For those of you that have been following the blog for a while, you’ll probably be aware that I’ve been a little absent lately. And if you’ve been with me from the very beginning you might have already realised that’s because it’s been summer, and summer for me means spending 4 months living and working at Camp Sloane YMCA in Connecticut, USA, pretty much my favourite place in the world.
Anyway, summer finally came to an end a few days ago and it was time to leave camp and start the next adventure, an adventure that sort of came about quite randomly and spontaneously (as all the best ones do), and now I find myself here, sitting in a little tent hut in the middle of Yosemite National Park in California, having just spent the last two days camping and hiking and marveling at the beauty of this incredible place.
Let me start at the beginning. Are you sitting comfortably? You might want to go get a cup of tea and a biscuit, cos this is a long one!
When camp ended myself and Charly headed to NYC where we spent two nights and a day staying with a friend in Brooklyn and exploring the city, visiting places and things we’d never been to before (a challenge considering how much time I have now spent in New York). First we walked the entire length of the High Line, an old railway track that runs above the city on the lower West side – it’s now been converted and turned into a beautiful walkway with great viewpoints, fun seating and trees and plants everywhere. It’s a great way to see the city from a different perspective and a lovely place to just hang out on a sunny day. Next we spent 3 hours wandering around the Natural History Museum, marveling at wildlife, whales and dinosaurs, before heading downtown to Soho for a little bit of shopping – you can’t be in Manhattan and not visit at least a few shops!
That evening Fee arrived and we tried to get an early night before our 4am taxi pick unto take us to the airport. 2 planes, 2 time changes and too many hours to count later, we arrived in Fresno, California, and picked up our rental car. He’s a Mazda, we’ve named him Caleb (don’t ask me why?!) and he’s doing a great job carrying us through Cali as we make our way south to Los Angeles.
Hungry, very tired, but absolutely pumped to finally be starting our road trip, we set off in the direction of Yosemite. Driving along, tunes blaring, looking out at the vast landscape as it unfolded before us, fields of yellow and brown and red, met by a bright blue, cloudless sky, I couldn’t help but think ‘this is the dream isn’t it? This is everything I’ve ever imagined a road trip to be’. And so far, it truly has been. We wound our way into the woods, finally reaching the entrance to the National Park, before continuing on, up and down, round windy roads with incredible views, to the place we had booked to stay for the next two nights, Curry Village.
Curry Village is essentially a very large campsite in the middle of the Yosemite Valley floor with a bunch of different sleeping options, depending on your budget and preference. You can bring your own caravan, camper or tent and pitch up in your assigned areas, or you can opt for a bit more comfort, with a choice of a raised platform tent (much like the ones we sleep in at camp), or different sized cabins. We opted for a non-heated tent, with beds, a light, and even a little safe. And it was heaven. There was plenty of space for the 3 of us and all our stuff (3 single beds and one double), and the toilets and shower blocks were nearby. Outside each tent (and everywhere around Curry Village) is a big metal ‘bear-proof’ box to keep all your food and anything else a bear might like (basically anything they can eat… even toothpaste!) safe in. The whole bear thing is super big deal here and there are huge fines for not following the rules about food – you can’t even leave anything in your car for fear the bears might try and get in! Mental. The area also has some different restaurants and communal areas you can use (and yes there is wifi) and plenty of things going on throughout the day, such as art classes, horseback riding and movie screenings.
By the time we arrived and sorted ourselves out in our tent though, we were so exhausted from the early start and the day of travelling, that we didn’t really want to do anything. We took a little picnic to a meadow, sat there and marveled at our surroundings (honestly, sometimes I find myself thinking ‘what is my life?!), found the showers and headed to bed. We were all asleep by 8:30pm!
We woke bright and early before sunrise, wanting to get a jump on the day and get going on a great hike before it got too hot, and by about 6:30am we were on our way to our chosen hike – we wanted to go up really high to some waterfalls and get a great view looking down on the valley. So that’s what we did. We hiked out of camp to a place called Happy Isles, crossed a river and joined the Mist Trail, which took us up 1000ft to the first waterfall we would see, called Vernal Fall. The views were absolutely astounding, well worth the steep hike up, and we paused for a bit to take it in (and have a quick snack) before continuing on up the trail to the highest waterfall, Nevada Fall, which involved some very steep steps, rocky paths and a lot of heavy breathing (apparently I’m not as fit as I thought), but my oh my when we reached the top (now at just under 2000ft), it was breathtaking. I wish there were better words to describe how beautiful it truly was up there, but I’ll just have to let the photos do the talking, and even then they can’t quite do it justice.
We sat atop that waterfall for quite some time, terrifyingly dangling our feet over the edge, before moving to sit on a boulder with an incredible viewpoint, as we ate our lunch and pondered at the world below us, wondering how it had taken us until now to see it.
The hike down was as impressive as the way up (just a little easier on the legs and lungs) – we took a different path this time though, opting for the John Muir trail that looped around the other side of where we had ascended, and before we knew it (just a quick 6 and a half hours after we’d left) we were back at camp, in our tent, shoes off, and collapsing onto our beds for a lovely afternoon nap.
Later in the afternoon we went for a wander around the Valley floor, taking in some of the impressive sights, like the Half Dome, from below, following random path after random path and coming across awesome little spots where we could sit by lakes and rivers and marvel at our surroundings. Then it was time for a quick bite to eat at the pizza deck before another early night… All that walking had totally tired us out!
Thursday morning, our last in Yosemite – we had a little bit of a lie in (the alarm went off at 6:45am this time) and then set about tidying up our tent and getting ready for the day. The plan was that Fee was going to go horse riding for a few hours, while me and Charly would get the bus to the bottom of El Capitan and then walk back. However it didn’t quite go according to plan. After Fee left for her trail ride, we soon discovered that the bus we needed didn’t start running until 9am, which would mean we wouldn’t have enough time before we had to check out and get on our way. Plan B… We headed back to the tent, packed up the car, checked out and drove around the Valley, exploring places we wouldn’t have the chance to walk to. It was pretty cool actually, and we managed to find some fun little spots, like Cathedral Beach, which was totally deserted!
Our time in Yosemite drawing to a close, we went to pick up Fee from the stables and headed out towards to park exit, our very last port of call being Glacier Point, about an hour’s drive up and around the mountains. If I thought the view from Nevada Fall was incredible, it didn’t even remotely compare to that of Glacier Point. This really was something else. We could see for mile and miles and miles, just a vast landscape of mountain ranges stretching as far as the eye could see, with the spectacular Half Dome sat right in the middle.. We could even see the falls and path that we had walked the day before. Intense, amazing, astounding… These words can’t even begin to describe it.
And then, having soaked in as much beauty and nature and fresh mountain air as we possibly could (I think I could have stayed there for months and still not seen everything I wanted to), it was time to say goodbye to Yosemite and head West on our next adventure.