After two nights in our little cabin at Big Sur, James and I sped up north through California to Yosemite National Park. When I think of America I think of camping in the woods and boy scouts and sequoia trees. Yosemite has all of those vibes. Think Homeward Bound and Stand By Me and Moonrise Kingdom. On our way in, we stopped at the Wawona Tunnel viewpoint at sunset for a scramble up the cliffs. I grew up with Ansel Adams’ stunning Yosemite images plastered to my walls so it was incredible to admire the view of half dome for myself, back-lit by a dusky purple sky. The scenery in Yosemite is epic and there are so many layers you can’t see the top and the bottom of the mountains from the same spot.
We had two nights camping in Yosemite and our campsite was a 20 minute drive out of the centre – Crane Flat Campground. This campground supposedly has the most bear sightings but unfortunately we didn’t see any. I simultaneously love bears and am terrified at the thought of an encounter. The campsites in Yosemite require you to put all your food, rubbish and scented items (toothpaste, makeup etc.) in a metal bear box on your plot to prevent bears tearing into your tent at night looking for a treat. I was so paranoid about leaving a tube of sun cream in my pocket by accident and I would dream that the other campers walking around in the morning were actually roaming bears. There are road signs which mark every point where a bear has been hit by a car. I stuck doggedly to the required “bear friendly” speed limit of 30mph throughout, much to the annoyance of the long queues of traffic that piled up behind me. We would stick our fingers up at the cars overtaking, speeding around the bends. What’s the point of even being in Yosemite if you’re going to risk killing a bear to get to your destination 5 minutes sooner?
Typically, we first arrived at our camp site in the dark. I put up our tent with our one portable torch in my teeth and a rock for a hammer – there’s nothing like being prepared! James and I were happy with our equipment (a two man tent, torch, two sleeping bags and single knife for roasting veggie sausages) but our site looked comical compared to the Americans next to us. Others had brought camping shelves, pots and pans, kitchen tents, pop up beds and bbqs which transformed their plot into a mini village! I felt like we were taking the Leeds Fest approach to camping by using as little stuff as possible. We bought the tent and sleeping bags in Walmart, and just donated them to Goodwill on our way back to the airport.
Of course, we spent our one full day in Yosemite hiking. We started off with the Vernal Falls trail – a very steep climb up to the most beautiful waterfall. The trail was busy and I was struggling. For some reason, I found the first bit of the walk the most difficult. We took breaks to paddle in the river and ate our lunch on a rock with our toes dangling into the water. Once we reached the falls, James and I both jumped in the plunge pool which was freezing but incredibly refreshing! I can’t think of a better way to end a long hike. I love wild swimming and this is possibly the most beautiful place I have ever swum. The falls are huge and noisy; it’s hard to get a sense of perspective by looking at the photographs because the trees are also so unusually tall. I had a renewed burst of energy after my swim and we continued to walk, reaching incredible views of the waterfall from above. This trail was more peaceful, with only a couple of hikers passing us every now and again.
I loved Yosemite and I came back with a little collection from the gift shop. James and I both wore our Yosemite shirts for our journey back home and a man on the train asked if it was our home town. I wish!! On our way out of the park, I had one last dip in a lake we spotted from the car, hiking my jeans up to my knees and paddling in the cold water. Stay tuned for photos from San Francisco, the next stop on the road trip!