Farewell to Yosemite Stables Crews

YVStablesGroup-1356The summer of 2015 was the last time to take a commercial trail ride in the Tuolumne Meadows area of Yosemite National Park. Come fall, the Yosemite Valley Stable will also close for the two hour and half-day trail rides offered to park visitors since the 1920s. Both changes in stable operations are brought about by the implementation of the Tuolumne River Plan and the Merced River Plan authored by the National Park Service. The plans were conceived to reduce the impact of development in the flood plains of Yosemite’s rivers. Both stables will remain operational for supplying Yosemite’s High Sierra Camps and providing backcountry saddle trips for park visitors. By the summer of 2016, only the Wawona Stable will continue to offer two hour trail rides to park visitors.

For many stables employees, returning every summer to pack and guide equated to many consecutive years of service in Yosemite National Park. Employees often lived in tent cabins near the stable, where maintaining the stable operation gets a very early start each morning. Though the season for trail rides isn’t long in Yosemite – summer months in Tuolumne Meadows and Wawona, spring to fall in Yosemite Valley – the crews spend a lot of time living and working together providing this historically popular activity for visitors from around the world. Delaware North at Yosemite commends the Tuolumne Meadows and Yosemite Valley stables staff (including mules and horses!) for their skill and dedication in serving park visitors for over twenty years. Happy Trails!

Advertisements

High Sierra Cooking Camp in Yosemite


If you have ever stayed at a High Sierra Camp in Yosemite National Park, you have been fortunate enough to experience one of the most unique dining experiences in California. Yosemite’s High Sierra Camps provide the backcountry experience without the burdens of backpacking by providing tent cabins with bunk beds, linens, and meals cooked on-site with great care by High Sierra Camp cooks. Five camps: Glen Aulin, May Lake, Vogelsang, Sunrise and Merced Lake, provide access to some of Yosemite’s most breathtaking landscapes during the short summer season in the high country.

Each year, the High Sierra Camp cooks attend a High Sierra Cooking Camp before the summer season begins and guests begin arriving for their backcountry experience. All five camps have their own cooking staff comprised of two camp cooks who split the week for the entire season. With three and a half days on and three and a half days off, the cooks prepare breakfast and dinner meals every day until the camps close down in September. Glen Aulin is the first camp to open each summer and though it has the smallest kitchen, it is usually the site of Cooking Camp. All camp chefs gather at in the camp kitchen during setup and spend time with Ahwahnee Executive Chef Percy Whatley in a communal cooking atmosphere meant to foster ideas, camaraderie and good cooking. Chef Percy has been conducting Cooking Camp since 2002 and prior to that, Delaware North Master Chef Roland Henin conducted the very first Cooking Camp. This year Cooking Camp took place on June 9 and 10, 2015 at Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp.

Cooking Camp Dinner Menu #1
Trout with Caper Brown Butter
Potato & Corn Chowder
Green Salad
Green Beans with almonds
House made dinner rolls
Cream puffs with lemon curd & strawberries for dessert

Cooks are very passionate about their jobs at the High Sierra Camps. They treasure the freedom and creativity of running each kitchen independently as a High Sierra version of Executive Chef. Though the camps have a set menu for the main dish ingredient, how the dish is prepared and which side dishes accompany the main is up to each cook, and they embrace this flexibility wholeheartedly. Food orders are placed a week in advance and fulfilled by mule train delivery from the Tuolumne Meadows Stable (or Yosemite Valley Stable in the case of Merced Lake), so creative menu planning is a must. If, for some reason, the requested menu items don’t make on the mule train, camp cooks test their creative cooking skills by improvising from the pantry. Camp cooks begin their day at 5:45 am to prepare breakfast and continue cooking throughout the day, including making bread from scratch and providing a hot drink service prior to dinner.  Dinner prep begins in the afternoon before finishing the day with final cleanup by 10:00 pm. Box lunches for guests are sandwiches prepared and snacks assembled by camp helpers. With three and a half days off each week, camp cooks make the most of their location in Yosemite’s high country. Next to cooking in the High Sierra, every camp cook expressed a love of Yosemite as the most compelling reason to accept the challenge of preparing meals in such a remote location.

