You know you are a horseplayer when you just can’t stop calling Tioga Lake Tiago Lake after a semi-famous Peruvian jockey. Maybe it was the smoke filling my lungs and cutting off the flow to my brain but I just can’t seem to call this lake by its proper name. Or maybe it’s because I left my Prevagen at home before we left for our three week trip to the eastern Sierras this summer.
Yosemite National Park was terrible today, words I truly believed I would never say about this beautiful wilderness, I mean unless I was talking about the crowds of tourists hogging the shoulders of Tiago Pass Road at Tuolumne Meadows and taking selfies. As the Big Bear edition of the Degenerate Gambler’s Club made their way up to Tioga Pass towards the gates of Yosemite National Park the skies were clear azure blue with not a cloud to be seen and no smoke from the Ferguson Fire on the breeze.
Had we lucked out?
Wildfires had followed us through the eastern Sierras, every step and every mile so far. As we breathed in the clean morning air at nine thousand feet, I thought, hey this Yosemite smoke is not bad at all!
It was an excellent summer day early morning to explore this California National Park. Until three hours later when we all had the Yosemite plgem invading our lungs. Everywhere you go in the eastern Sierras this July, you know the people who have traveled to Yosemite National Park and inhaled the acrid smoke from the Ferguson Fire. We all have the same cough and we are all hacking up that same crap out of our lungs.
We had been out in the eastern Sierras for three weeks and some days the smoke from the Ferguson Fire was miserable making the afternoon sky a hazy yellow. The smoke was so thick we had no idea the afternoon thunderstorms were starting until, boom! We heard the thunder and the rain began falling down on us one summers afternoon.
But three consistent afternoons of pouring rain had left the skies clear and once again a pretty eastern Sierras blue at 10,000 feet and we actually wondered about if we would be able to enjoy our day in Yosemite National Park with minimal smoke.
We would be terribly, miserably wrong. After a detour to watch three giant bucks feeding in the bush we were heading downwards towards the valley floor. The traffic was crazy light for a morning in the summertime in Yosemite National Park and that should have been my first clue that something was not quite right. Even as we cruised through crazy popular Tuolumne Meadows there were no tourists standing in the middle of the street in brand new North Face gear taking selfies. Now, this was odd. Usually even in the early hours in the summertime, Tuolumne Meadows is a clusterfuck of tourists waving selfie sticks at the confused deer just trying to graze in these meadows. What the hell was going on here? I felt like we were in a twilight zone; If that twilight zone happened to be a pristine alpine meadow with doe’s frolicking through it in the early morning light.
Back in the car, we were well on our way driving down into the valley, slowly, as to avoid deer crossing the highway in front of us. It was maybe an hour into the drive, we were admiring the wildflowers piping up and the fluorescent green mold blanketing the pine trees when we began to smell the smoke. It felt like we went around a corner and the entire valley was enveloped in thick smoke as far as the eye could see. It looked like thick fog at first, until you could smell the acrid smoke soaking into the vents of the car and my throat started to burn; Stupid asthma.
The further we traveled down towards the valley floor the thicker the smoke became. I started to get worried. The smoke was so unbelievably bad; I knew the fire was
miles away from where we were but it seemed like this giant 20,000-acre fire was burning out of control over the next ridgeline. How on earth were people camping in this terrible smoke!? Most of the campsites in Yosemite National Park are down in the valley and I felt so, so bad for all the people who had traveled here from across the nation and even the world to see this glorious National Park and the acrid smoke was just so terrible that visibly was nearly impossible.
We had been on our way to Bridal Veil Falls to check out some of the easier to get to waterfalls but I had to wonder if we would even get a good view of these sites with the thick blanket of smoke.
We stopped to top off on gas and coffee at a gas station sixteen miles from the valley and even pumping gas I felt my lungs burning from the smoke. We were the absolute only people around not wearing face masks. It felt like visiting another planet not the gorgeous national park we had intended to visit.
The smoke was so intense and horrible we decided to skip the bike ride around the valley floor and swimming in the Merced River and explore those waterfalls another not so smoky day.
The good news was as soon as gained two thousand feet of altitude gain and got over a mile high the smoke cleared a bit and I felt like I could breathe again. We drove back up to Tuolumne Meadows and did just a little hike around.
What’s crazy on this trip into Yosemite is number one, I really did not take any photos as the smoke was just so miserable and number two even heading back out of the park around eleven the crowds were not bad what so ever. I have never, ever driven through Tuolumne Meadows after the early morning and not had to swerve around tourists doing stupid things or parked in the middle of the road dazed and confused. I had read online that the wildfire smoke was keeping the crowds away and that totally seemed to be true on this Monday morning in Yosemite National Park.
Even with the relatively small throngs of tourists we decided to head out of the park early and head to nearby Tioga Lake to check out the fishing situation. Of course, I have been calling it Tiago Piera Lake all week
This was my boyfriend and his daughter’s first trip into Yosemite National Park and we might have fought some smoke and luckily no crowds on our very quick journey into the park but we are actually quite lucky to have seen any of Yosemite this summer. Three days after we were exploring the upper areas of the park the entire valley of the park was closed. This is the first time the Yosemite Valley has been closed since a 17,000 acre fire in 1990! Yosemite does not close in the summertime, and we might have had issues with one morning of our vacation plans going off the rails a bit, but I really feel bad for all the revenue the park and the people who own businesses in it are going to lose this summer, as well as all those campers who came from out of state and across the world this summer to see Yosemite National Park and instead just had a smoky day in the mountains.