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At 0600 Monday morning, June 18, 2018, I met my brother, Michael, at his place in Merced, and we embarked on a 5-day camping trip in Yosemite National Park. Quite a day for me, as I had to leave my place around 0315 in order to make it to Michael's place at 0600.  Why so early?  Monday morning was "opening day" for Tamarack Flat Campground, in Yosemite's high country, and we wanted to be first in line in order to secure a camping spot.

Photo:  Today is Monday, June 18, 2018 and my brother, Michael and I are camped at Tamarack Flat Campground, in the "high country" of Yosemite National Park.  The campground is located just a few miles east of Crane Flat, on the Tioga Road, at an elevation of around 6600 feet.

Camping at Tamarack Flat is on a first-come, first-serve basis, and it can be quite a trick to secure a camp spot. We arrived on the morning the campground opened for the season, and were one of the first in line to secure a great campsite, let alone any spot at all.  By early afternoon, all 52 campsites were full, and there were many parties circling around the campground, looking in vain for a place to camp.  If you're planning to grab a place to camp in Yosemite, without a reservation, I wish you the best of luck.

I find it interesting that the colloquial word for Lodgepole pines, which inhabit the area, is "tamarack."  Don't blame me, as I didn't invent it!

Photo:  After we set up camp, we drove a few miles east on the Tioga Road, and took the short 1-1/2 mile hike to May Lake.  That's Mount Hoffman in background, which is a challenging day hike from May Lake.  Mt. Hoffman is centrally located in Yosemite, and it hosts a number of park service infrastructure, including the main radio repeater for the park.  If you're a radio buff, and you like to listen to the park's operations, tune into 172.65 MHz, which is located on top of Mt. Hoffman, and you'll be treated to all of the action.

Photo:  Meet Mr. Marmot, who lives under a cabin at May Lake High Sierra Camp, which puzzled us, as it appeared to be in a state of disrepair.  Mr. Marmot doesn't seem to care, as he spent much of the afternoon knawing on the foundation of a cabin.  After our trip - there is no cell or Internet service in Yosemite's back country - I "googled" May Lake High Sierra Camp, and it appears that it's still going, but on this mid-Monday afternoon in late June, it appeared to be deserted.

Photo:  Tonight, it was grilled chicken breast and grilled/baked potatoes, as I do the grilling honors.  I purchased my little Webber charcoal grill many years ago, and it always is a hit on camping trips!  Nothing like grilled food in the mountains, cooked over an "old school" charcoal grill.

Photo:  Tonight's dinner of grilled chicken, potatoes, and fresh, salsa cruda.  Such a great dinner in Yosemite's back country!

Photo:  Tuesday, June 19th, after a day exploring the country near Mono Lake, we made the short hike to Lukens Lake.  This was my first time at Lukens Lake. Unlike many other lakes in the high Sierra, it's not surrounded by granite boulders.

Photo:  You drive over Tioga Pass, spend the morning enjoying the beauty of Mono Lake, and for lunch, you enjoy a delicious "old school" burger and fries at Mono Cone restaurant, in Lee Vining, naturally.

Photo:  Tonight it was Michael's turn to cook dinner, and he grilled a couple of steaks to perfection.  Check out the grill marks!

Photo:  In addition to steak tonight, we enjoyed mixed vegetables, sauteed to perfection in my big iron pot.  We used olive oil, which really made things great.

Photo:  Dinner tonight after a day of exploring Mono Lake, and a hike to Lukens Lake.  Grilled steak, baked potato and sauteed vegetables.  Great dinner!

Photo:  The next morning, Wednesday, June 20th, we enjoyed a breakfast of potatoes, veggies and crumbled sausage.  It was a perfect way to start out the day, as we had a rather strenuous hike planned... Ribbon Falls.

Photo:  We took a trip to Yosemite Valley, and hiked to Ribbon Falls in all it's glory.  Surprisingly on this Wednesday in late June, the falls was still flowing well, as it's fed entirely by snow melt.  Ribbon Falls can easily be seen almost directly west of better-know Bridalveil Falls, but unlike Bridalveil Falls, the Park Service doesn't sanction, nor maintain a trail to the base of Ribbon Falls.  If you care to hike to Ribbon Falls, follow this link, as my brother and I hiked to Ribbon Falls back on May 04, 2016, and I published an article, complete with GPS coordnites.

