Campfires, Sea Lions + Yosemite.
So somehow, that “time” thing happened and I’m back from my two week trip with Trek America. Let me start off by saying that this trip was just as good as my last, and that trip is a pretty tough one to beat. This time around I did Trek America’s Pacific Coast tour, which was 14 days and 13 nights of road tripping, hiking, camping and giggles. Here’s my run down of what I got up to on days 1-4 of my tour.
After a whirlwind (or not) 11-hour flight from Gatwick to LAX and then a gruelling 2 hour wait at border control and another hour to get to my hotel, I hit my pillow and slept solidly until my Trek America group’s 7:30am meeting on Saturday morning. We went through all the paperwork and met each other before packing ourselves into the van that we would call home for the next two weeks and setting off to explore Hollywood. Having spent plenty of time in Hollywood last summer, I gave my group (which consisted of four girls and four boys, with nationalities including British, Swiss, Australian, Belgian and Austrian) a brief tour – exactly 45 minutes – of the area surrounding the Chinese Theatre, Walk Of Fame and the viewing platform for the Hollywood sign.
After that, it was a coastal drive to Malibu to pick up some lunch and then onto Santa Barbara. Here, we had lunch on the beach in the scorching sun before having a walk along the sea front and then along the pier, where I got my first patches and stickers of the trip. Then it was off to grocery shop for the next few days, before heading off to set up camp near San Luis Obispo. After getting our brand new tents up for the first time – mine and Emily’s was named “Big Ange” – we had our first dinner, made by our tour guide, who’s also called Emily. That’s going to get confusing, isn’t it? Then came the inaugural campfire and game playing before my first experience of camp ground showers. It wasn’t too pleasant, but I survived to tell the tale – just. At bedtime, it was so warm that we didn’t need the tent rain covers, so Emily and I stargazed for hours, talking about the universe and how time works. First deep conversation of the trip done.
Day 2 brought more seaside town adventures in the form of Monterey and Santa Cruz. With Monterey being our first stop of the day, we spent the late morning walking down from Lover’s Point to Cannery Row, where we learnt all about the old canning trade and looking at all the weird sweet shops and fancy restaurants, then lunch by the seaside before heading off to Santa Cruz. Here, we explored the boardwalk/amusement park then walked along the beach (the sand was so hot I got blisters) before heading up the pier. We even got to see one of my favourite animals, sealions (!!), sitting on the dock. After we all decided we were too sunburnt to carry on, we hopped back in the van and set off to make camp. Once we’d set our tents up it was off to the beach for a game of baseball, which proved very dramatic and involved a big tennis ball and a stick of wood found in the sand, and then back up to camp for another campfire and dinner.
The next day started bright and early for our drive to Yosemite National Park! After hours of winding roads and a little break (ahem, breakdown due to the engine overheating…) on the side of the road, we made it into the park. After tent set-up and lunch, we had a quick tour of some major photo points, including the Yosemite Valley viewpoint, El Capitan and Bridalveil falls.
The views of Yosemite Valley are something I don’t think I will ever be able to get over. The sheer scale of the valley is awe-inspiring, and the overwhelming amount of nature and beauty is enough to stop you in your tracks. Naturalist and explorer John Muir, a Scottish man who basically invented the concept of national parks, once said “This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapour is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.” That really applies to Yosemite. It’s one of those places that you can never do justice with words or pictures. Its beauty and majesty in unable to be captured by anything of human creation; its spellbinding grip on your soul can never be shaken; it fills every pore and fibre of your being and changes you in a way that can’t be described. It is the most beautiful place on earth.
Then it was time to take a trip to the visitors centre to get maps and plan out the next day’s hikes. Afterwards, we went down to the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequioas and hiked around the main area of the grove. In the sweltering heat of the afternoon it was back to camp and a good night’s sleep before the next day’s 5am wake-up call.
5am came way too soon. In the freezing cold light of dawn, we packed our sleepy selves into the van and headed down into the valley to start our hikes. Emily and I chose to do the Nevada Falls hike, but because the water levels in the park were so high (they had the most snow they’d seen in decades that winter) the falls themselves were like walking through rain. After making it half way up the falls, it became so slippery and wet on the steps that we turned around and headed back down onto the valley floor. We then went round to the Mirror Lake area of the park, and enjoyed an easy hike around the “lake”, which would probably be better named as “Mirror Puddle”. The walk gave us an incredible view of the mountains.
After making our way around the trail, we went off to watch the park videos that focus on John Muir’s influence on the area and the creation of the park and the parks system itself. Then we met up with the rest of our gang and shared a couple of pizzas. We had planned to go up to Glacier Point to watch the sunset, but a terrible fire had started two days previously and had turned the park into a smokey haze with an orange sky and eerie glow. It was a two hour wait to get out of the park, but while stuck in the awful traffic I managed to spot a black bear!
Tune in next time for a round-up of days 5-8.
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