Getting up at 5am for the bus to Yosemite was a little bit of a struggle. It’s a 4 hour bus ride from San Francisco which means you really need to stay overnight to get a chance to hike some of the trails. And luckily for me, that’s what I did.
The park is famous not only for its picturesque valley and imposing mountains, but also for its granite cliffs and boulders and of course when you have those, you also have hundreds of rock climbers vying to try the most famous climbs: El Capitan and the Half Dome. El Capitan takes on average 3 days to climb, with climbers spending nights suspended over nothing on the side of the cliff in portaledges – a lightweight shelf attached to the rock face with a couple of bolts. There is an official list to climb and people will wait months for a spot, longer if they want a certain season. I discovered that some of the technique-pioneering climbers at Yosemite went on to found outdoor clothing companies like North Face and Patagonia as well.
According to visitor information, annually the 3,080 km2 park sees over 3.5 million visitors and contains thousands of lakes and ponds, 2,600 km of streams, 1,300 km of hiking trails, and 560 km of roads. I probably walked about 25km of that – and only in the Yosemite Valley.
Yosemite is one of those places where bears are not uncommon. I gave myself a heart attack a couple of times when I went off trail (following a stream, oh how pretty, la la lah) and then suddenly I could hear loud rustling in the long grass in front of me. Turned out both times it was deer, but enough for me to really think I might not get the bus back.
I slept an hour outside the park in Midpines as accommodation there is a zillion times cheaper than inside the park. This involved taking the last local bus from the Yosemite Lodge an hour down the road. Sunset and night are beautiful in the valley. As I waited for the bus I could see lights blinking half-way up Half Dome as climbers settled into their portaledges, and more stars than I have seen in a long time. The whole sky was covered with pinprick lights.
The next morning I caught the bus back in and spent time wandering different trails and taking an entire memory card’s worth of photos. This time though, I stayed close to a trail.