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!

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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

 

Top 10 Secrets of Summer in Yosemite

Summer vacation fun in Yosemite is not a secret. This busy season accommodates families, students, international travelers and casual daytrippers with warm sunny weather, activities for all ages such as hiking and biking, and access to Yosemite’s backcountry for backpacking under the stars. Sharing Yosemite with so many people may seem inevitable, but visitors can still find places to call their own with unique experiences that are worthy of an Instagram or two. Unless, of course, you want to keep it all to yourself!

1. Hike in Wawona. Yosemite Valley’s iconic trails are crowded for a reason. In Wawona, you can experience the same Sierra Nevada landscape with less company at a more leisurely pace. The Chilnualna Falls Trail and the Swinging Bridge Trail put visitors face-to-face with Yosemite’s magnificent waterworks in the form of waterfalls and the south fork of the Merced River. One of Wawona’s best kept secrets? The Swinging Bridge is perched above one of Yosemite’s coolest summer swimming holes. After a day in the sun, have dinner on the lawn of the Wawona Hotel during the Saturday BBQ.
http://www.yosemitepark.com/wawona-dining-room.aspx

2. Swim laps in the pool at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls. Then have an ice cream cone. River swimming isn’t for everyone, and parents may feel more comfortable swimming with small children in a pool environment. One of the best kept secrets at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls? The Cone Stand located at the entrance to the pool provides old-fashioned summer fun with ice cream cones for extra cooling after a dip. And the pool really is limited to lap swimming only at the beginning and end of each day.
http://www.yosemitepark.com/yosemite-lodge-guest-services.aspx

3. Stargaze at Glacier Point. No doubt about it, Glacier Point is one of the most popular sights in Yosemite and on a summer day it may feel like every single visitor in the park has congregated there to goggle at Yosemite Valley 3000 feet below. But what is magnificent during the day is just as striking – and much less crowded – at night. Watching the sun set from Glacier Point is truly wonderful, but just wait until night falls and Yosemite’s night sky fills with millions of stars. Star Parties are hosted on select summer weekends with regional astronomy clubs where park visitors are welcome to take a look through club telescopes after dark. Yosemite Valley lodging guests will enjoy catching the Stargazing Tour – a bus tour that departs and returns to Yosemite Lodge at the Falls after a stargazing program at Glacier Point.
http://www.yosemitepark.com/stargazing-tour.aspx

4. Check last minute availability at the High Sierra Camps. If you are a spontaneous traveler with a yearning to experience the High Sierra, last minute availability at Yosemite’s High Sierra Camps may be just the lodging for you. Open for a short summer season, the first reservations are acquired by entering a lottery in November the year prior. Once the lottery dates have been awarded over the winter, any leftover dates are posted on yosemitepark.com in spring. The available dates are often sporadic, but they do exist. If you can throw your backpack in the car for a last-minute hiking trip, you may be in for the experience of a lifetime.
http://www.yosemitepark.com/high-sierra-camps-availability.aspx

5. Visit the Merced and Tuolumne Groves of Giant Sequoias. Yosemite is home to three groves of Giant Sequoias, though Mariposa Grove is by far the most famous. Due to the restoration of the Mariposa Grove in 2015 and 2016, these giants may not be accessible at this location. Luckily, both the Merced Grove and Tuolumne Grove require only a moderate 2 mile round-trip hike to view Giant Sequoias – which are found only in California’s Sierra Nevada. Both groves are located near the Crane Flat junction of CA 120 in Yosemite.

6. Order a sandwich at Degnan’s Deli in the AM and hike to the El Capitan picnic area. The made-to-order sandwiches at Degnan’s Deli in Yosemite Village are deservedly popular at lunchtime, but did you know that sandwiches are made at Degnan’s all day long? Arrive in the morning and order your sandwich wrapped to go for a day hike to the west end of Yosemite Valley following the Valley Loop trail. Sights along this route that follows the flat terrain of Yosemite Valley include Yosemite Falls, Camp 4 rock climbers campground, a stretch along the Merced River, and of course, El Capitan. Once you’ve arrived at Yosemite’s most famous granite monolith, look for the Ask-a-Climber program on the El Capitan Bridge. Equipped with a telescope, one of Yosemite’s local rock climbers will give you the scoop on climbers currently ascending El Capitan.
http://www.yosemiteconservancy.org/visitor-services/ask-a-climber-1

