Let me just put this out there right to begin with. A weekend is NOWHERE near enough time to see the highlights that Yosemite has to offer, let alone the whole park! There is so much to see, so many hikes to do, and wonders galore waiting around literally every corner.
I was very lucky to find the tour that I did. My friend had recommended the Green Tortoise Hostel in San Francisco to me, informing me that it had the best atmosphere (and let’s face it, that’s what often makes your trip, right?). Looking into it I discovered they also did tours, and it just so happened they were doing a tour to Yosemite the weekend I was there. Perfect!!
The Green Tortoise *Hostel on Wheels* left San Francisco late at night on Friday and arrived in Yosemite Valley the next morning. Now before you cringe about sleeping on a bus (besides, this was nothing compared to my 14 hour Banff to Vancouver bus journey!), they have designed this really cool bus which converts into, basically, a giant mattress. So, I may only have gotten 2 hours sleep anyway that night, but at least I was comfortably lying down.
At 5:45am, we sleepily emerged from the bus to the following view…
Just a little bit amazing, huh?
Following a good breakfast at a picnic ground somewhere in the park, we were headed for the valley and a day of hiking. That was going to be fun on two hours sleep…
I still remember that very first glimpse I got of the Yosemite Falls. It was like something out of a movie. Sure, you’ve seen pictures of them before, but pictures never really do the real thing any justice. I was mesmerized. And not just by the waterfalls. Sheer, straight cliff faces stared down at you wherever you looked. This hike was starting to look more and more daunting!! Nevertheless, I decided to tackle Upper Yosemite Falls. Just a cool +1000ft, no biggie.
The hike up…well, I felt so unfit I don’t know how I made it as far as I did. Sure, it wasn’t as high or as steep as the Grouse Grind in Vancouver, but it was at least 25C, and most of the trail was in the sunlight, which wasn’t doing my sunburnt skin any favours! Still, on every turn there was a new wonder to be seen. I took so many photos on the way up (which also gave me a chance to rest 😉 ) that I was starting to worry if I had enough memory for the whole weekend!
All the blood and sweat were totally worth it though. OK fine, there was no blood, but there sure was a lot of sweat!! Once the Upper Falls came into sight you were sprayed with the most refreshing mist, which definitely made hiking more bearable. We didn’t quite make it all the way to the top but we made it over 2/3…. I’m still proud of that achievement 😉
Coming back down to valley level, we decided to finish off with an easy hike to Mirror Lake, named so because of the mirror-like reflection it gets on its surface of the surrounding cliffs. Being as exhausted as I was though, I promptly forgot to take pictures of the reflections in the lake…clever me. Still, compared to the morning hike this was a walk in the park. And I guess it literally is :p
That night, I got to sleep under the stars 🙂 Apart from a mild panic at a few drops that landed on my head at 2am it was wonderful! I got the best night’s sleep, although that may have been in part due to no sleep the night before and hiking all day.
This morning the whole group went hiking to see the giant sequoias. One fallen down sequoias was so big, that some of the group decided to walk through it to see if they could make it out the other end. And they did!
After a quick stop at Tunnel View (because no trip to Yosemite is complete without a photo at Tunnel View) we were back in the valley. This time a whole group of us decided to hike up the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls. The first half of the hike is well paved and takes you to a footbridge near the bottom of the Falls, the second half however, includes 600 steps straight up, half of which are soaking wet due to the constant spray of mist from the waterfall (hence the name Mist Trail). Despite this, or because of this actually, this was my favourite hike of the weekend. Sure, you emerge at the top of the Falls absolutely soaking wet, but it was an adventure!! Also, as with everywhere else in Yosemite, the views were awesome and there’s that certain sense of achievement you get once you are standing at the top thinking *I made it, I climbed all the way up here!*
And that’s it. One weekend, like I said, just way too short.
If I had to describe Yosemite in one word it would be breathtaking. Why? Because not only was it breathtaking to look at from every angle, but the bigger hikes left me, at times, gasping for air, literally *breathtaking*, getit? 😉