Tioga Pass & Tuolumne Meadow Campground

Driving up Tioga Pass and heading to Yosemite with monsoon weather building up strength in the southeast, made for a dramatic day of intense weather. Callie loved being copilot on the dashboard and tolerated the windshield wipers sliding back and forth while raindrops plopped down noisily on the windshield. The further up Tioga Pass we went, the more intense the storm became. She uses to make a run for the back of the RV whenever we needed to use the wipers at the beginning of our travels. It is now expected of her to be brave and to stay open and curious about each and every new adventure.

In 1889 John Muir and publisher, Robert Underwood Johnson, discussed ways in which to protect this wilderness area. Johnson published two articles written by Muir in his Century Magazine and a year later, Yosemite National Park was born. In 1892, John Muir started the Sierra Club in order to encourage people to appreciate and protect the park for years to come.

Tioga Pass has only been open for less than a month now, and you can see the damage that heavy snow from the past winter has done to the trees and buildings as you make your way up the road. Roofs are caved in and trees are crushed and laying on the ground, still green with the hope of making it through the next winter. Autumn is already in the air and a tree that is flattened on the ground has little chance of making it when the snows bury it again.

We didn’t have a reservation but kept our fingers crossed and our hopes high, that we would be able to nab one of the first come, first serve sites, midweek. There were so many people that had descended on Oregon for the solar eclipse, that I was pretty optimistic we would be able to get a campsite. Thank goodness we were in luck and on our first day and night, we spent watching the storm build up into a powerful force of lightning and thunder, with pounding rain and hail. It was very dramatic and a river of water passed right under our RV and out and over to the other side. It rushed down to the restrooms below, flooding and pooling up, right at the entranceway. I am so appreciative that we are in an RV and not a tent. The people in tents look forlorn, cold, wet and miserable.

The next morning Michael and I spotted an empty campsite and arranged to be moved to A-53. You can hear the roar of the river and can see it right across from where we are camped. It is much drier and a lot more private, making it a better place to stay 5 more days and nights.

On Wednesday, early afternoon, we biked over to the Soda Springs trailhead and then hiked up and behind the Parsons Memorial Lodge. (Mr. Parsons was an avid hiker who helped with trailblazing exhibitions during the founding days of Yosemite) and we ended our hike at the Tuolumne River, a distance of 6 miles round trip. Michael and I were able to cross a section of the river and sit on some boulders in the middle and watch the water race by. It was a beautiful day with clouds billowing and forming into marshmallow puffs in the distance. Every evening around 4:00, the monsoon weather builds up and finally, the heavy, saturated clouds spill forth, providing much-needed rainfall before the winter snows once again pound the region. Thank goodness the drought is somewhat over for most of California.

It was a day of intense photography and I was able to capture 2 mule deer bucks, frolicking in the meadow and drinking at one of the tributary streams feeding the river. There is an abundance of grass in the meadow and the summer has been kind to them. The moment was captured on camera and photographers don’t get these opportunities often. It left me feeling pleased as can be and because it was at the beginning of the hike, I pranced on tippy toes of delight the rest of the way.

Halfway to the river, a young woman rode past us with a young buckskin colt following behind. She was riding the mare and her 6-month-old colt was almost following behind dutifully, but with a desire to investigate every little thing in his path. He needed a drink of water and decided that the river was a fine place indeed in which to play in. It brought back memories of my little filly- Buffy Sainte Marie that I raised in my teen years with my sister’s mare- Regina Marie Anne.

Shortly after the colt finally bolted out of the stream and decided to finally follow its mother, a cowboy on a sorrel, quarter horse, that was leading 5 well-trained mules, trudged past us fully loaded down with gear. I told him to read Oregon Trail and asked him how long he had been out on the trail? He muttered “a long time” and ambled on in typical, cowboy gruffness. I bet he had a rough night, the night before, because of the rain, hail, thunder, and lightning! Horses are hit by lightning because of being shod with metal shoes and wild herds are frequently the target of such horrible deaths too! It couldn’t have been an easy night for him. His horse and mules were in fine form though and I checked out his gear as they passed by. Everything looked in good order and the mules were well behaved. Mules are much more intelligent than horses and if they don’t want to do something, they won’t. A horse can be intimidated into obeying, but not a mule! For the cowboy to have control of such a large string of mules left me feeling very impressed and I let his gruffness slide off my back. He deserved respect!

When taking pictures, photography provides me with a wonderful sense of energy, whereas painting takes it out of me. I may try to paint again someday, but for now, writing and photography will have to do. It is too difficult to set up art supplies and start a painting while on the road at this time in my life. I don’t stay in one place long enough. Maybe in the future, we will slow down. For now, it is Michael’s dream to see as much as he can before the aging process makes it too difficult to travel. I am good with that and Callie is even better. She loves the adventure of it all and wants new scenery every 3 days or so, herself. Our adventures with Callie are turning out to be a wonderful lifetime opportunity. Next week we pick up our daughter and help move her out of her apartment. She is going to take some much needed time off to reinvent herself and will join us on the next adventure in the RV.

Thursday morning, August 24th, I took Callie on a walk and she was able to choose which tree she wanted to climb up, what clump of grass she preferred to hide in, when to drink water out of the river and where to relax in the shade under my chair. Her confidence level has improved greatly, and she relishes all the attention she gets when she is with me. Several times she has bolted out of the RV door when it is being opened and I have had to yell at her to stay. She cowers down right away and lets me pick her back up and place her inside. There is just way too much danger out there for her to do it alone! Dogs alone pose a threat to her.

Early afternoon, Michael and I actually waded out in the cold water in our swimsuits to bathe, ( there are no showers in this campground) and we sat under the sun’s warming rays until noon.

After lunch, we biked over to the old fisherman’s trail that Michael and Fred had hiked last year, parked our bikes and walked to the river again. I was able to take a few nice photos of a red-shouldered hawk perched on a dead tree trunk, and on the return hike, a doe leading her fawn across the pathway and into the meadow. The clouds looked ominous when we hiked and biked back to our RV after 4, but they didn’t build up enough strength to warrant rain.

It is now dusk and I feel full after a glass of Chardonnay and a dinner of fresh ahi and salmon, rice and broccoli, with ice cream for dessert. I shall sleep well tonight, as shall Callie and Michael. You can’t beat camping like this. A large rig would not be able to park here. 24 feet is just the right size for two people and a cat!

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