Weekend crowds anticipated

Brenna Swift, The Union Democrat /

If hotel and campground reservations are any clue, the Mother Lode will be brimming with Memorial Day travelers this weekend.

Most accommodations in Tuolumne County were already booked as of Wednesday, but some hotel rooms and campsites are still available, said Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau Executive Director Nanci Sikes.

Meanwhile, Calaveras Visitors Bureau Executive Director Lisa Boulton anticipates an upswing in tourism to continue into Memorial Day.

"People are starting to trust that the economy is coming back, and people are starting to spend a little money to come on trips in a way that maybe they weren't in previous years," Boulton said.

Nationally, AAA expects nearly 35 million people to travel 50 miles or more this weekend. Four million Californians will travel that distance, a decrease of 2.1 percent from last year.

News of the projected decrease didn't bother Laurie Cashman, Pinecrest Lake Resort's general manager. She anticipates a healthy weekend turnout.

"I think it's great for Tuolumne County when they come out with those predictions," Cashman said. "People aren't taking the big trips to Europe and Hawaii, and are enjoying what we actually have right here."

Sikes said holiday weekends can double the number of people in Tuolumne County, though every year is different.

Great weather forecasts can help, with sun and highs in the mid-70s expected for Sonora.

Groveland's accommodations are almost booked to capacity, probably due to the Strawberry Music Festival, Sikes said. Sonora, Jamestown and Columbia are also near capacity. But cabins, lodging and campgrounds were available above Twain Harte as of Wednesday.

Many Calaveras County hotels are full for the weekend. The most popular Calaveras tourist destinations remain Murphys and Angels Camp, though areas like Mokelumne Hill are starting to see increased traffic, Boulton said.

Stanislaus National Forest campgrounds generally operate on a first-come, first-served basis, but some now use an online reservation system at www.recreation.gov. Permits are required to build a campfire in any undeveloped campsite.

For more information on available Stanislaus National Forest campsites, call the regional ranger district offices: Sonora, 532-3671; Calaveras Ranger District, 795-1381; Groveland Ranger District, 962-7825; Mi-Wok Ranger District, 586-3234; or Summit Ranger District, 965-3434.

Every New Melones Lake campground except Chamise Campground opened for the season today. But as of Wednesday morning, almost all campsites were snapped up for the three-day weekend.

Pinecrest Lake Resort still has space available, Cashman said. The lake is full, and construction is wrapping up on new restrooms and pathways.

The end of the school year makes Memorial Day weekend the start of Yosemite National Park's busiest season.

Visitors should be prepared for long lines and limited parking. The park's busiest times are between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m, so crowd-shy visitors may want to come early or late.

Only seven of Yosemite National Park's 13 campgrounds have opened for the season, said park spokeswoman Kari Cobb.

Those that require reservations filled months ago. A limited number of sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Some lodge rooms are still open, according to Lisa Cesaro, spokeswoman for Delaware North Companies Parks and Resorts, the park concessionaire.

Friday appears to be the best bet for last-minute travelers, since the Wawona Hotel and Curry Village only have space available on that day.

The Ahwahnee Hotel has a few rooms open for the weekend, and Housekeeping Camp offers space Sunday.

Summer activities such as river rafting have started, Cesaro said.

Cables allowing access to the summit of Half Dome will be up Friday if weather allows, but hikers may only use them if they win a permit through a lottery system.

For more information on the permit lottery, visit www.recreation.gov or call 1-877-444-6777.

11901920
The Union Democrat
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