We left San Francisco early on the 8th of June and started heading east for the first time on the trip. Our destination was Yosemite National Park. An extremely famous and crowded park, especially during the times we were visiting. We stopped at a Mexican place to eat some tacos, get drinks, and continue across the mountains and hills of northern California. I was the only one with experience driving through the hills, so this was a blast for me and the exact opposite for my fellow travelers.
I was driving fast, like in Europe, slashing the canyons and curves in them. Until we got stuck. There was huge traffic to enter Yosemite Valley. To describe it better, you can't go through the valley to the other side. The whole park and the road inside it are built like a huge U-turn. You get in the same way - you get out the same way. And lots of folks stop, take pics, set out camp, and do many things along the same road, making it clog up easily.
So we waited for around 1 hour, and I needed to pee strongly. Eventually, we got to our campground - Lower Pines Campground. The thing about Yosemite is that all the accommodations sell out instantly. Yes, even the campgrounds. So I waited 6 months before next to a computer screen in my CET timezone to book our spot. Thankfully, it was there and ready for us to set camp. It was right next to a river that ran through the whole valley.
As with any wilderness camp, Yosemite had warnings about bears. But this time, the warning indicated that bears no longer fear people. They actually come to the camp and steal food while people are there. So one of the notes that stuck with me is to bang your cooking utensils (pots/pans) together when you see a bear. Apparently, the sounds from the banging should scare it away. Right.
No bear approached the camp that night as we slept soundly. Tomorrow, we had a big hike that goes almost 1000m (3200ft) in elevation + it is 7.7km (4.8 miles) long. But that was just a starting point. As we finished this trail, it rewarded us with some of the most breathtaking (literally) views and photos. You could see the great falls - Yosemite Falls and Nevada Falls in the distance. Also, the view of the Half Dome was astonishing. We looked at it long because we didn't get to climb it.
The thing about climbing the Half Dome is that it is very dangerous. You are basically walking up the huge granite slope out in the open. If the storm comes, you're probably screwed. People often panic there because they're exposed to the elements and walking in line with many others. It scares me so much that my hands are sweating as I write it. That's why the park made sure only lucky ones can climb it. You need to apply for a lottery to get a chance to climb it. Unfortunately, we didn't win it, and we were there only for 1 day. Folks often stay for a couple of days and play the lottery each day to climb it.
We left the Half Dome for next time and started another trail that should lead us straight down to our camp from the Glacier Point we had just climbed. That trail was relatively easy. You go downhill most of the time, looking down at the valley and mostly to the east. We get to see the huge Nevada Falls and a few smaller ones. At some point, the trail started to become really hard to manage because there were tons of people, and you had to descend down. To make things harder, you are under a waterfall at some point, and you can't see anything.
We made it out alive from the easy Panorama trail and a busy Mist trail, and we just wanted to chill in our camp. We were so tired and hurting that we couldn't talk. I remember Karla had her feet in so much pain. It was her first hike of the trip, where we had experienced our share of foot pain before. We were hurting as well, do not get me wrong. We showered in the visitor's center near the camp, and a guy that works there told us that we could become rangers. That thought still resonates from time to time in my head - one day, I'll be a ranger there - I keep telling myself.
We went to bed, knowing we had a long drive tomorrow. We were sad Yosemite was done, but the thought of coming back as a park ranger comforted us. Join us tomorrow when we change the landscape and go further east to a desert-like environment.