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Yosemite Part II: Tioga Road

We woke up the next morning convinced we were going to cut the trip short and head home. We were not well-prepared for the temperature drop we experienced at night in the higher elevation of our camp site. We spent most of the night worried about Sam hoping he was staying warm enough. He kept kicking off his sleeping bag, but his fleece footies were not enough to keep him warm. His face and hands felt so cold. We stayed up continuously re-covering him with sleeping bags and jackets. Sam, however, slept great. He fell asleep almost an hour earlier than usual and slept in until almost 9 am.

After some discussion of leaving early with the group, it was decided we could sleep in the rental van. The back seats folded down to make the perfect flat surface for a bed. If it got too cold, we could turn the heater on to warm up the vehicle. The others would still sleep in their tents, but Sam was the only kid with us and the others were ok with spending another cold night in order to stay longer.

From our experience tent camping with a toddler unprepared, this is what we learned…

What to do (and not do) when tent camping with a toddler

  • Bring extra blankets and winter hats, even if it’s been unseasonably warm and you think you won’t need it
  • Bring a large air mattress that fits everyone, not those little inflatable individual mats that easily slip from beneath you, especially with a toddler shifting in his sleep next to you
  • You can bring a sleeping bag for the toddler, but you may end up using it as an extra blanket. It worked best for us to let him sleep between us in our zipped up sleeping bags (I don’t know if this would be safe for younger babies, but it seemed safe doing it with him at 2.5 years old)
  • Use a tent that has a real “roof”, not mesh that lets all the cold air get in
  • Don’t forget their comfort sleep item. In our case, it is a ladybug night light with stars. We remembered to bring it and think it helped a lot
  • Bring pillows. Yes, we forgot them, but our towels worked ok as a replacement.
  • Bring warm socks, maybe the smartwool ones. I think the footies worked ok for Sam, but I was freezing with cotton socks on my feet
  • Reserve the camp site ahead of time (months, maybe even a year, in advance) and don’t pick ones along the high altitudes of Tioga Road. 😉

Not wanting to do another long drive, we started the day heading the other direction down Tioga Road. Olmsted Point was the highlight of the day. 360 degree views of the park from a rocky outcrop a down a short rocky path from the parking lot.

Sam with Uncle E.

Some toddler supervision is required around the drop offs and uneven rocky paths. We were all in awe of the views of Half Dome to the north and Tenaya Lake to the east.

Tuolumne Meadows was a little further down the road. We didn’t make it very far down the trail. Part of the trail and meadows were closed for restoration, we were tired after the sleepless night, and it was surprisingly hot in the direct sunlight. Uncle S., Paul, Sam, and I found a nice place to sit in the shade on Pothole Dome while the others ventured further up the rock. Sam explored the nearby rocks and twigs and we got our much needed rest.

A little while later, an older rock climbing couple passed us to set up for a climb near us. This caught Sam’s interest and he followed them. A perk of traveling with a kid is it often opens up conversations and interactions with new people when you normally might not say more than “hi” to each other.

The man asked Sam if he wanted to rock climb, too. Sam emphatically answered “yes!” and started following him up the rocks (with me right along side Sam the entire way). The woman seemed a little concerned he was bothering us, but I assured her Sam was enjoying it and we wouldn’t go too high. Once we reached a flat part after an easy walk up part of the rock, the man exclaimed Sam climbed the mountain! This made Sam smile with pride. He ran back to dad to tell him how he “climbed a mountain”.

We met up with the rest of our group and headed back to camp for lunch. Sam fell asleep in the car. I had my lunch and read a tour book and map of Yosemite to search hikes while he slept. The map showed there really weren’t many trails very near our campground and most sites would require driving. The only exception was a trail towards North Dome across the street from the campground. Paul and I checked out the trail after Sam woke up. Sam played with grandma and grandpa in a meadow next to our campground.

Part of the trail was closed due to a forest fire as were many other trails in the area. We weren’t planning on going very far in the late afternoon and started down the trail. A clearing in the trail gave a great view of the valley and, we think, Echo Peaks.

When back at camp, we cleared out the tent and set up our bed in the van. The van worked out much better. Comfortable and warm. We got sleep! An added perk, the tent served as a perfect play space for Sam while working on camp and cooking prep. Toy cars, books, and a Water Wow book entertained him in his own tent space.

Dinner was macaroni goulash and cottage cheese. Sam entertained us with songs he knew including the ABC’s, Slippery Fish, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and Green Speckled Frog. As the night became colder, Sam said he was ready for bed. We quickly headed to our sleeping bags.


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