― John Muir
We entered Yosemite the same way the Miwok and Paiute Indians had accessed this area for thousands of years, via Tioga Road, a trade route through the Sierras originally called Mono Trail, also known as the Great Sierra Wagon Road. At one time, the trail linked the Miwok Indian encampments in the region of Yosemite Valley with the Paiutes of the Mono Lake region to the east.
And of course, who isn’t familiar with Ansel Adams’ praises when it comes to Yosemite; his iconic Moon and Half Dome black and white image speaks to the grandiloquence of that passion. My paltry praises don’t hold a candle to Ansel’s way with words.
It was an easy half-mile hike, the temperature moderate given the high elevation (8,600 feet above sea level). Of course, almost any temperature would be moderate after the 116 degrees we’d encountered in Death Valley a few days earlier.
The meadow was once home to John Baptist Lembert, who lived there as a hermit for ten years in the second half of the 1800s. As the first European settler on the Tuolumne Meadows, Lembert built a cabin along the Great Sierra Wagon Road and gained a reputation as a naturalist and entomologist while serving as a guide for tourists in the high country. The asymmetric piece of granite (called a rouche moutinee, i.e. sheepback) that dominates the meadow was named for Lembert.
Adjacent to Soda Springs sits another cabin, this one made of stone and built by the Sierra Club in memory of Edward Taylor Parsons (1861-1914), a long-time member of the Board of Directors of the Sierra Club. Once a meeting place and reading room for Sierra Club members, the cabin is now owned by Yosemite National Park and serves as a space for training and exhibits.
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