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

 

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Fishing in Yosemite

Brook Trout

Brook Trout in Yosemite. Photo by Harry Vanderburg.

Stream and river fishing season in Yosemite National Park begins each spring on the last Saturday of April and continues through the year until November 15th. When the Tioga Road opens in the spring – allowing access to Yosemite’s high country – it’s time to catch some trout. Harry Vanderburg works at the Sport Shop in Yosemite Village – one of two outdoor gear stores in Yosemite Valley – and spends much of his free time fishing Yosemite’s rivers and lakes. Harry’s fishing recommendations serve as a beginner’s guide to fishing in Yosemite.

Yosemite Valley

Harry recommends fishing the Merced River near Housekeeping Camp. With easy access to the water, you can catch brown trout here early in the season. Harry also recommends spring fishing on the Merced between Yosemite Lodge at the Falls and the Swinging Bridge picnic area. Once Yosemite Valley fills with summer visitors, it’s best to fish further downriver between Pohono Bridge and the Arch Rock Entrance on CA 140.

Yosemite’s High Country via CA 120 Tioga Road

Two beautiful spots are easily accessible from the Tioga Road: May Lake and Gaylor Lakes. A one mile hike to May Lake provides you not only with the opportunity to fish, but also some of the Sierra Nevada’s best scenery. Just inside the park boundary at the eastern entrance on Tioga Pass, a one mile hike brings you to high altitude Gaylor Lakes. In both areas you’ll land brook trout.

Fishing at Gaylor Lakes in Yosemite with the Cathedral Range in the background

Fishing at Gaylor Lakes in Yosemite with the Cathedral Range in the background. Photo by Harry Vanderburg.

Yosemite’s Backcountry

Hiking into Yosemite’s backcountry is an experience in itself, but what about catching your dinner too? Among the High Sierra Camps, you’ll find good fishing at Merced Lake, a 14 mile hike from Yosemite Valley. Closer to the Tioga Road are Young Lakes, a six mile hike to three small alpine lakes with stunning Sierra scenery. Also on the High Sierra Camp loop, you’ll find rainbow trout at Vogelsang and Fletcher Lakes, a short hike from Vogelsang High Sierra Camp.

Fletcher Lake near Vogelsang High Sierra Camp in Yosemite

Fletcher Lake near Vogelsang High Sierra Camp in Yosemite

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Harry Vanderburg

Fishing and camping supplies are available at the Sport Shop, including spin cast and fly fishing poles. Yosemite National Park has special regulations for fishing (see below) and all legal options are provided including barbless hooks. Most importantly, California fishing licenses are sold at the Sport Shop, good for fishing anywhere in the state of California.

Special fishing regulations for Yosemite National Park include:

  • No fish or roe may be used as bait.
  • Fishing from bridges and docks is prohibited.

In Yosemite Valley:

  • Rainbow trout are catch-and-release only.
  • Brown trout limit is five per day or ten in possession.
  • Only artificial lures or flies with barbless hooks may be used; bait fishing is prohibited.
  • Mirror Lake is considered a stream and is only open during stream fishing season.

Learn more about Yosemite National Park fishing regulations before your visit.

Half Dome Trail Stewardship Plan

Half Dome Cables

Half Dome Cables

NPS announced today that an official Half Dome Trail Stewardship Plan has been signed. Those who have been keeping up with the evolving policies surrounding the day use permits for the hike to Half Dome summit won’t find anything shocking here although a few of the numbers have changed slightly in response to public comments and feedback.

The hike to the summit of Half Dome, possibly the most recognizable and iconic of Yosemite’s many majestic features, draws people from around the world, and has become increasingly popular in recent years, necessitating a management plan to preserve the wilderness character of the hike and improve safety for hikers.

300 permits will be issued each day – 225 to day hikers and 75 to overnight backpackers who plan to summit Half Dome as part of a longer trip, a decrease compared to previous years. These permits will continue to be distributed in two lotteries through Recreation.gov. The preseason lottery runs from March 1 – March 31, with lottery winners notified on April 15, 2013.

In previous years, overnight backpackers were able to receive day use permits with their overnight wilderness permits. Now, they will also need to apply for permits for the Half Dome summit.

Approximately 50 permits will also be available daily during the hiking season two days before the hiking day. (That means that to hike on a Saturday, you’d apply for the daily lottery on Thursday between midnight and 1pm PT, and get notification Thursday night.)

Find more detailed information on the permits and how to apply on the NPS site. You can read the full Park Service announcement below.

Yosemite National Park Announces the New Half Dome Trail Stewardship Plan

Yosemite National Park announces the signing of the Half Dome Trail Stewardship Plan Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). This document records the decision of Yosemite National Park to adopt a new day-use permit program for the Half Dome Trail which includes continued use of the Half Dome cables. Hiking to the top of Half Dome is one of the most popular hikes in Yosemite National Park. The iconic granite monolith, at 8,842 feet above sea level, attracts people from all over the world who attempt to climb to the summit. Most visitors ascend Half Dome via the cables, which are typically in place from mid-May through mid-October.

In 1964, Congress passed the Wilderness Act, creating the National Wilderness Preservation System. In 1984, approximately 95% of Yosemite National Park, including Half Dome and the Half Dome Trail, was designated as Wilderness through the California Wilderness Act of 1984. The Selected Action reduces congestion and improves conditions for public safety, while providing a range of wilderness experiences. Under the Selected Action, Yosemite National Park will retain the cable system and implement day-use limits through a permit system, managing for a target of 300 people on the Half Dome Trail per day.

The Selected Action is generally the same as the Preferred Alternative in the Environmental Assessment (EA) that was released for public review in January 2012. The park received a total of 1,649 comment letters during the 52-day public comment period. A wide range of comments were received: some urging the park to reconsider installing a third cable, some supporting the Preferred Alternative, and others supporting the removal of the cables altogether. Commenters sought clarification on visitor use studies, safety measures, commercial use, wilderness character, and permit allocation. There are some clarifications and corrections to the EA based on public comment, mainly in the area of commercial use. These corrections are included in an Errata to the EA.

Applications for permits to hike the trail are available from March 1 through March 31, 2013. The park will allocate permits through a preseason lottery, a two-day in advance lottery, and as part of the Wilderness Permit process. Details regarding the lotteries and the wilderness process can be found at the park’s website at http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/hdpermits.htm. The lottery will be conducted through http://www.recreation.gov.

The FONSI and errata sheets completing the decision-making process are available online at: http://www.nps.gov/yose/parkmgmt/hdp_information.htm. Requests for hardcopies or CD-ROMs of the FONSI, available on a limited basis, can be submitted to: Superintendent, Yosemite National Park, and Attn: Half Dome Trail Stewardship Plan, P.O. Box 577, Yosemite, CA 95389.

Half Dome Interim Permit Program Extended

Half Dome permits will once again be required seven days per week to hike the iconic granite monolith that crowns the east end of Yosemite Valley. However, the system for getting these permits has evolved into a double lottery system. The preseason lottery applications are due in March and will be awarded in early April. If you don’t get in on the preseason lottery, there will also be a daily lottery that you can apply for two days prior to the hiking date. More details on the Yosemite NPS website and in the press release below.
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