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Tuolumne Tales

Grab your bear can or camp chair, kick your feet up and chew the fat about anything Sierra Nevada related that doesn't quite fit in any of the other forums. Within reason, (and the HST rules and guidelines) this is also an anything goes forum. Tell stories, discuss wilderness issues, music, or whatever else the High Sierra stirs up in your mind.
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Re: Tuolumne Tales

Postby Jimr » Sun Aug 28, 2016 6:40 pm

The subtle middle finger salute LOL
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Re: Tuolumne Tales

Postby markskor » Fri Sep 09, 2016 7:39 am

Just returned from a great summer toiling away in the Tuolumne Meadows Store...BTW, the store itself slated to shut down on this Sept 26th, one day after the main campground closes. Working at 8,600 feet for 14 weeks was interesting..."Living the Dream" was the most common employee response to all the "How you doing?" questions...lots of interesting stories, observations mostly concerning the people, backpacking, and conditions found in Yosemite today. So, in no specific order, some snippets - my summer, 2016, Tuolumne.

Only 20 minutes of rain all summer...Blue-bird skies daily; sunsets pretty boring actually.

Daily schedule when working: Shower and shave, then pancakes and bacon at the Grill ($5.11) and out to the tables to see what new hikers that the cat dragged in that night...always interesting. After breakfast, my cash-register shift began at 10:30 - store closes at 8:00, and after "counting out" my register (averaged ~$5,500/day) was off work by 8:30 PM. We work 4 ten-hour shifts - giving all store employees three days off a week to hike, fish, explore Yosemite. This summer, on my days off, fished Upper McCabe, Johnson, May Lake, Saddlebag, and Tioga Lake... also visited Snow Creek and twice took art classes in the Valley.

Last week, two Japanese hikers came through...totally non-English speaking. We have a sophisticated music/IPod system used at the store...regularly work/listen to such artists as Grateful Dead, Bob Seger, Willie Nelson, and even some Glen Miller. Well, some vintage Bob Dylan came on...they started singing the words perfectly...music transcends international borders.

15 employee tents are located just in back of the store...2 employees housed per tent...known locally to us as Club Med. Here Tuolumne provided us hot showers, flush toilets, free washer/dryer facilities. Small cast iron wood-burning stoves are located in each tent...fresh fire wood also provided daily. They charge us $17/week for all this wilderness comfort. BTW, our housing includes 50% off at most prepared food places in Yosemite (Grill, Curry Pizza. etc), and 10% off at all the park's stores. Working ~38 hours a week, (made $10.30/hour) after union dues, housing, and deductions, took home ~ $320 a week.

Even under those questionable living conditions, still sophisticated living abounds. Usually, at the Twilight Lounge (see Flip's picture), we start out around 6, drinking VO Manhattans, Tanqueray Martinis (Shaken...3 anchovy olives) and served up in Lucite "Up" glasses...90 proof Bullet Rye, a few good Single Malts, Grand Mariner...Last week a Knob Creek, 120 proof bourbon, etc., lots of Sierra Nevada beer, good wines too.

Community dinners start after the cocktail hour...notice the two Propane stoves and one charcoal BBQ. Dinner menus regularly included such goodies as rack of lamb, Tri-tip, pork ribs, scallops, chicken stir fry, Pasta, flank steak, etc. Harry, my roommate and a venerated Tuolumne basshole, usually provides/plans most of the major entrees - everybody else contributes something (corn, watermelon, prosciutto & melon, rice, veggies), or cleans up/ does the dishes afterwards. Everybody stops by and eats and drinks well till all is gone. Everything must be cleaned up before going bed...they come around and check nightly.

Interesting that the health inspector up there was such a prick. One sink, used to wash hands before/after work, was the only available sink there for employees to do dishes...located behind the store. He wanted the dishes not done there...why? Who knows. We threatened a mass strike if we could not use it...he relented.

Only one radio station comes through up there - 104.1, "The Hawk"...old time rock-n-roll out of Modesto. Maybe there are some other stations too but Harry only allowed the Hawk at our tent/ Twilight Lounge.

Harry has strung X-mas lights over the Twilight lounge, on a timer. Lights come on at 6 and go out promptly at 10:00 PM.

The Mobil Gas station (20 miles away at 120 & 395) had live music on Thursday and Sunday nights...most younger employees usually made the trip weekly...up and down the pass.

On a side note here, not all was great times. One employee got a marijuana ticket at Tenaya Beach - $280, and two other employees got tickets too for not having valid wilderness permits to go up to Sunrise HSC...also $280.

All in all, something I've always wanted to do - work at the store. It is a plum location, envied by most YNP employees. They invited me back again to work next year too...who knows.
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Re: Tuolumne Tales

Postby The Other Tom » Fri Sep 09, 2016 10:58 am

Sounds like a fun time, Mark
$5500 per week..wow. Most items are what, 5-10 bucks or so. I wouldn't have thought there was so much business there.
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Re: Tuolumne Tales

Postby markskor » Fri Sep 09, 2016 11:21 am

The Other Tom wrote:Sounds like a fun time, Mark
$5500 per week..wow.

That's $5,500 a day...
On a good day, the TM Store (all 3 registers) brings in ~$13,000. After Labor Day, that dropped down to about a third of that. A lot of standing around now...why I left 2 weeks early.
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Re: Tuolumne Tales

Postby The Other Tom » Fri Sep 09, 2016 1:30 pm

markskor wrote:
The Other Tom wrote:Sounds like a fun time, Mark
$5500 per week..wow.

That's $5,500 a day...
On a good day, the TM Store (all 3 registers) brings in ~$13,000.

