Yosemite National Park
; the Heart of the Sierra Nevada
. Everyone I had spoken to had said that it was the most beautiful place in the world so I was pretty excited to be spending some time there on a 2-night, 3-day camping trip.
We were scheduled to leave at the ungodly hour of 6.45am so I duly borrowed someone's phone from the hostel to wake me up, it didn't work. Luckily I woke up at about 6.30 stared stupidly at the time, swore, jumped out of bed, panicked, swore some more, brushed my teeth, panicked, threw on some clothes and barrelled down the road to the pick up point where the bus was late!
The group that I was going with was great, we all got on really well and it wasn't long before we were chatting away like old buddies. I think the success was down to the fact that it was a camping trip so everyone had a similar frame of mind and liked the outdoors so we all bonded really quickly. We left San Fran and the blasted fog behind, the temperature increased, the sun came out and we traded the grey of the city for
deep golden brown grasses and endless rolling hills, it was beautiful. We stopped only once to buy all the food we would need and stock up on water and beer, essentials only.
It was Memorial Day weekend in the States so the park was going to be packed with people enjoying the long weekend so the name of the game on Sunday was to avoid the crowds. Our first stop was at the Merced Grove
to see the fabled Giant Sequoia's
, amazingly there was hardly anyone there. The trees themselves are breathtaking, huge natural monoliths which soar majestically upwards into the deep blue sky. You need to stand right back to be able to appreciate there grandeur. Despite being so huge they are soft to touch and can survive fire and snow to live for 2000 years, give or take a couple hundred years.
Next we descended into Yosemite Valley
and really hit the crowds. We stopped at a lookout where we could see three of the numerous stunning natural attractions of Yosemite, El Capitan
, a climbing Mecca, Half-Dome
and Bridal Veil Falls
, picture perfect. We spend the rest of the day getting a close up view of
El Capitan, Half-Dome and Bridal Veil Falls
the falls and just relaxing in a meadow beneath El Capitan looking for climbers, apparently the average ascent is 4 - 5 days! It was so beautiful, words and photos don't really do it justice.
We then headed out of the park to our campsite and set up all the tents, got dinner on the go, got the fire going and sat around chatting, eating and drinking. We all crashed reasonably early though as the next day was going to be a long one. The Hike up Half-Dome
Getting up at 5am I immediately regretted drinking all that beer the night before, we made lunch and got on our way as the sun was slowing rising over the Heart of the Sierra Nevada
. I was still half asleep as we started the hike and it wasn't long before we stopped to take a "before" photo of the group looking all fresh and happy. An encouraging sign let us know that the round trip would be something like 22km; it was going to be a long one. Our first food break occurred at the top of Vernal Falls
a pounding waterfall which drenched us in spray as we walked
Before the final climb
past. Nevada Falls
came further kilometres onwards and if anything was more spectacular since we were higher up than before. More food and water later we were moving once again on a mercifully flat section for a bit before the trail began its inevitable climb once again.
It kept climbing and climbing and after we again stopped for some more to eat there came a sight which just made me sigh, a series of vicious switch backs that rose out of sight and onto the shoulder of Half-Dome. Once up these we were greeted by 60 degree slope with a cable to pull yourself up and then finally we were at the top and all the pain was worth it. The view was out of this world and was easily one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. A 360 degree panorama of the Sierra Nevada, granite outcroppings of rock, a sprinkling of deep green trees and the occasional waterfall from the melting snow, it really took your breath away. We spent about half and hour up here just drinking in the view, it was astonishing.
The walk down can be summed up in the words
of our guide Pete,
Well this f@#$ing sucks!
An 11 hour hike, we had done it. The "after" photo taken at the same spot as the "before" one will provide much amusement. Recovering and Relaxing
The day after was a much slower pace, we went into Yosemite Valley
and just relaxed at the visitor's centre. We watched a documentary on the history of the park called "The Spirit of Yosemite" which was very good and then walked to the base of Yosemite Falls
, the 5th highest waterfall in the world. After a brief look through the Ansell Adams gallery (he was a famous photographer of the park) it was time to head back to San Fran and then say goodbye to the group.
What a great 3 days.
Next time Southern California.
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