Photo:  Looking east, across Yosemite Valley, from the base of Ribbon Falls.  Ribbon Falls is a 5-mile round-trip, with an elevation gain of around 1150 feet, and is definitely on the strenuous side.  You start at the 4000 foot elevation, so "altitude sickness" shouldn't be a problem, but if you're hiking in June, bring plenty of insect repellent and water, as the hike is hot, very dry, and water is difficult, but not impossible, to obtain.

The hike to Ribbon Falls isn't difficult, but it does require a few hiking skills, and "Class 3" scrambling is the norm. Your legs will definitely feel that you've made the trek!  However, it's well worth the effort, as the 180-degree view of the falls from the base is simply amazing, you'll have it all to yourself, and you will have hiked to a destination visited by only a handful of people every year.

Photo:  Joe, the raven, does "his thing" in Yosemite Valley.  I thought all ravens lived in Baltimore... guess I just must have football on the brain, even when I'm enjoying the awe-inspiring scenery that Yosemite Valley has to offer.  Ten years ago, you rarely saw ravens in Yosemite Valley, as the common bird was the Stellar Jay.  Now, the jays have been replaced by ravens.  Go figure...

Photo:  Hiking to Ribbon Falls builds an appetite, so I smile as I lift the lid on the little Webber kettle grill.  The oak is definitely smokin'... We use oak as it's similar to hickory, it's free - we just pick it off the ground as it's native to Central California - and it makes wonderful smoke, and it enhances just about anything you throw on the grill.

Photo:  Grilling jalapeno poppers and steak for carne asada tacos for part of tonight's dinner.  We use charcoal to provide the primary heat, and oak to provide for the smoke, as oak grows every where in Central California.  The jalapeno poppers were an appetizer, and were a jalapeno chilie pepper, with a sausage, and Mexican cheese, grilled.  Such a great camping dish, especially when combined with an icy-cold beer!

Photo:  Tonight, we had a feast, as we enjoyed toasted corn tortillas, carne asada, salsa cruda, along with a pot of cowboy beans.  We were definitely ready for dinner, as we had worked up an appetite after spending a strenuous day hiking to Ribbon Falls.

Photo:  Thursday, June 21st, we started the day out right with coffee and a breakfast of potatoes, veggies and link sausage.  Just the thing to fuel up for a hike to Mono Pass!

Photo:  My brother, Michael, leads the way as we're on the trail to Mono Pass.   The trail starts at the Tioga Road, about 2 miles west of Dana Meadows, at the 9700-foot level.  It's just over 4 miles each way to Mono Pass, with a moderate 900-foot elevation gain.  It's easy to get "winded" at this altitude, so if you care to take the hike, you may want to consider taking a day or so to get used to the high elevation.  We were fortunate, as we were camping at Tamarack Flat, elevation 6600 feet, which definitely helped us, but really didn't prepare us for the 3000+ higher altitude.

Photo:  From Mono Pass, looking west, you get a great view of one of the Summit Lakes.  Yes, there is still snow on this late June Thursday, on a relitivey dry rain year in the high Sierra Nevada mountains.

Photo:  Hi Mom!  Hi Dad!  I'm at Mono Pass, and I'm actually out of Yosemite National Park, and standing east, in the Inyo National Forest.  On this early Thursday afternoon, June 21, 2018, it's windy and very cool; almost chilly, as we're at the 10,599 foot level.

Photo:  After a hard day of hiking Mono Pass, back at camp, we had the choice of box or bottled wine.  The bottle definitely won out over the box!

Photo:  On this early Thursday evening, Michael is working on a pot of his delicious "vegan" chile.  Neither of us are vegetarians or "vegans," yet we definitely appreciate great food without meat, and Michael's chilie definitely fit in for dinner tonight.

Photo:  My brother definitely has talent when it comes to camp cooking.  On this Thursday evening, June 21, 2018, we enjoyed a vegan chilie he made, completely vegan, without an ounce of meat.  It was fabulous!  We're not "vegans," per se, but we definitly can live our lives without meat...

Photo:  Friday morning, June 22, 2018, we elected not to cook in order to enjoy a hearty "American Breakfast" at Base Camp Eatery, in Yosemite Valley.  Eddie, the friendly server, is preparing my plate of a delcious breakfast.

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