YOSEMITE SUMMER: The Weather Takes a Turn for the Better

This and one remaining blog post are about my recent month long visit to California and experiences in Yosemite National Park, where I served as a park volunteer.

Friday, July 10

No snow in Tuolumne Meadows. Snow to the east and west, but not here. The day felt like late autumn, with storm clouds threatening again.

Snow on the ridge, Gaylor Lakes trail

Snow on the ridge, Gaylor Lakes trail

I had nothing on the agenda and accepted Susan’s invitation to join the Conservancy’s wildflower tour of the meadows. The group gathered at the Visitors Center. Median age? I would guess 80 (and I’m 63). I wasn’t sure what to expect but I soon learned that this was a three-day affair. I planned to dip my toes in the water and see how long I would last. Our guide, Michael, explained that he would not give the name of a flower until we fully understood how the flower worked – pollinating, stamens, petals, etc. He wanted us to concentrate on how each flower functioned rather than agonizing over the proper name. Michael handed some of us magnifying glasses so we could gain an in-depth appreciation of each tiny alpine flower.

While I was amazed at the first few flowers we examined, I knew my participation would not last beyond lunch. This tour may not have been my cup of tea, but it certainly tripped the other seniors’ triggers. Before I knew it, a dozen people dropped to their knees and hovered over their quarry. Anyone looking from a distance would have sworn someone had lost a contact. Again, their cup of tea, not mine. When Michael told us to head up a hill for lunch, I made my excuses to Susan and headed back to camp. Time to do laundry.

That evening, the volunteers gathered at Tuolumne Lodge for our celebratory dinner on the Yosemite Conservancy’s tab. Suzy and Taryn, our very pleasant volunteer coordinators, served as our gracious hostesses. A good time was had by all, despite the mediocre food. I learned my lesson from Wednesday and ordered a hamburger with mixed vegetables, far superior to the pitiful “beef” stew (little beef and lots of potatoes) I ordered on that occasion.

Eastern shore of Tenaya Lake

Eastern shore of Tenaya Lake

Then it was off to Adrienne’s “Taj Mahal” (her well-appointed RV) for cards. Susan quit while she was ahead to prepare for Day 2 of the Wildflower Tour. As has been the case with all-too-many of our games, Dee won the balance of the contest.

Saturday, July 11

I awoke at 5:30 and decided to check out Tioga Road as far as the Tioga Pass entrance station. Patches of snow lined the road only two miles east of our campsite. I had plans to hike to Gaylor Lakes again, mainly because I had failed to take my iPhone on my last hike. The prospects looked iffy, but I was determined.

I called home around 10am and then drove to the trailhead. The trail was in excellent condition during the first 2/3 of the hike, but then turned muddy and slushy from the snow. At times I was tempted to turn back, but I soldiered on. I’m happy I did. The views from the ridge never disappoint. It’s a “Sound of Music” moment, this time with the bonus of two inches of snow left from a recent six-inch snowfall.

“Sound of Music” view from ridge

I took my time descending the slippery trail and returned to my car. Then I was off to Lee Vining for a cherished telephone call to my daughter and lunch at the Mobil. As I finished my feast, I noticed storm clouds brewing over Tioga Crest. So, off again. The rain was off and on, but ended before I reached Tuolumne Meadows. Off to the showers before another gathering of the volunteers, this time with the welcome addition of our Yosemite Conservancy young marrieds, David and Holly.

Dee once again hosted the potluck dinner, which included matzos ball soup, two types of lasagna, and sponge cake. I haven’t had access to scales while here, so I’ll be curious how much weight I’ve gained.

This is the last night in my “Holiday Inn” tent. Cassie and I agreed to a price and she will make far better use of it than I ever would. She is a “camping type of girl.” But I will miss the REI Kingdom 4 tent. With sufficient headroom for me to walk around without bending, it has served as a welcome substitute to my 2-person backpacker tent. My cot and topper are reasonably comfortable and my 20-degree sleeping bag has kept me comfortably warm. Not bad digs if you can live without heat and an adjacent bathroom (and at 90 yards away, the cold-water-only restroom is anything but adjacent), something I don’t expect to experience again any time soon. As I watch the cold air fog before me, it’s time to turn in.

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