Our days were measured by trout caught, bears seen and miles hiked; nights by stars and the embers of a campfire. During those summers we’d rarely see a familiar face, but the place seemed unchanging. We grew a lot during those short visits, climbing granite domes, hiking trails commonly rising 1,000 feet in less than five miles, floating in a river that only a few miles earlier was born of snowmelt.
I was reminded that Tuolumne Meadows was our vacation “home” last week when I posted a photo of my brother and me with a trophy high-country trout, back when our fishing was more about self-sufficiency and every fish ended up in a pan surrounded by bacon. Mornings my brother, sister and I would hike to Soda Springs to capture the naturally carbonated water – and bits of minerals I’m sure – our mother would gently blend with pancake mix to make some of the puffiest pancakes in the world.
Our visits to Tuolumne Meadows were more adventure than vacation. Stories of our exploits of those summers come up frequently: The poor decision to slide down the granite face of Lembert Dome as the sun set. The bear that followed us back to camp after a long day hike. My sister’s discovery that fish were living beings while ironically still fishing but refusing to eat our catch. On tougher hikes, mom’s constant encouragement to discover what might be around the next bend.
It wouldn’t be out of place to say that Tuolumne Meadows, a less visited part of Yosemite National Park, helped form the person I am today. I’ve since returned to Tuolumne Meadows, one time fishing there with my sons, another time hiking up Lembert Dome with my brother and one son. Nature seems to ignore us humans; the changes over the last three decades are entirely ours.
I’ve been lucky enough to have visited Death Valley, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Lassen, Redwood and Mt. St. Helen national parks. Many national monuments, recreation areas and historic sites as well: Alcatraz Island, John Muir National Historic Site, Point Reyes National Seashore, Muir Woods National Monument, Cabrillo National Monument, Fort Point National Historic Site and Golden Gate Recreation Area.
The national park system is America’s Best Idea. Next week is National Park Week. Every national park will offer free admission from April 16th through the 24th. If you can, get to one and #FindYourPark.
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity”
― John Muir, Our National Parks
April 13, 2016 at 3:15 pm
Your post couldn’t be more on the mark. We’re heading to Yosemite mid-next month. All the parks you listed, I’ve been to most. Of course when one lives in the Golden State, one visit all the cool places.
April 13, 2016 at 3:38 pm
Good for you Mark, should be a nice time for a visit. I’m hoping I can make it over Tioga Pass again this summer, maybe soon after the snow’s cleared.
April 15, 2016 at 1:50 pm
Thanks for the reminder Patrick. I rediscovered Rocky Mountain National Park last year. I spent a lot of youthful time there and hadn’t visited for a long time due to the huge crowds. I learned to appreciate the park during the off season and saw another side I hadn’t seen before.
April 15, 2016 at 1:55 pm
Howard, I’ve been lucky enough to visit some parks during different seasons, and Yosemite during every season of the year. But of all seasons, the “off season” is the best! My wife and I hope to travel to many of our National Parks as time allows and definitely after we retire. Doesn’t hurt that she’s not adverse to my dragging a fly rod or four along!
May 29, 2016 at 12:30 pm
Lembert Dome is absolutely one of my favorite hikes and favorite views (and favorite smells along the way). And our sis usually caught more fish than us, go figure!
May 29, 2016 at 3:42 pm
Agreed, but I do remember the awe inspired when Elizabeth Lake finally came into view. As for our sister, I don’t thing she’d even touch a fishing rod these days…