Monday, August 16, 2010

I'm A Happy Camper!

I just returned from a beautiful week in the High Sierras with my family - 7 days in glorious Tuolumne Meadows, in Yosemite National Park. This annual trip has been a tradition for many years now, and Tuolumne is a very special place for me. I love the giant granite peaks, the thin mountain air, the wildlife, and even the joy of eating simple camping food after a long day in the mountains.

This year was a little comical, because by various twists of fate, I ended up eating the same thing for lunch (baked tofu sandwich) and the same thing for dinner (veggie burger) for all 7 days in row. However, this didn't really bother me, and I only sort of noticed it in an off-hand way on the last day of our trip. I guess camping makes me feel pretty agreeable.

Here is the sandwich making station, set up on top the big "Bear Baffles" - large metal boxes with complicated locks to keep the bears out. Our daily sandwiches included: bread, mustard, Wildwood aioli, baked tofu, avocado, red onion, tomatoes, and lettuce. You know, I don't make sandwiches all that often at home, but every year I really look forward to these delicious camping sandwiches. Stuff it in a little sandwich bag, grab a granola bar of some sort, a handful of trailmix and throw it all in the pack. Now you're good to go!! (but don't forget to fill up your water bottle)

Baked Tofu Sandwich at Upper Cathedral Lake. Yum!

Baked Tofu Sandwich enjoying the sun and refreshing water at Lake Tenaya.

Baked Tofu Sandwich up the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River. You can see that I am always so impatient for lunch that I have to take at least one bite before I can think about taking the photo.

Moving on to dinner... Here was our regular appetizer section at the campground, while we enjoyed the dusk and the campfire: sliced red bell peppers, rice crackers, cherry tomatoes & homemade hummus (brought from home in the cooler). So nice to have fresh veggies after a day in the mountains! And just look at that huge pot of green beans ready to go on the camp stove!

Cooking up some Amy's California Burgers and buns over the fire at the campground.

Delicious Amy's burger with delicious broccoli (cooked on the camp stove).

Another night at the campfire, another delicious veggie burger. We were all out of buns, but that's nothing a nice little loaf of bread can't fix. And man, those green beans were downright perfect!

The family that eats veggie burgers together, stays together! That's my mom and her two sisters... happily enjoying burgers and green beans around the campfire...

This veggie burger was a bit special... so even though it's a terrible picture, I wanted to include it. This burger is from the Mobil Gas Station in Lee Vining (just over the Tioga Pass, down by Mono Lake). Instead of a burger patty, it's got a bunch of marinated and grilled veggies, and it was really, really yummy. That Mobil Gas Station is really a trip - it's a gas station, a souvenir store, a mini-grocery store, and a 3-star restaurant, all in one!

It was getting dark out, but check out this salad that came with my burger... seriously, that's a genuine salad! I was stoked!

I know this is a food blog, but I have a rule that cute animals are allowed on vegan food blogs. Isn't veganism all about the cuteness of animals anyway?! Yosemite is full of wonderful animals, and we had many special sightings this year... including a bald eagle, many deer, bears, a falcon, and countless little cuties of the bird and rodent varieties. This little fellow is a Belding Ground Squirrel, and they really are running a racket on cuteness. Don't you just wish you could pick that little guy up and give him a cuddle?

A lovely lady deer grazing on grass and wildflowers. This year, all the deer we saw looked very robust and healthy, which made me very happy for them.

Yes, we saw this adorable little baby fawn. In fact, we saw a grand total of 5 little baby fawns during the week, all hanging out with their mommies. It was pretty much wonderful and awesome and good. As you might have suspected, baby deer really are cute.

One night, while we were enjoying the campfire after dinner, we also saw a black bear. It was my most up-close bear sighting ever in all the years of going to Tuolumne. It came right through our campsite and my cousin Adam had to scare it off by clanging pots and pans together. After it ran off, we heard something in the woods behind our campsite ... so we turned the flashlight there and saw a little baby bear cub. SO CUTE. I was pretty giddy with joy to see such amazing animals so close, but it's also sad because it was a case of a mommy bear teaching her cub to go looking for food at the campground instead of out in the nature. Sadly, those situations don't usually end well for the bears. I have my fingers crossed for those two that they will see the error of their ways and head back into the forest for blueberries and grubs.

A peaceful view of the Tuolumne River and Lembert Dome. On our last full day in Yosemite, I woke up early and hiked to the very top of the Lembert Dome and did my morning yoga practice in the wind and sun and surrounded with 360 degrees of amazing!!

*Useful info for any vegans actually traveling to Tuolumne Meadows*
Tuolumne Lodge Restaurant:
The Tuolumne Lodge Restaurant now officially has a veggie burger on their menu (after about 15 years of having no veg-friendly entree options!). They use Boca Burgers, and the buns are vegan too. The burger comes with a side of cabbage, and also the whole table is served a pretty decent "all you can eat" green salad before the entrees arrive. It's on the pricey side, but you will leave with a full and happy tummy

Tuolumne Meadows Store:
Each year, this spot becomes more and more of a hippy natural foods store... which is pretty great if you are a visiting vegan. If you came looking for frosted flakes and white bread, you'll be out of luck. But if you want baked tofu, Nature's Path Hemp Plus Granola, almond milk, Gimme Lean fakin bakin, hummus and whole wheat bread, you'll probably find what you need. They even have boxes of Tofutti cuties in the freezer and plenty of packaged vegan cookies (ABC, Annie's, Newman's Own).

Mobil Station in Lee Vining:
As mentioned above, this spot has a veggie burger which is pretty good. Just take off the cheese to make it a vegan sandwich. For $1 more you can get a large and healthy green salad instead of fries. This establishment is definitely pricey, but there you have it. You are in the middle of nowhere, after all. Their mini-grocery-store is really pricier than the store in Tuolumne Meadows, so unless there's something you can't live without, I'd just wait.


  1. Cute animals are ALWAYS allowed! Glad you had such a great time, the pictures are beautiful!

  2. Thank you for your comment and info about the Persian cookies! Sounds like you had a wonderful trip. :)

  3. Gorgeous photos, and seriously, as long as it's vegan it would be pretty hard to go wrong with food in a place like that.

  4. Looks like such a fun trip! As long as it's tasty, I wouldn't mind eating the same thing for days and days. :-)

  5. looks like the camping trip went really well! i like the tofu sandwich shots as well :)

  6. Wow. What beautiful scenery! Loved the animal pics too. Also impressed that you go camping. When we travel, if our hotel doesn't have free HBO and an in-room hair dryer, I feel like I'm roughing it. LOL I'm not cut out for camping.

  7. Hi Amey,
    Yosemite looks beautiful!! It looks like a great trip! Glad I got to see some photos- reminds me of the backpacking trip with your grandpa and the wonderful lakes.

  8. I love the scenic sandwich photos and the animal photos, especially the deer, gorgeous!

  9. camping rules! such beautiful scenery, and so cool that you got to see the little fawns and baby bear!

  10. Did you buy the baked tofu already marinated?? If so, what brand do you like?


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