Women's Service at Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, California

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14281A, Service/ Volunteer


  • Explore Yosemite's Sierra high country
  • Help care for one of our most treasured national parks
  • Meet like-minded women from across the U.S.


  • All meals and snacks
  • Group campsite at Tuolumne Meadows
  • Training and guidance from staff and park personnel


DatesJul 20–27, 2014
StaffGail Chesler

Trip Overview

The Trip

The sheer granite walls, lush meadows, and cascading waterfalls of Yosemite have long attracted visitors from around the globe. Sierra Club founder John Muir was one of its earliest champions, choosing Yosemite Valley for his home in the late 1860s, just five years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant to protect the valley and the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees. In 1890, largely due to Muir's efforts, the larger watershed received federal protection and became Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite's spectacular high country floats nearly 5,000 feet above its legendary valley. Characterized by granite domes, sweeping meadows, clear rivers and lakes, and mind-blowing vistas, it's Yosemite's most prized destination for backpackers. Muir considered the high Sierra to be paradise -- and you'll see why.

At elevation 8,600 feet along Route 120 west of Tioga Pass, Tuolumne Meadows is the accessible starting point for many high-country adventures. We'll set up camp there and work with National Park Service staff on projects to help manage this well-loved area. We will have the opportunity to hike some great trails, learn more about this park's natural and cultural history, and create our own personal experiences.

This trip will be a women's work trip. Working together as women provides a special dynamic and energy, and allows an excellent way to learn new skills in a safe environment.

The Project

We will work on projects with Yosemite National Park's Resources Management and Science Division in the Tuolumne Meadows area. Projects will be chosen by the Park Service based on need and level of importance. Work might be either in the front-country or a short hike in. The National Park Service will provide tools and instruction.


We will assemble at Tuolumne Meadows Campground Group Camp in the late afternoon on Sunday, July 20. After introductions and orientation, we'll set up our base camp for the week. We will work four days in all, taking Wednesday and Saturday off to explore and/or relax. The trip will conclude the following Sunday morning.

As circumstances may change in the backcountry, flexibility is a valuable asset. For instance, wildfires some distance away can affect visibility and air quality, or a storm can roll in when you least expect it. We'll adjust to whatever surprises come our way.



Getting There

If you fly to Fresno or Merced airports, you'll need to drive three hours or more to reach Tuolumne Meadows. Flying to San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland or Sacramento airports will require about a four- to five- hour drive, but will likely be a less expensive flight. The airport in Reno, Nevada, is about a four-hour drive from Tuolumne Meadows, approaching from the other side of the Sierra. State Highways 120, 41, and 140 provide park access. Amtrak services Yosemite via Merced, where you change to bus transport to the valley.

Carpooling is strongly recommended, and the leader will help share contact information to facilitate ride-sharing among participants.

Accommodations and Food

We will be camping in Tuolumne Meadows Campground, in a site designated for groups. The campground has bathrooms, running water, and bear boxes to keep food and all other fragrant items out of bears' reach. There are no shower facilities at the campground, but you may bring a sun shower or use a paid shower facility (the closest one is about a half-hour drive away).

Come with the attitude that food is part of the adventure. Trip menu planning considers that there will be no refrigeration other than coolers with ice, and that food must be protected from animals. We provide delicious, nutritious, and abundant meals tailored as much as possible to the preferences of the group.

We have a group commissary with everyone taking turns assisting the cook in food preparation and cleanup. Before applying for the trip, people with food allergies and/or strong food preferences must contact the cook to see if accommodations are possible. Our first meal will be dinner on day one and our last meal will be breakfast on the final day.

Trip Difficulty

This trip will be moderately strenuous, in part due to the high elevation. You may find yourself a bit short of breath working at 8,000 to 9,000 feet, but your body should adjust within a few days. Trails are generally well established and usually involve additional elevation change. You will need boots while we are working on the project -- they are recommended for hiking, as well.

Our work will include a range of tasks, and you will not be asked to do anything that exceeds your comfort level. Safety is a priority, and you are the best judge of your abilities. We'll each work at our own pace. At the end of each day we will be free to hike, explore the immediate areas, or just rest our tired muscles.

Minor medical conditions are no impediment to having a full, enjoyable experience. All participants must have a current tetanus shot within the past 10 years. This injection is commonly available in the combination of DPT (Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus) from your doctor or at your local public health department for a modest cost.

Equipment and Clothing

The NPS will provide the tools for the work project. In addition to your regular camping gear, come prepared to work with sturdy boots, long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and sturdy work gloves. You will need a day pack to carry your lunch, water, raingear, sunscreen, etc.

We will provide food and other necessary kitchen equipment. You will need personal eating utensils such as bowl, cup, and spoon. A plastic food container with a tight-fitting lid is necessary for carrying your lunch to the work site each day.

We will also provide a first-aid kit for emergencies, but you should bring any personal medications you require. A full list of needed equipment will be sent to you after you've been accepted onto the trip. If you have questions, please contact the trip leader.



  • Muir, John, The Yosemite.
  • Giacomazzi, Sharon, Trails and Tales of Yosemite and the Central Sierra.
  • Schaffer, Jeffrey, Yosemite National Park -- A Complete Hiker's Guide.
  • Wolff, Kurt, and Amy Marr, David Lukas, and Cheryl Koehler, Lonely Planet -- Yosemite National Park.



We will learn what four million visitors a year means in terms of human impact on this park's well-loved geology, flora, and fauna. We will also hear from National Park Service professionals about the challenges of managing public lands and discuss how policies have evolved to maintain a balance between accessibility and resource protection.

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.

While the Act of 1964 was far in the future when our outings program started in 1901 with our first trip, which was to Tuolumne Meadows, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.



From childhood days, Gail Chesler has loved the wholesome feelings and peace that come from days hiking and working and nights sleeping in camp sites and the backwoods. As a recent retiree (civil/ environmental engineer), she has time to pursue these pleasures again and looks forward to spending this week as an environmental champion and worker with like-minded folks.


Anne Larson is a premier camping cook, serving up tasty and nutritious fare along with a dose of her vibrant personality. Among other talents, she is a botanist, a birder and an expert on pine bark beetles.

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