Guests of the High Sierra Camps are guaranteed meals as part of their camp reservation. Hikers and backpackers can also tent camp next to the High Sierra Camps in campgrounds operated by the National Park Service and still be served a hearty backcountry meal. Tent campers may take advantage of the proximity to camp by purchasing a Meals Only High Sierra Camp reservation. To tent camp, you must have a wilderness permit issued by Yosemite National Park. Please note that in the past, a Meals Only reservation purchase guaranteed a wilderness permit for the holder and this is no longer accepted. You must already have a permit in order to make a Meals Only purchase.

Make a Meals Only reservation this summer: http://www.yosemitepark.com/high-sierra-camp-lodging.aspx

Learn more about wilderness permits in Yosemite: http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildpermits.htm

High Sierra Camp Cooks 2015:

Ryan Cobble at Glen Aulin since 2001
Caitlin Rea at Sunrise for her third season
John Corry at Sunrise for 13 years, also fill-in cook who has cooked at all camps!
Cody Freeman at Merced Lake for his 2nd season
Zach Jones at May Lake for his 3rd season
Robbie Zukowski at Vogelsang for her 3rd season
Jennifer Shoor at May Lake since 2001 with Brian Schoor her husband and Camp Manager
Paul Lebourgeois at Merced Lake for his 5th season
Mitchell Williams at Glen Aulin for his 3rd season
Lucas Banks at Vogelsang for his 3rd season

 

Your Yosemite Stories: Housekeeping Camp

In the latest Yosemite in Focus newsletter, we linked to the previous post about the history of Housekeeping Camp. We then asked readers to share their favorite stories about this historic Yosemite lodging that straddles the line between camp and hotel. Below you will find some of those readers’ stories. If you would like to subscribe to the Yosemite in Focus email newsletter and receive notifications of lodging discounts and Yosemite news, please visit the Yosemite Newsletters page on our website at http://www.yosemitepark.com/eMail-SignUp.aspx

HKC Family Photo Connie Carbajal

Connie Carbajal:
“As a child I used to camp at Lower and Upper Rivers with my family and as we’d cross the bridge to use the Housekeeping showers and laundry facilities I used to think “Wow!!! These people must be so rich to be able to stay in these units” and hoped that one day I’d be able to have enough money to do the same.

Needless to say we visit Yosemite every 2 years with my husband and children (and a group of extended relatives and friends) and now grandchildren, and we have given them the experience of Lower River campgrounds when there was a lower River campground and now the “Luxury” of the Housekeeping experience.

We come as a group and pick out “themes” to decorate our units.  Than each family picks a night that they cook dinner for everyone in our group and that is the only night they have to prepare and cook dinner and clean up .  This gives everyone a little extra time at the river, hiking, sightseeing or just enjoying a nice hot shower.  And upon their return to camp……a hot dinner and dessert are awaiting them.  Most of us prepare our meals according to our them. For example during our last visit in 2013:  The “La Fiesta” Campsite decorated in traditional mexican style and wore sombreros, mexican dresses for the hostess and  guayaveras (mens traditional shirts)  for the host.  Salsa and chips, along with mexican beer (cerveza) and margaritas, were served pre-dinner, than there was a taco and burrito bar set up with all the fixings.  We topped the night off by playing “Loteria” aka….Mexican Bingo.  Another family (mine) was decorated as a “Western Ho-Down” and we served hampburgers, hot dogs, baked beans, potato salad and apple pie handing out red and blue bandanas for all to wear. And another family was decoarted as the “Oriental Express”, making fresh vegetable and chicken egg rolls, asian noodles, steamed rice and vegetables.  Topping dinner off with hot and cold tea and sweet apple and cinnamon egg rolls and yes……chopsticks were provided and many of us successfully ate our entire meal using the chopsticks.

I think you get the picture……we have now given so many families great memories, that we sit around the campfire all night sharing and reminiscing about our experiences.  So much so, that several indivudals that have now begun their own families have gone on and begun their own “group” adventures with their extended families and friends, following in our steps.

BTW…….As you can see we always purchase matching Yosemite souvenir shirts at bargain prices and pose for a group picture on our final day!!! The Carbajal, Padron, Haro, Meldrum and Muralles Families August 2013!!!! Our family saying….”Yosemite Forever”!!!!!!!!”

