Yosemite National Park: Tuolumne Meadows & Glen Aulin
Of all the Yosemite National Park, Tuolumne Meadows offers my favorite things: endless meadows, mountains peaks with whimsical names and meandering crystal-clear rivers.
However as the meadows are barely accessible four months each year for the masses and infrastructures are super basic, they don’t attract the crowds the valley floor gets. In fact, many people don’t even know there’s a Yosemite beyond the valley.
This year, we started our 10-day camping trip by three nights at Tuolumne Meadows. The first night included two bear sightings on our campsite but not by us.
My friend Christine woke up at three in the morning, went out of the tent, stumbled upon a furry thing munching next to our tent, heard another one rustle nearby, and realized that they were bears! She dashed back to the tent, put on her glasses and came out again. The bears were gone but it made for a great breakfast story for my girls.
By mid-morning, we packed a picnic lunch, laced up our heavy hiking boots and went on the way to Glen Aulin. Glen Aulin is a popular hike from the meadows as the dusty trail lazily cuts through plateaus and hilltops before catching up with the Tuolumne River, then descends haphazardly on a wild ride through forests and granite slabs, creating occasional pools and waterfalls.
Having hiked there six years ago in our pre-children era, we figured we knew the way. Ahem. With two under five, no trail is quite the same. All of a sudden, distances expand, rocks get bigger, the dust clouds you up til your neck and the sun hits twice as hard. That day we forgot our ever-popular Nestle sweetened-condensed milk as hike steroids but trail-mix did the job all right.
After three miles we called it a day and stopped by the river, just a mile before the real Glen Aulin mountainscape unveils. What a sight though. Pure Yosemite high country.
My girls were so happy to splash around. With Cathedral Peak as backdrop and ankle-high chilly waters to revive our weary feet, the experience was heaven.
Coming back was a little tough on our five-year-old. Our three-year-old, cleverer, was traveling in style on her father’s back and chatting away like a morning robin. Our oldest kept stopping every dozen steps because she was “soooo tired.” Since we each carried a backpack plus their miniature backpack filled to the brim with insect boxes, magnifiers, sunglasses and whatnots, carrying her was not an option.
When we finally reached the stables, we sat down with a big sigh of relief. Too much dust is too much dust! While I enquired for horse-back rides, my husband went to get the car. Turns out that the minimum age for horse rides is seven years because you have to have your own horse. Never mind.
All we wanted by then was a relaxing day by Lake Tenaya’s beach.