Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Tuolumne Day Two: Getting a Backpacking Permit

In order to get a backpacking permit, you have to either figure the system out in advance or show up by 11AM the day before you want to leave.  I haven't been able to make the advance option work; when I drove up to apply, they told me that I couldn't do it in person; when I sent in my application months in advance, they advised me only weeks before my departure date that I had been denied an advance permit.  So, getting there the day before seems the best bet.  However, in order to be sure you get a permit, you need to be one of the first in line and when I arrived, the rangers informed me that on that day, people started lining up at 4AM.  (I found out later that at times people line up as early as 5PM the night before; true insanity and a call for a better system!)

So I got there at 3:30.  Yes, 3:30 AM.  At 8400' in the Sierras, in a dark parking lot frequented by bears.  To wait in line for nearly eight hours.  I parked my lawn chair by the sign - I was first! - snuggled into my sleeping bag, and started to read by the light of my headlamp.  Others showed up at 5:00 and then periodically after.

The best part was the weirdest part - alone and awake in the dark night.  It was gorgeous - a clear night, a brilliant shooting star, the stillness of the mountains, and the sounds of the first birdsong of the day.

The company was fun too; getting everyone's stories and hearing their plans.  Charles had to leave and dropped the girls with me at about 9AM.  Together the girls and I got our permit and spent the rest of the day enjoying the beauty of the meadows, one of my favorite places on earth.

Reading together on the steps of the wilderness permit office

Ah, fabulous!

The Lyell fork of the Tuolumne (our drinking water, thanks to the genius of the Hetch Hetchy system).

Playing and eating Japanese plums from Abuela and Grandpa's yard

Lovely lupine against the mountains and trees reflected in the Tuolumne river

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