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Yosemite 2010 Trip

Day 2 of 5

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Thursday, August 5th
Continued search for campsites, Pothole Dome

We woke up, checked out, and immediately started driving back up 395, then left onto 120. We made a quick stop at the Tioga Gas Mart to pick up some breakfast (very nice), then went up to Tioga Lake hoping to find a site opening up on a Thursday morning. No such luck. We arrived around 10am, but no one was leaving the small campground. It did look like one person had beaten us to one site that opened up earlier.

At this point, I figured our best bet was Tuolumne Meadows, since it was the largest campground. So we skipped past Junction and Saddlebag Lake campgrounds, re-entered Yosemite (after a wait of about 10 minutes at the entrance), then arrived at Tuolumne Meadows to find it was still full. Giving us a little hope, however, the campground board no longer read FULL everywhere. Several sites were listed as AVAILABLE; however, these were not staffed sites so the rangers were somewhat guessing, and the only one with piped water was White Wolf. (the other sites have access to water that needs to be filtered or boiled) So we got back in the car and drove straight to White Wolf.

We got to White Wolf a little before 11am, only to find that dis-heartening "CAMP FULL" sign at the entrance. Still, knowing that it wasn't staffed we hoped to find a camper who was leaving. We circled the campground with no luck. I was just about ready to give up and go home, but Jean said she noticed a site that looked like it might be opening up. We circled the campground one more time, and she asked some people if they were leaving and they were! Minutes later, they were gone, and we were the relieved occupants of site 16.

So, what did all this teach us? Well, a few things, maybe. Ideally, you should get a reservation, but that's not always realistic considering you'd need to plan months in advance. While arriving mid-week instead of Friday probably improves your chances of finding a site, it's no guarantee. Arriving earlier in the morning also probably helps, but again is no guarantee. Having some alternatives is a good idea; bringing a book like California Camping would help. Also, if you want the best chance to get a site, bring your own water or a water filter and try for one of the sites without running water.

I wonder if the recession is partly to blame, causing more Americans to stay and visit National Parks instead of traveling abroad, or maybe the weak American dollar is causing more foreign travelers to visit America. Also, we visited in the midst of great weather in early August. After late August, the numbers probably go way down because of the onset of school. (Of course, we're tied to that school schedule ourselves now.) My guess is that arriving on a Sunday morning around 9am would probably be your best bet to find a spot. Lots of campers start to head home around then.

Anyway, site in hand, we paid the $14 per day fee, set up our camp, and rested a bit. While we were at the site, a ranger came by and asked us if we'd seen a bear. Apparently there'd been a bear sighting and they were trying to track it down.

After a little rest, and after I finally got to eat my breakfast, we drove east along Tioga Road and visited the Tuolumne Meadows Grill for some soft-serve ice cream, then got some firewood from the store. Then we hiked up Pothole Dome.

After the hike, we picked up a couple of junior ranger booklets for the kids. At Yosemite, unlike the other parks we'd been to, we actually had to pay $3 for each booklet. We were happy to pay it, but I mention it so you're not surprised. Also, you don't actually have to buy the booklet to get a badge -- there's a form in the park newsletter that you (or your child) can fill out instead. But the booklet is probably more fun for them.

After returning to camp, we had dinner and a campfire. Then we tried to sleep amidst the sound of guitars and car alarms. At least it wasn't so hot anymore.


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