W.C. Smith learning to fish at Housekeeping Camp

W.C. Smith learning to fish at Housekeeping Camp


W.C. Smith:

“My family has always gone to Yosemite for vacation starting in the early 1920s when they lived in Fresno.  Housekeeping tents were our destination when I was young, – always. In 1944 when I was 6 we were able to come up from the bay area as my Dad had no problem getting gas as he was a defense contractor and had access to unrestricted gas rationing cards during the war. Many people were shut out of Yosemite during the war due to gas rationing. Anyway, my Dad said that it was time for me to learn trout fishing in the beautiful Merced and off we went. After a couple of unproductive hours we met a fly fisherman who seemed to know what he was doing, and we asked for advice. In the course of showing us “how to” he opened his creel and nestled inside in a bed of ferns was the most beautiful brightly colored brown trout. I was stunned. He then handed me his rod and showed me how to cast, albeit not very good. After a few minutes I had a strike and landed an equally beautiful but smaller brown trout. I was “hooked”. We walked back to the housekeeping tents together where he was also staying with his family. My Dad and the gentlemen started chatting and it turned out he was a navy pilot sent to Yosemite for R&R after extensive action in the South Pacific. Although I was too young to really comprehend what was being said my Dad told me in later years that he had been shot down and rescued at sea. He told Dad that the housekeeping tents were the perfect medicine for recovery from a horrific period in his life. He had young kids so we played, fished and swam for a week before we had to go. My parents kept contact with the family for awhile but never met again at the housekeeping tents. Unfortunately that wonderful Navy pilot was killed in the South Pacific in 1945.

I am still a passionate fly fisherman but at a slower pace in my senior years. But every time I step into a stream I still have a vision of that beautiful brown trout nested in a bed of ferns and that wonderful brave man who introduced me to fly fishing.”

A Short History of the Oddly-Named Housekeeping Camp in Yosemite

Housekeeping Tent at Camp 16 from the Yosemite National Park Research Library

Housekeeping Tent at Camp 16 from the Yosemite National Park Research Library

Located on the Merced River in Yosemite Valley with an unusual name, Housekeeping Camp straddles the line between camping and hotel accommodations and inspires fierce loyalty among park visitors. With amenities not usually found in campsites such as three walls, a canvas roof, beds, electrical lights and outlets, as well as standard amenities of picnic table and campfire ring, Housekeeping Camp is perennially popular with visiting families. Many of these families return year after year to the same units for easy access to the Merced River’s sandy beaches and activities like rafting and swimming. By examining the origin of Housekeeping Camp and its odd configuration and designation, it is apparent that this particular type of Yosemite accommodation has had great influence on the evolution of national park campgrounds as we know them today.

In the 1860s, after the signing of the Yosemite Grant by President Abraham Lincoln, the State of California administered Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove as precursor to the establishment of Yosemite National Park. The state instituted the designation of numbered camps in Yosemite Valley to indicate where visitors were setting up camp during their visit. By 1878, the idea of a public campground had taken hold and The Harris Camp Ground located near the present-day hotel, The Ahwahnee, was the forerunner of the current configuration of a national park campground. By 1918, a map of Yosemite Valley indicates Camp 19 as the first Housekeeping Camp and by 1920, the park concession was charging a fee for supplies to be provided to campers who needed equipment. Visitors who brought their own went to the free campgrounds, and visitors who rented supplies stayed in a “Housekeeping Camp” – meaning you kept your own house with no maid service.

From the “1920 Guide to Yosemite” by Ansel F. Hall:

“The Housekeeping Camps Department supplies all kinds of camping or outing equipment at very reasonable rates…About twenty camp grounds have been prepared for the free use of the public by the Park Service. Water is piped to these localities and a sanitation system provided for. Applications for camp sites should be made at the National Park Service office in Yosemite Village. Those without outfits, who desire to establish camps, may arrange at the Housekeeping Camps Department of the Yosemite National Park Company (at Camp 17, a quarter mile east of Sentinel Bridge and north of the river) to rent all necessary equipment. This will be delivered and set up ready for occupancy. It is advisable to arrange in advance for the outfit desired.”

Housekeeping Camp was indicated at its present location as Camp 16 on a map in 1921 and remained designated Camp 16 until the 1970s. In 1923, Yosemite’s most influential concession operator, the Curry family, established Yosemite’s first lower-cost Housekeeping Camp with unfurnished lodging and no meals. This iteration included 10 units and was located in the current employee housing area known as Tecoya dormitory at Yosemite Village. In 1943, a Yosemite park map stated that Housekeeping Tents at Camp 16 come completely furnished from $2.25 daily and $10 weekly – what a deal! Ten years later, Housekeeping Camp was no longer considered a Yosemite campground, instead being listed as accommodations similar to Curry Village tent cabins. Amenities such as laundry facilities and a store were also available by the 1950s.

