Yosemite National Park

I’m two weeks into my trip now, and so far it’s been incredible. I flew to San Fransisco, where I met one of my amazing friends, Kelsey. We have spent ten days road-tripping through the Californian national parks. Now we are back at her house, freshly showered, laundered, rested and with steady wifi connection. So here it is, section one: Yosemite.

10. October 2016
We woke up at 4AM to drive to Yosemite. Most of the drive was in total darkness, and it took us about four hours to get there. I thought we would come through the tunnel and get our first view of the park from tunnel view, seeing the classic Yosemite shot, but we came in a different road. We turned a bend and suddenly it was there, as majestic as I thought it would be. The half-dome, El Capitan, and the soft light of a sun just risen over the mountains making it all a little hazy, making it all look slightly unreal. We had hoped to get a camp spot at Camp 4 in Yosemite Valley, but we got there at 8:20, and by that time the ranger was already handing out spots so we were three spots short of getting something. We decided to drive up to another campground rather than wait and see if something would open up. It was around 30 minutes from the park, and I was bummed out and trying to talk myself into a better mood by looking for advantages. Then, as we were just about to take a right into the camp site we see people and cars looking towards something on the side of the road, and it was a black bear. I still can’t believe that we saw a black bear (which, by the way, is the mascot of the University of Maine, where I studied abroad. I realised I have been walking around in this bear infested landscape with a t-shirt from UMaine saying: black bears attack!) Yet, there it was there, idly sniffing the ground for food, not caring at all that 10 people were standing around taking it’s picture. It was smaller than what I thought bears would, and it didn’t at all look very ferocious. When the rangers (after ten minutes) went to chase it off it simply looked up at them, and then ran off into the hills. While it was a bit unsettling to see it so close to our camp, it also soothed me to see how uninterested it was in us.

edit-8186-2After setting up camp we drove back down to the valley, and spent the day checking out the views from the valley floor. We did a short hike to mirror lake, which was completely dry, and we walked around the meadows under El Capitan looking at all the rock climbers through my binoculars. For sunset we drove up to Glacier point, and it was perfect: the sky was almost entirely free of clouds, and the last light of the sun cast first a glowing orange and then a soft pink onto the half-dome. It was like looking at the MacBook screensavers, just crisper and bigger and entirely breathtaking. When we drove back to our camp, we passed El Capitan, and small points of light everywhere marked climbers settling down for the night. I wondered how they slept up there, if they all had tents, because when we looked at them earlier in the day it hadn’t looked like they carried a lot with them.

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11. october 2016
Despite the fact that autumn dries out most of the waterfalls, we decided to climb up to the Yosemite fall for the views. It was hot and long, and I was very thankful that I had spent a lot of time in the mountains the past two months. We kept passing and getting passed by three guys from Britain as we (or they) took rests and drank water, calling ‘see you soon’, which we would in only few minutes. The path was well maintained, but it was long, and it felt extremely good to finally be on top, to sit down and just enjoy the view. Yosemite is a really good one for views. All in all, up and down, the hike took us around 6 hours and it was hard, rewarding, and left us happy to be back down in the valley and able to rest our feet.

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We drove to Taft point for sunset, and the sky went ablaze with pink. I ran around getting pictures, which turned out quite good despite the sun setting behind the edge of the cliff where iconic Taft point shots are taken. It has felt, a little bit, like I’ve walked in the footsteps of the photographers that inspire me to come here and see the places they have seen, and take photographs in the same locations as they have photographed in before.

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The first night on our campsite we were cold from the moment we left the car, until three minutes after we sat back into the car the following morning. Therefore, we gathered fire-wood for our second night. Somehow, I don’t know how exactly, I managed to get a fire going (I think it is the first time ever), and the heat from the fire made for an entirely different night than the one a day before. We ate soup and I boiled water to put in a bottle by my feet during the night. When we ran out of wood and the fire went out we went to warm to bed.

12. october 2016
I didn’t sleep so well this night either, despite being warm – but I never sleep well when camping. I still love it though, and one day I will figure out how to stay warm. We brought pancake mix with us, so we ate pancakes with sirup and banana for breakfast, and vowed to gather enough firewood for a fire tomorrow morning too.

I hiked Nevada Falls, while Kelsey stayed in the valley. It is a popular hike, especially this time of the year since Vernal and Nevada falls are the only one still going, if not as powerfully. The trailhead was really crowded, packs of kids were blocking the way. There was an entire school on a fieldtrip hiking the falls, and I started just after them. I managed to pass most of them while the trail was still wide enough, and it wasn’t long before the crowds diminished. The trail to Nevada falls had three different sections: first a bridge with a view of Vernal falls, then the Vernal falls, and finally the Nevada falls. The last sections was not very busy, and I managed to keep my pace, making really good time up. The summit itself was almost as nice as the falls and the view, with a small pool before the waterfall, light granite floors and here and there a strong, green pine tree. I ate some pancakes left from breakfast and some chocolate. I hiked down on the John Muir trail, making it a loop and getting a different perspective of the fall on my way down.

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Back in the valley I found Kelsey, and then a shower (felt amazing). We went to a lounge where we could charge my batteries and check up on the outside world (wifi). We also made plans for the evening: sunset at tunnel view, smores on the fire and a well-deserved glass or two of wine. Tomorrow we head out of Yosemite to King’s Canyon and Sequoia. I always struggle with leaving places like this, with views that would keep you content even if you looked at them for a lifetime. But there are massive tree trunks waiting, and I do want to see that.

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