The Move to Tuolumne: Longer Version

With the car packed to overflowing (when did I have time to accumulate so much ‘necessary’ stuff?) and ‘see you later’ said, I hit the road with a soy latte in one hand, a chocolate muffin in the other, and a third on the wheel. At 11:07 I crossed the south fork of the Tuolumne River and officially embarked on my high country adventure. The drive was gorgeous. Sweeping views of granite slabs and domes, distant mountains, alpine lakes. I drove straight on through towards my goal of Tuolumne Meadows (and no pictures since the Tioga Road requires two-handed driving). I figured I’ll have plenty of time to hit the easy roadside vista points another day (preferably not a weekend day).

The Visitor Center in TM is very different from the one in the Valley. It’s much much smaller and the rangers and YC share a desk. And, in lieu of central heating, there’s a wood burning stove. I guess it has a homey feel to it. Though when there’s more than a dozen visitors in there it can start to feel a little claustrophobic. Ryan was working and so I chatted with him for a bit and got the details on the location of my tent cabin. And I ended up working for a few minutes so he could go on a quick lunch break. So within 10 minutes of entering the TM area, I was in uniform and working (Albeit wearing Ryan’s vest – I could totally pass for a Ryan, right? Well, apparently I can pass for a Heather because I got called that the next day while wearing my actual uniform.). My tent cabin is in Ranger’s Camp. It’s a two-room unheated tent cabin that I’ll be sharing with an NPS Interp volunteer named Angie. Definitely way more spacious than I was expecting and it has a refrigerator, running water, table, bear boxes, and a pellet stove. And I’ve got showers and laundry facilities just a minute walk away (that I don’t have to share with camping visitors, bike 2 miles to get to, or bum off of friends). Pretty sweet setup. The pellet stove has got to be one of the most interesting contraptions I’ve had the opportunity to work with. After everything was unloaded (and semi-organized), two rangers – Mike and Eric – from across the way came over to hang out and give us a crash course in pellet stove operation. Awesome guys. We got the stove roaring up to 250 degrees or so. It’s no black dragon and I’m not super hopeful I’ll be able to bake in it, but it’ll be useful in many capacities. After hanging around for a while, Angie and I went over to the guys’ place to check out some of Mike’s skiing videos and look at some of Eric’s Gary Snyder library. So much for getting more sleep up in Tuolumne, right? Well, the season is young, so it might still happen…

And then I had my first day of work on Monday. No phones. No internet. No heat (other than the wood burning stove). No knowledge of Tuolumne trails or conditions. It was kind of a crash course day. At least I had electricity at the cabin to work with so I had some hot coffee to keep me going. And I got ridiculously excited any time a visitor (or co-worker) asked a Valley question. I’ve got so much to learn if I’m going to be able to hang out here. A world of new trails and vista points; higher elevation mammals and birds and butterflies and flowers and trees; new adjacent areas (east side!). In the afternoon, the internet came on (for a bit and then was off again and so forth and might be consistently working now), so I was able to check my email and Facebook and all that. And then I spent a good chunk of time sitting outside in the sun rolling up posters and maps and putting them into sleeves. And the best surprise of the day was Crystal dropping by after her backpacking trip and hanging out for a bit. Add into that that Todd stopped by to help out with the internet issues and other general work stuffs and left behind some Newman’s Own ginger crème cookie sandwiches. Super yum! And vegan too. Speaking of vegan, I’ve decided that I’m just going to try and go for vegan for the rest of the summer. I’m already mostly vegetarian and usually vegan these days and I’ve been feeling less and less inclined to eat meat or dairy (fish is still tempting until I start thinking about pollution and mercury too much). I’ve gotten some pretty interesting and definitely varied reactions to this so far. But more on that later – back to Tuolumne…

My first trek was out around puppy dome (might actually go up that one tomorrow after work) to the slabby banks of the Tuolumne River. Climbed around on some boulders (too many opportunities to resist them all), sat next to the river for a while, and got my Chacos (and feet) all muddied up. I had a couple of first sightings too… long-tailed weasel and Cassin’s finch. Plus a plethora of flowers, some butterflies and other insects, and few more birds that I’ve yet to identify.

I’ve started my hiking list and will be taking suggestions… I’ll definitely hike all of the trails on the day hiking map plus Clouds Rest and Mt. Dana (preferably at night during a full moon with some good friends). My weekends might be the biggest factor in getting all my hiking in. I’m going to have Wednesday-Thursday weekends and I’ve got to figure out who (if anyone) has the same.

It’s a big adjustment from Yosemite Valley, but I think I’m starting to settle in…

About Lady Grey

Just another cog in this steampunk time machine, developing unique life perspectives one epiphany and reckless adventure at a time.
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