7. Take Part in the Great Yosemite Family Adventure. Visitors will find a wide range of family activities in Yosemite, but only one activity gives your family a chance to demonstrate their love for Yosemite as a team! Using a GPS unit and information about history, nature and geology, this scavenger-hunt-style program traverses roughly 3 miles of Yosemite Valley with clues, puzzles and riddles to solve for family members of all ages.
http://www.yosemitepark.com/yosemite-family-adventure.aspx

8. Buy a Fishing License in Yosemite. California’s fishing season gets underway in April, but summer allows access to all of Yosemite’s prime fishing environment – including High Sierra lakes. California fishing licenses are sold in Yosemite Valley at the Village Sport Shop, and in Tuolumne Meadows at the Tuolumne Meadows Store. You can purchase a license for the season or just for the day or week during your visit to Yosemite.
http://www.yosemitepark.com/yosemite-sport-shops.aspx

9. Kayak the Merced River in Yosemite Valley New designations have opened a much larger stretch of the Merced to non-motorized vessels, though the river conditions may make this trip feasible only for kayaks. As of April 2015, kayakers can run the Merced from Stoneman Bridge near Curry Village to Pohono Bridge at the west end of Yosemite Valley. http://www.adventure-journal.com/2014/04/yosemites-merced-river-opens-to-kayaking-and-rafting/

10. Take a guided hike, bike and rock climb with the Yosemite Mountaineering School. Yosemite’s local guides do it all: day hikes, bike-to-hike-tours, overnight backpacking trips, and of course, rock climbing lessons.
http://www.yosemitepark.com/hiking-camping.aspx
http://www.yosemitepark.com/rock-climbing.aspx

The Art of Exploring the High Sierra in Yosemite

Painting at Townsley Lake. Photo: Emily Nash

James McGrew painting at Townsley Lake.
Photo: Emily Nash

James McGrew has been visiting Yosemite his entire life, and guiding High Sierra Camp loop trips through the Yosemite backcountry for the last 14 years. His artwork gives him, and those who travel with him on these trips, yet another way to connect to the beauty of the Sierra landscape. We were honored to be able to catch up with James this year before he started his backcountry season to find out more about his unique perspective on Yosemite and some of the places that he loves.

As this season winds to a close, the High Sierra Camp lottery for next year is right around the corner. Beginning September 1, 2014, you can apply for the popular High Sierra Camp loop trips, with James or another one of the amazing rangers who lead these high country trips.

What is your favorite High Sierra Camp or spot along the High Sierra Loop, and why is it special to you?

That’s a tough question because all the camps are unique and special to me. I truly love them all. I love Glen Aulin for the breathtaking view down the canyon and the reddish oxidized and glacially polished rock. I love May Lake for the sparkling gemstone-like qualities of the lake, relatively short hike up Mt. Hoffmann in the center of the park, and the ridge next to camp with spectacular views across Tuolumne, the Cathedral Range and down to Yosemite Valley. I love Sunrise for the breathtaking view of alpine peaks across Long Meadow which changes its colors from week to week and is often frost-covered in morning. I love Merced Lake for the diversity of leisure activities and things to explore on layover days. We get a chance to slow down, relax, swim, fish, explore without a backpack. I like the larger campfire circle that allows for the largest audiences of our campfire programs in the high country. Finally, Vogelsang, perched so high, offers spectacular scenery, a steep scramble up Vogelsang Peak or short walks to alpine lakes. We can’t do campfire programs, but I enjoy the large crowds that gather for the sunset talks and open views and clear skies for the astronomy programs.

What do you remember of your first trip to the high sierra?