Yosemite’s housekeeping camps were the beneficiaries of the Mission 66 program where significant funds were invested in the infrastructure of national parks from 1956 to 1966. As a result, in the 1960s, the units were constructed as we know them today with concrete slabs. Two units were built back to back as a duplex. The dividing walls and two side walls were concrete slabs mixed with a conglomerate of Merced River stones. The ceiling, front walls and two side walls were canvas with a nylon fly for protection from sun or rain. The patio kitchen was furnished with a wood-burning stove referred to as a ‘sheepherder’ stove. This experimental design for improvement of guest accommodations in Housekeeping Camp was developed with much thought by Yosemite Park & Curry Company’s Gordon Warren, responsible for the construction of the new units, and architects from the firm Spencer and Lee, among others. In 1964 the ‘laundromat’ building was added to house coin-operated washers and dryers, along with a new shower house.

By 1976, the rest of the campgrounds in Yosemite were operated by the National Park Service. As the only remaining example of a ‘housekeeping camp’, Camp 16 was renamed accordingly and continues to be known as Housekeeping Camp to this day. Sometime in the 1990s, the old sheepherder stoves were replaced by campfire rings. Over time, the number of units have been reduced and the current Merced Wild and Scenic River Plan calls for the removal of more. But for now, you can enjoy 266 units in the heart of Yosemite Valley for a camping experience without all the gear. Housekeeping Camp opens for the 2014 season on April 17th and still offers supplies in the form of bedpacks consisting of 2 sheets, 2 blankets and 2 pillows rented for $2.50 per night – subject to availability. Make reservations online or call 801-559-4884 to speak with a reservation agent.

Housekeeping Camp River Units

Housekeeping Camp River Units

Housekeeping Camp Front Office and Store

Housekeeping Camp Front Office and Store

 

 

 

 

 

Badger Cross Country Conditions Update

Stop in and say hi to some of the folks at the Cross Country Ski Center. Lessons and retails available.

Stop in and say hi to some of the folks at the Nordic Center while you rent skis or snowshoes or sign up for a cross country ski lesson.

The Nordic Center at Badger Pass is open, so I grabbed my skate ski gear and headed up for a quick look-see before work. Given the warm temperatures, I was concerned about the conditions. I can be a real snow snob sometimes. However, the snow conditions were actually much better than I expected, and I had a fun little ski.

The cut-across from the parking area to the Glacier Point Road is pretty inelegant right now. I didn’t even bother putting my skis on until I’d walked out to the road, though the pair in front of me tried. It’s hardly an inspiring start, and I began to second guess my intentions, but then I got down to the road, and the promise of gliding over the snow kicked in and I was off.

Looking up the hill to Summit Meadow

Looking up the hill to Summit Meadow

The snow on the road is also thin, with bare patches in places, but in conditions like this I often think back to the time someone reminded me that you only ski on the top inch of snow anyway. Being a good skier, I had no problem at all avoiding the bare patches until Summit Meadow where the sun hasn’t been good to our snowpack. Generally speaking, the snow has a late spring feel – hard and a bit choppy in the morning, but heading up the hill to Summit Meadow I was surprised to find some really good snow underfoot too, firm but soft, perfect skating if you could string together a few miles of it. Hooray! I was skiing! That, combined with sunshine, and being outside in Yosemite, breathing in the fresh air made it all worthwhile.

Watch out for bare patches along the trail.

Watch out for bare patches along the trail.

I met a few other hardy souls who were on the road as well. Two women with big backpacks were headed out to the Ostrander Ski Hut on telemark ski gear, another person taking a tour on her classic striding skis, and two different groups who planned to snowshoe out to Dewey Point. We talked about the conditions, and I realized that even if they had to take the snow-play gear off their feet, they were headed off to some amazing spots – beautiful even in the summer when there isn’t a lick of snow.

Don't be afraid to take off your skis or snowshoes and walk. Yosemite is as beautiful as ever.

Don’t be afraid to take off your skis or snowshoes and walk. Yosemite is as beautiful as ever.

When I got back to the Nordic Center, I was greeted with giggles and peals of laughter from some people trying cross country skiing out for the first time, and Rick was getting ready to give a beginner lesson. That’s one of the things I love about the people who visit Yosemite in winter. Flexible and good-natured, they bring fun with them wherever they go.