Unbelievable. I guess when you have a monopoly.....
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Re: Tuolumne Tales

Postby Thebrenner » Mon Sep 12, 2016 11:20 am

Mark it was great to meet you at the store this summer and put a face to a name I see often on this forum. Your artwork is amazingly stunning. I enjoyed reading your tales of Tuolumne, always fun to get an insiders perspective.
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Re: Tuolumne Tales

Postby Jimr » Mon Sep 12, 2016 12:58 pm

Music does transcend, doesn't it. I was hiking in the desert with a group and there was an Asian couple with us who normally chatted and hiked with each other, speaking in their native language. Suddenly, he breaks out in "Suzie Q". Took me by total surprise.
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Re: Tuolumne Tales

Postby longri » Mon Sep 12, 2016 2:47 pm

Music is kind of one way though in terms of language. I doubt there are very many English speakers who know the words to any Asian tunes.

Mark, it was fun to meet you at the store. I think I met you years ago although I'm not sure. A friend introduced someone to me as the founder of High Sierra Topix. At the time I was underwhelmed as I hadn't heard of the website. My memory isn't clear on that meeting but I kind of remember it being someone else. Could it have been a different person (is there more than one founder?) or maybe just a younger version of you?
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Re: Tuolumne Tales

Postby markskor » Mon Sep 12, 2016 2:48 pm

A "typical" Tuolumne Meadows day off -

I don't know exactly what day of the week it really was. Working four 10-hour shifts a week at the TM store, it was my Saturday, (was off the day before) and had another day off afterwards too. The week before Harry, (my POS roommate and a decrepit old fart), had expressed interest in fishing/visiting May Lake...an easy 1 1/4 mile backpack up, intending on spending the night, maybe catch a few Brookies, and seeing some old friends. He grabbed a permit somehow for May Lake - a crowded TH - and told me the night before we were going. Nobody says no to Harry.

One thing you should know about Harry, after a few decades working in Yosemite (many years in cash OPs down in the Valley, and 9 years now at the TM store) he knows everybody. He also is old (70+), smokes like a chimney, drinks incessantly, can swear like a sailor, and is cantankerous. Fortunately, he is also generous, gregarious, affable, and warmly welcomed everywhere in the park.

Early "Saturday" morning, somewhere around the crack of noon, we found a place to park at the May Lake TH... our backpacks slimmed down for a one-night stay only, ready to hike up. A scant 2 hours later (Harry only had to stop/rest every 100 yards...smoke a few cigs...complain a lot...all good) we arrived at the HSC. A tradition exists in Yosemite that to enjoy full employee status while visiting at the HSC, you must come bearing gifts. Harry came equipped with a "handle" (large bottle) of 100 proof Bullet Rye to be given to Brian (head man there)/ shared among the crew. "Dinner at 8:00, right after the guests are done" was Brian's cheerful reply...warm smiles all around...just the response Harry expected.

Tents set up at the backpacker camp close-by, we moved on to more important matters - fishing. Harry stayed ashore while my Klymit LWD enabled me to circle the entire lake from off-shore...a one man raft still works fine! Chucking 3/8 Z-Rays, red, the backside, along a deep hole proved the hot honey-hole...16 Brookies up to 14"...Harry snagged 5 too on the shore North side of the lake. BTW, we kept none as dinner was already to be provided, just fun fishing.

Ambling over to the HSC at 7:50, we joined/met the rest of the employees for dinner - a steak feast, a fresh salad, warm fresh bread, and a rich chocolate something for dessert. Lots of laughs, lots of stories...Yosemite. FYI, the HSCs provides the real paying guests a paper-bag lunch option. One "special touch" they do at May Lake is to personalize each paper lunch sack with hand-drawn art. We all sat around after dinner and drew...witty sayings and bon mots added free. BTW, I contributed my share too - $20 into the tip jar.

The next morning, a mirror lake surface, eggs, pancakes, bacon, potatoes, fresh fruit (typical HSC great breakfast fare) greeted us before our departure. Down again to the car by noon, we headed back to Tuolumne...Harry was a happy camper.

Back at Club Med again, Guillermo (friend/ another TM employee) who, because he was forced by visiting friends to visit Bodie 3 times in a two week period, now goes by the name Bodie G. Bodie G had just returned from visiting Mammoth (an hour away), and had stopped at Vons - bought tri-tips and some expensive, imported red, sweet vermouth for a Manhattan night. Trevor, another Club Med denizen, even though young and had never bar-tended before, was (for some reason only Harry knows?) pressed into barkeep duty for that evening. Harry gave him a 5-minute crash course...Shaker, ice, stemware, 2 parts VO to one part vermouth, bitters, add cherries... but he somehow immediately got reversed in the ratios. "Tastes like candy"...Janine's response on her third cocktail...when it was all over, only the 3/4 empty jar of cherries survived. The vermouth was gone and the VO handle empty.
Time to break out the wine.

Tri-tip, fresh corn, pasta, and watermelon was the dinner's menu - we fed ~12. Elwood, a Blues Brother (Dan Aykroyd's radio show) came on at 9:00...on the Hawk. The Twilight lounge lights go out at 10:00... Work again started the next day.
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Re: Tuolumne Tales

Postby WarrenFork » Sun Sep 25, 2016 10:53 pm

Fifty percent off prepared food is a big upgrade from my working days at the old YP&C Co. Back then an employee privilege card entitled you to 15% off. I still remember my take home pay from my first job at Housekeeping Camp: $42.10 for a 40 hour week. They took out $20.00 for (mandatory) meals in the cafeteria and $5.95 rent for housing in a (shared) tent cabin at Boys Town.

Still felt like living the dream...
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