I was just four months old so I don’t actually remember my first trip. However, my parents said I was enthralled with my fist in my mouth and eyes wide open, looking up at the towering granite. By eight years old, I really remember thinking how much I loved Yosemite and asking my parents to take me backpacking for my birthday in late June. We were not really in the high country, but rather back packing out of Hetch Hetchy and that year, 1983, was the highest snow pack year on record so the waterfalls roared with a power I’ve never seen since. The mist of Tueulala falls spread across the trail and hundreds of newts crawled about. Then crossing the bridge below Wapama falls was another memorable experience as my father carried me across the bridges which crossed the raging water and torrential spray. When I returned home following the trip, I remember drawing the waterfalls from memory.

Sunrise Impressions. Oil on Linen 9x12

Sunrise Impressions. Oil on Linen 9×12
James McGrew

 

You sometimes incorporate art into your evening programs/presentations; how do you go about that, and what does it look like?

Art and Artists played a key role in the preservation and management of Yosemite. I conduct several programs which sometimes involve plein air painting and art to help illustrate the art history, natural history and help people see and experience Yosemite and find their own interpretations. These include sunset talks or daytime programs and even the entire loop trip.

Although a loop trip consists of many individual interpretive programs including day hikes, sunset talks, evening campfire and astronomy programs, all with different topics, I tie them all together with an overriding art theme for the week. It actually applies to everything from art and history, to geology, biology, aesthetics, philosophy, ecology and management.

I give specific programs on art history in Yosemite, as well as an actual art class and have the participants produce their own interpretation of Yosemite with pastels and pastel paper. At the end of the trip, we have an art show and each participant shares their unique interpretation and experiences.

If I’m actually painting during a presentation, I set up my tripod and pochade on my “stage” in front of an audience so they can clearly see my painting and the scene I’m painting. I paint extremely fast so people are usually surprised to see a painting take shape in just a few minutes. The purpose is to help draw the crowd and help them observe or study things more carefully, especially certain elements I will focus on during the program. It’s a way to hook the audience, inspire contemplation and get them thinking about my topics, which may range from geology, sunsets, atmosphere, light, aesthetics/emotion and beauty in nature.

I don’t complete a painting during a ranger program. Rather they are just oil sketches or impressionist starts to serve a purpose involving the audience as an interpretive technique. I usually just scrape down the panel to reuse for the next program.

Painting

James McGrew.
Photo: Emily Nash

What art supplies are must-haves for the backcountry for you?

Lightweight, sturdy carbon fiber tripod with quick release plates mounted to each of my cameras and pochade for easy switching; pochade box with quick release plate to mount on the tripod and loaded with a limited palette of professional oil colors made with California walnut oil (mfg. by M. Graham in Oregon); oil-primed linen panels ranging in size from 6×8 to 12×16; brushes; paint knife; about an ounce of walnut oil (for making paint more fluid and for cleaning brushes safely); steel palette cup for the oil; some paper towels; nitrile gloves; ziploc bag for waste. The walnut oil dries more slowly than linseed oil so I can backpack for a week and the paint stays fresh without having to reapply any paint to my palette or carry tubes of paint. Obviously that means that the paintings remain wet for at least a week or two. So, I developed some lightweight and compact methods for transporting wet paintings.   The art supplies all fit into a ziploc freezer bag, and the tripod straps to the outside of my backpack. I’ve refined my supplies so that it’s all surprisingly compact, lightweight and efficient.

Note: Although many people mistakenly think that oil paints are toxic, when used properly, they are naturally safer for the artist and environment than acrylics and many watercolors. In fact, the oils themselves are loaded with omega-3 and can double as cooking and salad dressing oil.

How does your artwork change or affect your experience in the high country?

Painting greatly affects my experience in many ways but overall most prominently in three primary ways including observation, focus, and a tangible visual memorabilia.

First, it forces me to carefully observe and explore while looking for unique or ideal compositions. Also, as a vehicle for communication good paintings often serve a valuable purpose in sharing information or ideas to an audience. Therefore, when painting I’m thinking more critically about the landscape, wildlife, history, atmosphere, as well as my emotions and how to best interpret those into a visual medium with pigment and brushstrokes. In the process of standing in one location, quietly observing, I find that I’m using all my senses, not just eyesight and this all goes into the painting. Moreover, that process enables me to experience Yosemite as wildlife often passes by as I’m standing in one location. I think that most of my greatest wildlife observations and discoveries have occurred while painting. I’m more acutely aware of the subtle shifts of light, weather and atmosphere, geology, insect hatches, migrations, etc. That awareness in turn helps me as a naturalist just the way my science background (Degree in Biology with Chemistry and Geology Minors and Graduate work for a Master’s of Science in Environmental Education) helps me in my painting nature.