By Theresa, Online Marketing Manager for DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite

Yosemite Spring Openings

Trail rides in Yosemite below Half Dome

Trail rides in Yosemite below Half Dome

With spring’s arrival, Yosemite is experiencing the typical hallmarks of spring, beautiful weather, gushing waterfalls, blooming wildflowers and the reopening of Housekeeping Camp, Yosemite Valley Stable and the open-air Valley Floor Tours.

Housekeeping Camp is scheduled to open for the season today, Thursday, April 25. A Yosemite family favorite, Housekeeping Camp is ideal for those who like to camp outdoors without the hassle of setting up a tent. Each of the 266 Housekeeping Camp tents, which can sleep up to six people, consists of three concrete walls, a concrete floor and a canvas roof. A canvas curtain separates the sleeping area from a covered patio featuring a grill and picnic table. Spring and summer reservations are still available for Housekeeping Camp and other Yosemite Valley accommodations.

Yosemite activities opening for the spring and summer season include two-hour mule and horseback rides at the Yosemite Valley Stable and the popular open-air Valley Floor Tours. Yosemite Valley Stable opens on Friday, April 26 for the two-hour guided rides to picturesque Mirror Lake. Cost for the two-hour rides is $64 per rider. Half-day and full-day rides will open at a later date pending conditions. The open-air Valley Floor Tours are now open for the season. On this two-hour tour, park rangers introduce some of Yosemite’s most famous sightseeing points in Yosemite Valley and describe the history, geology, plant and animal life of the region. Cost for the tour is $25 for adults, $23 for seniors and $13 for children. There is no fee for children under the age of five.

Other spring activities available include bike rentals and family programs. To sign up for any of these activities please call (209) 372-4FUN (4386) or stop by one of the tour kiosks. Kiosks are located at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls, on the parking lot side of the Village Store, and in Curry Village behind shuttle stop 13B.

Glen Aulin and May Lake High Sierra Camps Open Early with Offers

There’s nothing that can bring out the child-like delight in us all like a trek through Yosemite’s pristine High Sierra. Since Mother Nature surprised us with ideal conditions to be able to open the High Sierra Camps early this year, so why not celebrate by rolling back rates to child prices for everyone?
Continue reading

Tioga Road Opening May 7

The National Park Service made the announcement that we all wait for every spring. Tioga Road is officially scheduled to open to the public at noon on Monday, May 7! The less-than-average winter snowpack (~50% of normal) has melted quickly with the warmer temperatures allowing a relatively early opening. (You can read the official NPS release below)

Just don’t expect all of the facilities and services that Tuolumne has to offer quite yet. Vault toilets will be available in a few places along the road, but electric lines have been damaged over the winter. These will need to be repaired before electricity or other visitor services that you might expect to see during the summer months are available. We will let you know as soon as we find out when facilities like the Tuolumne Meadows Store, Grill, gas station etc. will open.

For so many, the opening of Tioga Road opens a route from the popular western regions of the park to the east side of the Sierra, and signals the beginning of easy access to the high country that has been buried under snow all winter. Suddenly we have access to miles of pristine trail for hikers and backpackers, sunny granite domes for rock climbers, many scenic vistas for photographers and a myriad of alpine lakes and rivers for fishermen (fisherpeople?). Do you have a favorite activity or particular reason to be excited about the road opening? Leave a comment below to share with us all what it is.

Continue reading

Big Oak Flat Road/Hwy 120 closed for repairs Feb. 29, 2012 thru April

Click for larger version

A section of Big Oak Flat Road, leading from Hwy 120 into Yosemite Valley and other park destinations is scheduled to be closed for roughly six weeks starting at 8:00 am Wednesday, February 29, 2012 to repair damage from a rockfall on January 22 of this year. The road is expected to be closed 24 hours per day, seven days per week until early April. During this time, crews will be working around the clock to the get road ready for visitors hoping to use that route to see Yosemite’s waterfalls in peak flow for spring. (You can see an interactive version of the map here.)

Meanwhile, you can still get to Yosemite Valley via Hwy 140 (El Portal Road) coming from Merced/Mariposa and Hwy 41 (Wawona Road) coming from Fresno/Oakhurst. If you’re coming from the Bay Area, the Highway 140 route is commonly referred to as the year-round Yosemite Highway, and although longer in terms of distance, adds little, if any, time to your drive.

The best way to get current road information inside Yosemite National Park is to call (209) 372-0200 and press 1 and then 1 again. This recorded road information is updated by NPS as soon as road conditions change. For other current park information, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Read the full NPS press release below:
Continue reading