Tuolumne Meadows Vacation, Days 1-5: Getting to Yosemite

We left scenic Hillsboro late in the afternoon.  This was not just the first time we were going to Tuolumne Meadows for an extended period of time – we were also putting our new tow vehicle to the test.  Named BeRT (Big Red Truck), it is a 1999 Ford F250 light duty truck.  We found that, with its 5.4 Liter V8, and a towing capacity of about 4 1/2 tons, getting our 2500 pound trailer up and down the mountains of Oregon and California was not a problem.

In addition to being the first time we had put our new truck to the test, it was also the first time we had lived in our TrailManor 2619 travel trailer for an extended period of time.  As you’ll discover reading through the journal, we had a number of interesting problems.

As I was saying, we left Hillsboro in the early afternoon.   By nightfall, we had arrived at our stop for the night – Valley of the Rogue State Park.  A long park along the bank of the Rogue River between Grants Pass and Medford, its a nice place to stay.

The next morning, we drove to the day use area and walked down to the river.   We then drove all the way to Berkeley, California.  We visited my Grandparents and stayed the next day (Thursday) in Berkeley as well.  The people seem to be fairly, er, eclectic.  It’s very interesting to see how the town has tried to restrict car use by putting barricades across the roads every few blocks, so that it is necessary to drive a very circuitous route to get anywhere.  Unfortunately, we did not go to UC Berkeley – I would have liked to have seen the home of the SETI@HOME project.

Friday morning, we headed out of Berkeley, heading for Yosemite.  We drove from Oakland to Livermore.  On the way, the freeway passes through a windy area where hundreds of massive wind generators have been erected.  Unlike windmills of old, which were used to pump water or grind grain, these windmills are attached to electric generators.  Erected during the oil crisis of the ’70s, the power from these wind turbines is now slightly more expensive than that derived from petroleum-based power generation facilities.   This means that the turbines tend not to be fixed when something goes wrong with them.  As a result, many of the turbines spin no more.

We got to the town of Livermore.  According to the AAA CampBook, there was a State Park in the town where there was a dump station.

What’s the dump station for?  Well, that’s not something they like to tell you about when you buy an RV.  Since all the water from the toilet, sink, shower, etc.  goes into a large tank, RVers have to stop and a dump station every once a while to empty the tank.  Since we were driving a relatively long way, I figured it would be good to dump the full tank (20 gallons, which is about 170 pounds of water) to save a little fuel.

Unfortunately, it didn’t really work out that way.  What the AAA CampBook didn’t mention was that the State Park was 20 miles on the other side of the town.  It was really a nice drive – we had to climb over a high ridge before we could drop down to the park, which surrounded a reservoir.  At the ridge, dozens of raptors we hovering in the thermals.

As if the fact that it would be an hour round trip out of way to dump the tanks wasn’t enough, we were charged $6 to get into the park, just to use the dump station.  Whatever small amount of gas we would had saved from dumping the tanks, we more than made up for it by wasting gallons of gas getting us there and back.  Live and learn….

Friday afternoon, we got to the meadows.  As we drove along the Tioga Road, I saw mom sitting in the campground, keeping an eye out for us.  Trish was skeptical that I had spotted her at that range, but it was indeed the case that I had seen her.  She met us at the ranger booth at the entrance to the campground.  She hopped in, and we drove toward out site.  At Tuolumne, you can’t reserve a site, but my parents asked the rangers to give us a site near them.

As we drove, I was shocked.  There was another TrailManor in the campground.  A ’90s 2720, to be exact.  It’s the same as our 2619, except it has a queen instead of a double bed.  Unfortunately, they left before we could talk to them, but was neat to see out first fellow TrailManor-er.

We got to our site and set up the RV.  We had my parents over for dinner Friday night.  It was really nice – with an RV, you can be in the middle of nowhere, yet have hot showers and delicious meals.  My parents wanted to rent an RV, but weren’t able to find one for a reasonable price.

On Saturday, we stayed near our site, getting used to the altitude.  At that height, the oxygen density is about half that at sea level.  If you try to exert yourself right away, headaches and nausea can result.

As night fell, Dad double-checked our wilderness permits and realized that our backpack permit was for Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.  Our first hike at Tuolumne will be a three day backpack to Young Lakes.