
The second day, we hiked from the Mono Lake trail head up to Spillway Lake, Parker Pass, and Mono Pass. (The two photos posted here are from that trip: the top one is a view of the peaks on the way toward Parker, and the lake is a small, nameless lake very close to Parker Pass, and quite close to Helen and Spillway lakes.) The air was stunningly fresh, the birds were singing, snow was melting into creeks, marmots were posing on rocks, and the landscape was stunning. The high elevations are stark, with sparse vegetation, desert-like hills, small icy lakes, and lush meadows full of corn lilies. From just above Mono Pass we had views of the southern shore of Mono Lake and parts of the lake's basin.
It was one of those hikes that made us wonder why the trail wasn't packed, because it was relentlessly beautiful. (Of course, it wasn't crowded because it is beautiful the way the desert can be: grand, harsh, and off the beaten path. Also, the air is very thin there.) We wound up at 11,100 feet at Parker Pass; since I didn't take a side trip to the shoulder of Mt. Lewis as Steven did, my hike was a 12 mile round trip, the farthest I'd traveled under my own power at any elevation since breaking my arm.
Day 3, we had a day of rest, which meant that we milled around Tenaya Lake. The trail that goes around the lake was barely in use, with people primarily lounging at the eastern-most beach and picnic area. There are many lovely spots to sit on a rock and soak your feet in the cold, crystal-clear water.
Day 4, we went on a 14 mile hike from a trail head on 120 to the Cathedral Lakes, Sunrise High Sierra Camp (not open for the season), over a ridge, and back down to Tenaya. Until the big descent to Tenaya, it was mostly climbing, and we lounged around quite a bit at my suggestion. We missed the last pre-dinner shuttle, and had to wait 90 minutes for the last shuttle of the day to collect us at the western Tenaya shuttle stop: I have never been so happy to see a shuttle bus as I was when the driver zipped past toward the last stop in the loop before coming to us.
It was a good trip: I really needed the rest, the fresh (thin) air, the exercise, and the scenes of stark grandeur.
By the way, according to Blogger, This is post 1,200 since I started this blog in 2002. Wow. Happily, Blogger is not also quantifying my posts in terms of coherence or interesting content.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:48 PM