Second, painting helps me focus. Most naturalists go through some sort of process to clear their minds and mentally prepare for a program. For me, sometimes it’s going for a walk, splitting firewood, sitting by the river studying notes, or the meditative rhythm of fly fishing. But one of the best ways to focus and clear my mind is actually to find a quiet place and paint for a while. It really forces me to slow down, focus, relax yet energize at the same time. Painting requires a tremendous amount of energy and focus and that energy also carries over into presentations.

Finally, painting produces a tangible object that accurately represents an experience or location in Yosemite, not just visually but emotionally as well. I compare my photography with my paintings and the paintings always convey much more of the natural light, atmosphere, edges, and emotions I felt while experiencing a scene or event. A camera is merely a recording device, quite different and pales compared to the human visual processing system comprise of densely packed cells at the center of the retina, looser arrangements of cells peripherally, a combination of color, detail, motion, location tracking systems which are wired to different parts of the brain and which influence physiological responses. Those elements influence painting which is an interpretation, not just reproducing a visual scene.

Do you have any recommendations for people visiting Tuolumne Meadows and the high sierra for the first time?

Whether leisurely relaxing or pushing an adventure like rock climbing, I think that people benefit from just taking some time to use their senses and experience someplace for a period of time.   Get out away from the crowds and spend some time and watch how many things reveal themselves, especially when looking from different perspectives and focusing on one thing for a while. Take time to observe from different perspectives and use all senses. At those moments, I find that most people make wonderful discoveries.

Painting on Sentinel Dome

Painting on Sentinel Dome
Photo: Emily Nash

Restoration Projects in Yosemite: Helping Restore the Natural Beauty of the High Sierra

Restoring Tuolumne Meadows Lodge in 2008.

Restoration of Tuolumne Meadows Lodge in 2008.

Since 1916, concessioners in Yosemite National Park have provided wilderness experiences for thousands of visitors by operating the Yosemite High Sierra Camps in some of the park’s most beautiful backcountry locations.  High Sierra Camps are spaced 5.7 to 10 miles apart along a loop trail in Yosemite’s high country, accessible only by foot or saddle. After decades of operation, the once pristine camps became impacted by heavy visitor use combined with minimal land management. Merced Lake High Sierra Camp, the largest, oldest and most remote of the high camps was the first to benefit from planned restoration efforts, which began in 2001.  DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite employees worked to restore the camp with the guidance of the National Park Service at Yosemite.

Restoration workers at Merced lake High Sierra Camp.

Restoration workers at Merced Lake High Sierra Camp.

The success of the Merced Lake restoration inspired DNC to plan extensive restoration projects for the other High Sierra Camps during the summers of 2005 and 2006. The plan was expanded to include White Wolf Lodge in 2007 and Tuolumne Meadows Lodge in 2008. Since then, most High Sierra Camps have benefited from multiple efforts at ecological restoration. In 2011, ten years after the first restored pathway, it was time for the restoration crew to go back to Merced Lake High Sierra Camp. DNC partnered with the National Park Service and Yosemite Conservancy to improve the ecological health of the camp with grounds maintenance.  A group of 11 Yosemite Conservancy volunteers lead by DNC environmental managers Mark Gallagher and Debora Sanches donated 416 hours of labor to Merced Lake – helping to restore the camp to a more natural condition. The ecological restoration techniques included soil decompaction; collection and spread of native seeds and duff; transplanting native plants; trail delineation, erosion control and the creation of proper drainage for run-off.

Merced Lake High Sierra Camp after restoration in 2011.

Merced Lake High Sierra Camp during restoration in 2011.

 

Restored drainage at Tuloumne Meadows Lodge in 2008.

Restored drainage at Tuloumne Meadows Lodge in 2008.

