Here are a few things I wish I'd had time to do while in the Yosemite area recently. Add them to your own itinerary if you're going to be traveling to the park and send me a report! These three are definitely on my to-do list for next time.
1. Volunteer in return for a free night of camping at Yosemite. The massage therapist at Yosemite Bug, Derek, had the inside track to scoring a free night at Yosemite. His girlfriend is a ranger there and runs the drop-in volunteer program. Derek says he talks it up to everyone who will listen because it’s such a great and underused opportunity. Yosemite visitors can sign up to trade a few hours of light labor (planting trees, digging up blackberry bushes, an invasive species, etc.) you get hands-on park education and a voucher for a free night at the park. (Usually $5 to $20.) All you have to do to sign up is visit the main park entrance and ask them to put you to work!
2. Mariposa County wineries: I passed multiple wineries as I drove up Highway 41 from Fresno to Fish Camp, CA, and west on Highways 49 and 140 to Midpines to stay at Yosemite Bug. I’m especially interested in Silver Fox Vineyard because they grow organic grapes.
3. Visit some of the local organic farms to pick berries and gorge myself on fresh produce. I’m sorry I had to leave so early; I saw a flier for the annual “Pick and Gather” at Riverdance Farms two weekends ago. The event is sponsored by local farmers and includes farm tours and organic blueberry and cherry picking. It also promised to “[teach] the importance of our precious regional eco-system, sustainability, [and] the value of supporting local small farms and the farmers that feed us!” Sounds like my kind of event; I’ll have to try to make it next year!