Expect the unexpected

For a while now we’ve been wanting to try camping at Yosemite Creek Campground, located off the Tioga Road in Yosemite National Park. Why is this campground supposed to be so great? Mainly due to its relatively remote location in the otherwise overwhelmed YNP. You have to drive down a five mile stretch of rough road to get there, and they don’t take reservations, so this keeps the Winnebagos at bay. We happened upon it a few years back on a hike, and it looked nearly deserted on a Monday afternoon. The lone campers we chatted with said, yeah, there were a few more people on Saturday, but everybody left on Sunday.

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Here’s the Resident Expert, 4 years ago on our unexpected discovery of the camp. Few campgrounds mention Cats on their signage.

As it turns out, we have days in the week other than Saturday and Sunday. So we took two of those days off from work (Monday, Tuesday) and drove up to claim our quiet, private campsite in the heart of Yosemite.

We rolled on up HWY 120 and found ourselves in a long line of cars waiting to get into Yosemite. Hmm. We have the Annual Parks Pass. Shouldn’t we be escorted through, bypassing the riff raff in this line of cars? There are Winnebagos among us. No, we had to shuffle through with all the others, as if we were not superior to them.

Then I had to stop at the gas station at Crane Flat, since we were just under half a tank. For us, under half a tank is running on fumes. Another line of cars! Where did all these people come from? From what I could tell, I would guess: Belgium,  Netherlands, France, and Germany.

We started passing the other campgrounds on the Tioga Road. Crane Flat. (Full.) Tamarack. (Full.) Some of these are first-come, first-served campgrounds, just like Yosemite Creek. What if our campground was also full – what would happen then? Keep reading, and I will tell you.

Finally we see the sign to turn off to Yosemite Creek, and – thankfully – no Full sign is attached. But wait – just as we start down the road to camp there’s another sign. A hand-made sign, saying: “Full”. The other signs weren’t hand made though. Surely this must mean that the camp isn’t actually full. We head down the road anyway, and soon the paved portion ends and we’re on the unmaintained section. This was a road to mine years ago, and some bits of pavement remain. But you are mostly rocking in and out of ruts and potholes at speeds of up to 10 mph. And it’s 5 miles of this, as I mentioned earlier. Somebody was coming up the other way, and as we gyrated past one another I asked, “is the campground full?”. He responded with an emphatic, “no.”. But he did think about it for a minute first, just to freak us out.

Great! A nice empty campground just for us, as I have been imagining for several years. We rolled into the camp and sure enough, empty campsites abounded. It wasn’t totally deserted, but less than half full in the mid afternoon. We picked out the best one (53) and set up our kit. There’s a trailhead at the campground that will eventually lead you to the top of Yosemite Falls, and we had time to probe the first mile or so of that before dinner.

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Here’s our campsite. Nobody on either side or across the way, so pretty nice. Or so we thought.

When we got back to camp a few other sites were occupied, and one of them – not right next to us but close enough – hosted a large family who were not fully checked out on campground etiquette. Should you race around the campground yelling while others are preparing dinner? No. Should you discover a telephone pole sized log, probably intended for campfire seating, at an unoccupied campsite and hoist this upon the shoulders of your fellow ruffians and carry it to your own campsite, where you are only able to burn one end of it in your own poorly constructed campfire? No. Last question: Should you ride your mountain bike into other campsites during quiet-time hours, while your companions are not being quiet at all, heedless of the concerns of other campers? Again, the answer is No.

We are not novice campers, so we had earplugs available and were not bothered by this commotion when bedtime rolled around. But if not for this crew, the first night would have been nice and quiet. Observing and judging the behavior of others is also not new to us.

Surely, Monday would see even fewer people in camp, right? We were out and about during the day on hikes, and when we got back to camp we saw that the crew from the night before had pulled up stakes and left. But other campers had taken their place – the campground was completely full. Still, this evening was quieter than the night before, which in contrast illustrates the intensity of the disruption caused by the Sunday night group. We did have one flurry of rigmarole at about 1:30 am when the group across the way from us decided to break camp and head out. Why? I cannot say, but we guessed that they were not experienced campers and might not have realized that it gets colder than room temperature at night.

Would we camp at Yosemite Creek again? Maybe. It’s always a roll of the dice what you’ll get in the instant and temporary society of the campground. Part of the fun, actually. The trails are good here. We got lost on the granite and didn’t get to Yosemite Falls. But we did go uphill to the first couple miles of the Ten Lakes trail, which you can reach easily from camp. If we’re ever there again, that’s the trail I’d go for. Or you could just sit by Yosemite Creek.

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