In 2012, two major restoration projects took place at May Lake and Glen Aulin High Sierra Camps. In addition to trail delineation, decompaction and spread of duff in closed-off areas, volunteers also helped with deferred maintenance work such as roof replacement, corral post and hitching rails additions, plumbing improvements to prevent water waste and lodge foundation replacement.

In addition to the High Sierra Camps, DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite recently started work on a two-phase ecological restoration project at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls – also in partnership with National Park Service and Yosemite Conservancy. The restoration work includes removal of dirt roads, social trails, & non-native plants, and also transplanting of site-specific native plants and seeds. Yosemite Conservancy recruited 15 volunteers to work on the first phase of the project. DNC will work with the National Park Service at Yosemite to source native vegetation seeds in Yosemite National Park to be planted at the site in October.

Restoration at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls in 2014.

Restoration at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls in 2014.

Badger Pass Ski Area and Bike/Raft Rental Manager Sean Costello at the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge restoration in 2008.

Badger Pass Ski Area and Bike/Raft Rental Manager Sean Costello at the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge restoration in 2008.

 

Top 5 Things to Do in Tuolumne Meadows

Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park

Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park. Photo by Kenny Karst.

Tioga Road is open for the summer and the weather is fine in Yosemite National Park. With so many options to choose from, how do you decide where to go and what to do during your visit? Certainly any area of Yosemite can provide experiences filled with wonder, but one area in particular provides the opportunity for a summer filled with memories of the High Sierra: Tuolumne Meadows. Located on Tioga Road CA 120 at an altitude of 8000 feet, the Tuolumne Meadows area is inaccessible in winter when the road is closed. This limited accessibility creates a short but sweet summertime window of opportunity to visit high alpine meadows and streams, along with some of Yosemite’s highest peaks. Though services are available in Tuolumne Meadows, the High Sierra views are unobstructed.  In addition to camping and tent cabin lodging, Tuolumne Meadows has a visitor center, wilderness center, store, a grill restaurant, a gas station, a stable and an outpost of the Yosemite Mountaineering School. The following top five list of things to do in Tuolumne Meadows gives you an overview of this stunning slice of the Sierra Nevada in Yosemite.

1. Hiking: Tioga Road is littered with trailheads that can take you deep into Yosemite’s backcountry or offer simple sightseeing. Soda Springs and historic Parsons Memorial Lodge, Lembert Dome, Mount Dana, May Lake, Pothole Dome, the John Muir Trail, Cathedral Lakes, Twin Bridges, and Elizabeth Lake are among the hiking options in this area. These high-elevation hikes range from an afternoon stroll along the Tuolumne River to Twin Bridges to traversing the Sierra Nevada on the John Muir Trail.

2. Camping: Tent cabin lodging and family-style dining is provided at Tuolumne Meadows Lodge and the Yosemite High Sierra Camps. Traditional camping can be found at the national park system’s largest campground in Tuolumne Meadows. Camping allows you to experience the Yosemite landscape up close with opportunities for hiking, wildlife viewing, photography, fishing, swimming and more. But no matter where you lay your head in the High Sierra, the access to the night sky filled with stars will fill you with wonder.

Tuolumne Meadows Lodge

Tuolumne Meadows Lodge

3. Dining at Tuolumne Meadows Grill: Menu favorites include burgers & fries, veggie chili, breakfast, and ice cream cones. You won’t find a dining room at the rustic Tuolumne Meadows Grill, but you will find tasty take-out options after a long summer hike in the high country. Picnic tables are available outside the restaurant and store, where you can trade adventure stories with other hikers and climbers.

4. Photography: Tuolumne Meadows are beautiful alpine meadows riddled with wildflowers in the summer, Tenaya Lake is an easily accessible alpine lake with sand beaches made for summer swimming, Mount Dana provides amazing views of the Sierra Nevada at 13,000 feet of elevation, the Tuolumne River carries snow melt from the High Sierra to points below and the night sky is brilliant with exceptional opportunities for night sky photography.

