Trekking the High Sierra - Tuolumne Meadows

Approaching the Sierra Nevada Mountains from the east, out of Death Valley was impressive. There they sat, like a great wall, towering above the flat lands below them. Traveling north on US-395 to Lee Vining and my turn off westward on Tioga Road, those gigantic mountains were always in sight.   

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At times I noticed that they appeared to fade in a haze and then realized that somewhere up in those high elevations a fire or fires were probably burning and the haze was the resulting smoke settling into the lower regions. As I drew closer to Tioga Road, the mountain heights increased, just as I now drove higher up on the highway.

Tioga Road rose steadily, winding around mountain curves as astounding scenes abounded around each bend.  Needing to pay attention to my driving, it tempted me, just the same to want to get out and gaze at all the majestic beauty that presented itself.

Cresting over Tioga Pass, was a steady climb up to 8,500 feet. Now, having ascended up to Tuolumne Meadows, the scent of pine was pleasing to my senses, as was the cool air and bright blue skies. (Approaching the Sierra Nevada Mountains from the East, near Lone Pine, CA).

Tuolumne Meadows would be the start, and end, of my High Sierra Camps trekking adventure. 

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One of the first items of business was to store all food or scented items in bear boxes, which were ample in supply for both longer term visitors and day hikers. The boxes are simple for us mere mortals to open, but not so for bears seeking a quick meal or snack. 

As was true of all the 6 High Sierra Camps, my housing was a tent cabin, which consisted of a canvas draped frame "cabin". At Tuolumne Meadows, and a few of the other camps I was solo in my cabin tent. Otherwise, all cabin tents were shared.

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All camps have a lodge office and dining hall, and while rather primitive looking, the meals served at all the camps were creative, plentiful and delicious. Except for Tuolumne, dining is family style, large platters of food presented to each table, and then self served. The open seating allowed me to meet many people, not only those in my group of 14 trekkers plus our ranger guide Jana Walker. 

Nightfall, and the temperatures dropped. Quickly. The first night at Tuolumne, we had a campfire meeting with Jana, our ranger guide, where she instructed us on what to expect and to suggest items we might take with or to eliminate from our packs. Finding my way back to my cabin in the dark, I then did remove a few items from my backpack. Once underway, I did wish I had whittled that down to half of what I actually  carried.

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In the early morning, I lit a fire in the wood burning stove in my cabin to take the dramatic chill out of the air. Each day thereafter, except at Merced Lake Camp, a nice warm fire in the early mornings made the cabins much more bearable and cozy warm as we prepared for each days hike.

After breakfast the next morning, Sunday, we met by the lodge, picked up our sack lunches, packed them into our packs and, in time, we were off for the first leg of the High Sierra adventure.

Next: My week in the High Sierra Camps.

(This story being sent from Yosemite Valley)



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Bear box.


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Tuolumne Meadows Falls, near my tent cabin.


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Last minute prep, before hiking into the wilderness.


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A partial view of Tuolumne Meadows Camp.