The Granite State

My close friend from high school and her partner arrived for a week-long visit and I gave them a grand-tour of the park, beginning with three days in Tuolumne Meadows. Lisa and Becky’s constant exclamations of wonderment made me enjoy (for once) the long drive up the Tioga Road. I’ve been away from New England for almost fifteen years, and I am used to the western largess that is at first astounding to those from the east coast. The highest mountains back east rise only on to the 6,000 feet above sea level mark, and peek out from dense forests that hide most of their base. “How can New Hampshire even claim to be the granite state?” Becky asked after seeing the view from Olmsted Point.

On our first afternoon, we strolled up to Gaylor Lakes, and I told them of the mining history of the area while we munched on cookies and stared at the blue waters reflecting the clouds. I had read recently the haunting story of two mules who stumbled on the descent to Sardine Lake and plunged to their deaths in the seemingly bottomless depths, “never to be seen again.” They were carrying cases of whiskey and sardines for one of the miners. Dana Village, Bennettville, and the other mining towns of the area are all filled with a rich history. Did you know the Tioga Road was originally named the Great Mining Road? Or that Bennettville once boasted the highest elevation post office to operate in California? For more tales of the mining ghost town, see Ghost Mines in Yosemite, by Douglass Hubbard.

No grand tour of Tuolumne would be complete without a trip to the Mobil Station. My friends were very doubtful about dining at a gas station, and were much relieved to see the menu at the Whoa Nellie Deli. I selected the lobster taquitos once again.

The next day, since my friends were not used to the altitude, I took them on the relatively easy Mono Pass trail. We watched the cumulus clouds form overhead, and I checked my barometer to see if we were in for a storm. I’ll need to do some research to substantiate this claim, but this year seems to be a record one for afternoon thunderstorms. I feel like I’m hiking in the Rocky Mountains. I guess I’ll have to get used to getting up at the crack of dawn again in order to finish ascents before the afternoon. California weather made me lazy for a while!