TM Wildflowers

Tenaya Lake. Photo by Kenny Karst

Tenaya Lake. Photo by Kenny Karst

5. Trail Ride: Take a day trip on a mule at the Tuolumne Meadows Stable and visit Tuolumne View on the Young Lakes Trail, an ideal lookout point for Cathedral Range, Johnson Peak and Mammoth Peaks or take a half-day ride and visit Twin Bridges on the Tuolumne River just above Tuolumne Falls. If you can’t bear to leave the beauty behind, commit to an extended backcountry experience with a saddle pack trip to one of five High Sierra Camps (or take the 50 mile loop and visit them all!).

Sunrise High Sierra Camp

Sunrise High Sierra Camp

This article was published in the Yosemite in Focus newsletter for the month of June. Get stories about Yosemite delivered right to your email inbox every month by signing up here: Yosemite Newsletters.

Favorite Yosemite Spots: Vogelsang

vogelsang_3_christy_dudley

Photo by Christy Dudley

vogelsang_1_christy_dudley

Photo by Christy Dudley

As part of an ongoing series, we’ll feature the favorite places of Yosemite community members and park visitors. The area near the Vogelsang High Sierra Camp in Yosemite’s backcountry is a favorite spot of Christy Dudley, who lives and works in Yosemite Valley. “The High Sierra Camps are known for their beautiful locations, and Vogelsang is no exception. The hike in from Tuolumne Meadows is not easy as the slog uphill seems to go on forever, but as you approach the camp, Vogelsang Peak slowly comes into the horizon. Before you know it, you are walking in to the camp surrounded by towering granite peaks on either side and sweeping views down the valley. As you continue on toward Vogelsang Pass, the trail takes you right by Vogelsang Lake. While it is difficult to move on from this beautiful spot, you are rewarded with another great view from the top of the pass of Gallison Lake. I found this vantage point particularly special, as it is not every day you get to see the beginnings of the mighty Merced River.”

vogelsang_2_christy_dudley

Photo by Christy Dudley

At 10,130 feet of elevation, the Vogelsang High Sierra Camp is the highest of Yosemite’s five backcountry camps. Vogelsang camp, lake, peak and pass were all named for a California Fish and Game commissioner sometime around the turn of the twentieth century, but the name itself may be singularly appropriate. In old German, Vogelsang means “a meadow in which birds sing”. Vogelsang High Sierra Camp is located at the base of Fletcher Peak, known for its vivid display of alpenglow, and provides a comfortable base to explore the surrounding beauty of the high Sierra.

What’s Happening at Glen Aulin – Tuolumne River Plan

White Cascade near Glen Aulin

White Cascade near Glen Aulin

The Preferred Alternative of the Tuolumne River Plan calls for removal of about 38% of the popular lodging at Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp, from 32 beds down to 20 beds. The reduction is an attempt to bring the camp into better alignment with the septic system capacity.

Yosemite’s High Sierra Camps (HSC) give people an opportunity to enjoy the backcountry without having to carry a large pack. The Glen Aulin HSC is located along the Tuolumne River, and is situated next to the pool below 80 foot high White Fall, and visitors enjoy watching the sun set from a nearby promontory with a view of Mt. Conness. A popular day trip continues from Glen Aulin down the Tuolumne River to see Waterwheel Falls.

All of the proposed alternatives address the issue of wastewater disposal, and replacing the composting toilet at the backpacker campground near Glen Aulin. Other alternatives propose changes ranging from closing Glen Aulin HSC completely (Alternative 1), to converting the HSC to a seasonal outfitter camp with no permanent structures except for a composting toilet (Alternative 2). Alternative 3 would continue to restrict water usage to 600 gals/day, while the preferred alternative reduces the allowable usage to 500 gallons.

Other changes to the High Sierra Camps, such as the Merced Lake HSC, can be found in the Draft Merced River Plan.

There are also numerous other changes being proposed in the TRP, including changes to parking, location of the visitor’s center, and day-trip mule and horseback rides. What do you like and dislike about these proposed plans? For more information visit the NPS website, and be sure to comment. We’d love to hear them here, but to be part of the official process, submit your comments via one of the following channels.

Email:

yose_planning@nps.gov

Phone:

209-379-1110

U.S. mail:

Superintendent,
Yosemite National Park,
Attn: Tuolumne River Plan,
P.O. Box 577,
Yosemite, CA 95389

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?
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