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Tuolumne Meadows Camping

For as long as I can remember, I've gone camping in Tuolumne Meadows every summer. When I was really young, I think we spent more time in Yosemite Valley, but at some point when it became more crowded, we started going up to Tuolumne instead. It's by far one of my favorite places in the world. Early in our relationship, Andrew joined me for a weekend there and thankfully he was hooked too. You can see more posts from our various trips here

It's such a beautiful place and although it's gotten more crowded over the years and hard to get a reservation, it still has a different vibe than Yosemite Valley. There aren't really any services so it attracts a more rugged crowd. People who go there are typically climbing, backpacking or hiking. Then there are the people driving through or making day trips to the lake from the Valley. 

This was Graham's second trip to Tuolumne which is so special for me (and Andrew) as well as my parents. He has even been on the summit of Lembert Dome twice now, something I've done countless times in my life. We decided we'd stick to the trails and wait until he's 4 or 5 to take him up the face. Apparently I was 4 the first time I hiked up that way. It's so fun looking back over the years of pictures on the summit, sitting on top of the erratic boulder. Someday I'm going to collect all of them and make a scrapbook with just that one pose over the years. 

This year we weren't sure if the trip was going to happen or not. We had reservations for August 8th but they decided not to open the campground due to Covid-19. Understandably so, but still so disappointing. We were able to get the day use permit to enter the park, and decided to just wing it, and do our best to get a first come first serve campsite. Thankfully my parents were able to head down a bit early (retired life), and they got a campsite just outside the park entrance at Junction Campground. We left on Saturday morning to join them and spent three days together enjoying our favorite place. 

When we arrived on the first day we didn't have our car pass to get inside the park so we played around the campsite in the afternoon before dinner. Graham loved his campsite and still talks about it and asks to go back. He even brought home a special "smooth one rock" he found there. It was a great set up near a creek, far from other campsites, and had little granite outcroppings he could climb on.

Sunday morning we woke up and started with our annual hike up Lembert Dome. I was too scared to let Graham out of the pack on the summit, so we headed back down for the tree line to our same spot from last year for a picnic. Graham did great in the pack, we sang songs and chatted the whole way. Once we were back down to the car we made our way to another favorite spot, Tenaya Lake. We have a rock that we've claimed as ours that is perfect for diving off, and having a snack or a beer after a long hike. Most times it's open, although over the years some folks have discovered it. I guess we can share sometimes. After the lake we explored the meadow for a little bit before driving back to the campground to make dinner. I love some of the photos we got in the meadow, Graham had a great time exploring in the river and on the boulders. Of course, roasted marshmallows after dinner was probably the highlight of the day for him!

On Monday we decided to hike up to Elizabeth Lake, we've done this a few times but it's the perfect distance with Graham in the pack and it's always nice to have a lake to enjoy during lunch. Graham was a bit cranky on the hike, but we sang and tried to distract him. Thankfully he was able to take a nap on the last part of the hike which made the remainder of the day go smoothly. We had a great picnic at the lake and enjoyed the sandy shelf and cool water on our feet. We could see the clouds building and wondered if the rain would come, so we decided to head back down. We saw a few deer on our way which was fun for Graham, and we stayed dry! After our hike we made our way back to Tenaya for our daily swim (I opted out this day since it was a bit cold and windy) then we drove down to Olmstead Point to take in the views and snap a family picture. 

Our last morning in camp Papa was getting ready to head out for a day of climbing so he and Graham played a bit in camp before he left. Graham was sporting his Papa shirt that his cousin gave to him. Since we planned to leave that afternoon, we packed up around camp and Mimi played with Graham and did the breakfast dishes. Once we were all packed up, we headed into the park to hike up river. This has always been my favorite activity. I don't know what it is about this spot, but it's one of my most favorite places in the world. My Mom's too. I think I actually took my first steps there as a baby, so a special place for our family for sure. I think when I was little, when my Dad was out climbing, my mom would take me and my sister up here because it's a short hike with a lot of space to play and splash in the water. We had a quick picnic on a sandy little section we found along the river, but we started feeling a few raindrops so we packed up and headed out to beat the rain. We even caught a flash of lighting and some thunder in the distance, but managed to stay dry. One last trip to Tenaya Lake for a swim before heading home. This time our rock was taken, so we found a spot close by and took a swim. It was perfect and I actually didn't want to get out! Graham didn't want to swim, he was too busy snacking on M&Ms with Mimi, but Mom and Dad enjoyed the lake. 


It was such a great trip. Different than usual, we missed our soft serve at the Tuolumne Meadows Grill after a long hike, and it was so quiet and a little strange seeing the campgrounds empty and so many less people out and about. But it was also nice, and I'm grateful we were still able to go. I hope that next year feels a bit more like we're used to, and we can stay in the campground. Maybe even at A72, our coveted favorite spot near the river! And best of all if my sister and her family can join us! I know the cousins would have so much fun together!

I have so many great photos from the weekend but I'm having trouble with the quality from those I took on my iphone when I upload them to the blog, hopefully I can fix it and add more soon.

Do you have any special places like this from your childhood you've continued to visit as an adult? 

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