Deer Beneath Lembert Dome
Sometimes it’s as much the places you stop that are as important as the places you go. When traveling, I cherish finding those campgrounds that reward you for staying there, where the beauty that greets you in the morning as you crawl out of your tent sets the stage for the explorations to come. There are a few that are consistent g0-to places for me whenever I travel, the Fruita Campground in Capitol Reef, South Campground in Zion, and the Lodgepole Campground in Sequoia, for example, each of which offer amazing access to the best their parks have to offer combined with awesome natural beauty in camp itself. However, in all my travels, I’ve never found a campground that offers a better morning wakeup than the Tuolumne Meadows Campground in Yosemite National Park.
Located along the gently babbling waters of the Tuolumne River, within walking distance of the Pacific Crest Trail, this campground was one of the first I can remember just wanting to spend time in. I first stayed there in 2012, and my first morning I awoke to the scene above, with deer quietly grazing in the meadow beneath Lembert Dome. The sound of the water mixed with the trilling of mountain songbirds and the sharp trills of ground squirrels to create the auditory backdrop to the amazing visual splendor of the sun kissing the top of the Dome, and bathing the meadows in its warm glow. It was such a profoundly peaceful moment, surprisingly quiet despite the full campground, and perfectly inspiring for the day ahead. Waking up to this scene filled me with enthusiasm to take my first drive into Yosemite Valley, to see Half-Dome for the first time as I rounded the bend at Olmsted Point, to hike out to the edge of the sheer cliffs at Taft and Glacier Points and gaze down at the awesome splendor of one of the truly special places on Earth.
It’s easy to get caught up in the destinations when you go to a National Park, a need to see the sights you’ve seen in pictures or read about online or in magazines, but sometimes the truly special moments are the ones that happen just twenty steps from your own campsite, letting the sounds of nature and the cool air of the mountains cleanse your mind and charge your battery for the day to come. When you can find those places to stay, the memories of them invariably stick with you and help form the rich tapestry of the story of your journey. You know the good ones, and you dread the bad ones, knowing how much the experience of where you stay can affect your outlook on the park and the trip in general. I’ve been lucky enough to avoid too many of the latter experiences, but I’ve had enough of my share to cherish the truly memorable experiences, like this one.