Last month we drove up to the Sierra Nevada mountains to attend a family wedding near Yosemite. Our motel was about 130 miles due east of Crow Canyon and it took us about three hours with a stop in Oakdale for lunch. Our motel was The Westgate Lodge in Buck Meadows on Highway 120 — The Tioga Road — about eleven miles east of the town of Groveland. This is the area of the huge Rim Fire which devastated the Tuolumne area north of Yosemite Valley last summer.
The Rim Fire was so-named for its close proximity to the Rim of the World vista point on highway 120 about a half mile east of our motel. The fire came within a couple hundred feet of the buildings in Buck Meadows and all of the people staying there had to be evacuated.
The Rim Fire was the third largest wildfire in California’s history and it burned more than 250,000 acres. The cost of fighting the fire was estimated at $127.35 million. The fire started on August 17, 2013 and was not extinguished until September 6th. It came close to the Big Oak Flat entrance to Yosemite National Park but Yosemite Valley was never in danger.
The wedding was at 3:15 Saturday afternoon which gave us some time to visit Yosemite Valley, 33 miles away. It took us an hour to drive to the valley, stopping once for a shot of Half Dome. Then we drove the one-way circle around the valley for another hour, stopping twice for shots. It then took another hour to drive back to our motel in time to get ready for the wedding. And we also had time for about a ten minute stop at the Rim of the World vista point to read the signs and memorials and take some photos.
It was about eight miles of mountain road from our motel to Evergreen Lodge, the site of the wedding. We saw the effects of the fire all around us but luckily Evergreen Lodge and nearby Camp Mather suffered little damage. The Berkeley Tuolumne Camp a couple of miles away, however, burnt to the ground. All told, eleven residences, three commercial buildings and 98 outbuildings were destroyed in the fire. How did the fire start? A hunter’s illegal campfire got out of control.