By Addie Gottwald
They were urged to resubmit their application and try for a spot in the second lottery. Worst case, they could pack up their own tents and camp outside of the High Sierra campground and pay a lesser fee ($47.25) to eat at the camp without paying for lodging ($153 a night for meals and lodging).
Luckily their group was able to get space in the second lottery and they started to prepare for their two-night trip.
I still was ignoring most details until two days before their departure.
“Well, we called in yesterday to see if there were any last minute cancellations, and it turns out that there was space for two people but only for one night,” my mother started. “I really want her to go but I would want her to have someone to hike out with while we all stay for a second night.”
She wanted my brother’s girlfriend to take part in the festivities since she had gone on the last backcountry trip with the women two years ago.
“I just don’t know who that could be,” she muttered.
Understandably she overlooked me who was sitting a mere five feet from her. Hiking isn’t my forte. I may be a country girl (probably more like a citified country girl), but my unblemished tennis shoes and inability to lift a suitcase show how truly unathletic I am. Needless to say, my manicured nails haven’t spent time below any pillow camping before.
“Hello!” I exclaimed, and it was decided. I was going to Vogelsang. The adventure was completely out of my comfort zone, but it was a first step for me in my attempt to live by the saying “do it for the story.”
I was nervous, but the women convinced me this wasn’t real camping, and it wasn’t. I wouldn’t be roughing it, I would be loving it; mattresses, wood-burning stoves, outhouses, running water, and delicious food. High Sierra Camps offer the service of shipping in gear overnight with mules to lighten your load ($5 a pound). We packed up our night gear of sleep sacks, headlamps, and warm clothes … but it was our last minute decision of sending in 14 pounds of sangria that had me thinking this could be a fun time. It may have only cost us about $12 to make the drinks, but we spent $70 for the prime mule-lugging.
Now all that was left was the actual adventure, and so we took off from Tuolumne Meadows on our hike to Vogelsang: a trip of 6.7 miles.
One would think that a 20-year-old girl would be able to keep up with menopausal women, and I did for the first 5 MMA.
MMA. Miles My Ass. The way Yosemite lies to you in all of its signs. I swear we – my mother, my brother’s girlfriend, and five other of my mother’s friends – had walked at least a mile from Tuolumne Meadows when we read a sign that said we’d only gone .6 miles. The lies would continue.
The signs’ mileage didn’t even add up. 6.3 miles back to Tuolumne but .8 miles to the Vogelsang High Sierra camp – that doesn’t exactly add up to the 6.7 MMA you promised me from the get-go. Even that 7.1 miles seemed to be a lie, but it was worth it. Besides the switchbacks near the beginning, the hike wasn’t even too strenuous for my feeble muscles. But it was the lies, the Miles My Ass that got to me. This deceit made the trip seem terribly unproductive. Stumbling upon the white-tented campsite was like a mirage in the desert: I was sure my eyes were tricking me into seeing this oasis, but it was true. We had finally made it.
The huddle of tents sat below the mountain we had seen in the distance for what seemed like hours. Besides the smell of the outhouses, it was a lovely experience. A creek ran by the side of the camp and about a hundred yards from the tents was a small pond. We even heard that you could take a small walk after dinner to watch the sunset with Half Dome in the distance.
At dinner – with a meal of salad, cream of potato soup, bread, mashed potatoes, chicken, and green beans – the camp staff taught us of the MMA rule and we felt less embarrassed that it had taken us 5 hours to hike 6.7 miles.
We still decided to dig into the sangria though …
It wasn’t but 8:50 p.m. when we heard a knock on our canvas “tent.”
“Some of us have come a long way to listen to the sound of the creek,” the voice said and asked us to be quiet. Once the giggles subsided we decided to go to bed even though it couldn’t have been later than 9:15. Wild women!
The next morning after the bell had rung for warm beverages at 7 a.m., our group made friends with a couple from Canada.
But it wasn’t long until we realized that the Canadian couple was somehow kin to the voice outside our tent from the night before. “You guys kept us up all last night,” our so-called “nice” Canadian friend muttered after breakfast.
We may have not made friends with the Canadians, but we did befriend a ranger on the way in when one woman in our group asked:
“We know mules can’t reproduce, but what type of body parts do they have? Are they hermaphrodites?”
That broke the ice.
And I broke a sweat, but it was worth it. My brother’s girlfriend and I cut out a day early, returning to the real world while the women stayed behind for one more day of Vogelsang-ing. They weren’t able to finish all 14 pounds of the sangria though. They left it behind for the kind staff that made the whole “camping” experience possible.
It’s a check off my bucket list.
For information on how to book your own High Sierra Camp experience, visit http://www.yosemitepark.com/high-sierra-camps.aspx.