Monday, September 10, 2012

Road Trip Part 9 - "F*** me... I'm. So. Out. Of. Breath

Leaving Lake Tahoe we headed south to one of the places I didn’t know much about, but was keen to see – Yosemite (pronounced Yo-sem-it-ee, not Yo-sem-ite as I initially thought!). It was roughly a 6 hour drive, passing back through Nevada and a stunningly picturesque lake, and rather bizarrely an agricultural inspection station. Which we pulled into (the wasn’t any way around it) only to be asked where we had come from, where we were going and then let go. Pretty useless inspection if you ask me! I drove the first stint, keen to drive, and changed driver in a small town beside the huge lake we were driving round. I then took the wheel again as it was 3pm, and therefore rum o’clock for Wahid. No comment… As it was I rather enjoyed driving the RV – it was something to do on the long journeys!
Scenery on the way to Yosemite

Reaching 1000ft elevation
Gorgeous lake on the way up the mountain
The drive up to Yosemite was a slow one – being all uphill and the RV particularly grumpy that day, Reaching nearly 1000ft elevation we entered the National Park (again, $20 for 7 days – bargain!) and then descended back down into the valley. It was decided to go and watch the sunset from Glacial Point, one of the high points surrounding the valley. The route up was again a slow one, but also rather hair raising with the road being rather narrow and twisty. Not fun at all in a 30ft RV! The heart-in-mouth sensation not felt since Route One oh so many years ago (or so it felt) returned in force, especially on one very tight corner with a car coming the other way causing me to have to squeeze into the inside of the curve and clipping a tree stump. Luckily a slightly bent wheel hub was the worst damage. Apart from my nerves being well and truly shaken! As it was imanaged to slowly drive the RV up the rest of the route, hogging the middle of the road when going round corners and pising off a few drivers in the process!

Looking down into the Yosemite Valley
Glacier point is basically a vista point waaaaaay up one of the sides of the Yosemite valley, looking back over the valley towards the half dome. Getting up there is a (very) short walk from the carpark, and easily marked by the millions (ok, slight exaggeration-tens of thousands) of tourists flocking to the same place. As the sun set behind us it cast an amazing red effect onto the half dome in front of us. Truly spectacular. As the sun went down over the horizon, one had to indulge in the rock clambering tradition, trying to get as near a possible to the edge, with little ledges sticking out from the main rock face receiving more man points. It was however a real headfuck looking over the edge and seeing the 1000+ foot sheer drop to the valley bottom below. Even those with a head for heights (including me) were not particularly comfortable being near the edge for long! Even more astounding was getting back to the trail only to see a Dutch woman literally run and scramble up these rocks right to the edge. No dramas. Amy, Antonia and I had our mouths open for a good while after watching that feat!

Antonia, Jon and Amy watching the Sunset

Wahid, Michael and Barney

The red rocks of the half dome created by the sunset
Me, Antonia and Amy on the rocks high above the valley
And the view down. Pretty damn far!
It was decided to stay up the mountain that evening, and many giggles were had at Michaels panicking about mountain lions and coyotes (one of which we had seen earlier) and almost OCD nature at ensuring the doors were locked shut every time someone went in and out. Because coyotes are renowned for their RV door unlocking skills of course!

RV shenanigans
Jon had planned a hike for the next day, so I woke early-ish to drive back down the mountain to the start point. It was a greed we would aim to leave at 11, to try and make some headway before the heat of the day. Everyone disappeared for food etc, and we set off at 12.30 with Wahid trying to be a smart arse and ask if he needed bog roll for the trip. I was surprised at the delayed start and expected as much from the other. It just annoyed me that I got ready before everyone else and they all took their sweet arse time.
Obviously starting so much later meant we were in the heat of the day (something both Jon and I were keen to avoid), and as a consequence it was pretty tough going. And that was before the trail starting getting ridiculous… Supposedly a 3.5mile trail we figured it wouldn’t take too long to get to the top, take some photos, have lunch and come back down again. Then we saw the elevation. To say it was steep would be an understatement – it was a 2700ft climb in the 3.5miles! Factor in the heat and it was a tough climb. Especially with my cardio fitness dropping over the past few months from too much eating and not enough doing. Both Barney and I really struggled as the trail progressed. 

It was a cool experience hiking in Yosemite. It seems that all hikers, whatever their nationality, have a need to say hello and comment on the weather, or how far to go (no bad thing whatsoever!). Except for the Americans who put their own spin on this lovely thing by wooping and high fiving everyone who passes. Bless. There were also some incredibly ninja kids scrambling up and down (I wish I had their energy!) and a bunch of blatantly rah English students coming the other way, all decked out in Ralph Lauren and pastel coloured polo shirts. Which caused everyone to look at each other and burst out laughing when they had passed. Except for Wahid who was lost in translation and had no idea what was going on! As we ascended the trail the view over the valley grew more and more amazing, and getting to the top was a fantastic feeling, stopping for lunch and the customary photos. It was especially amazing to look over the waterfalls as it cascaded down the valley side. Me being me had to get my feet dangling off the side, prompting a Japanese tourist to call me crazy. Better than being boring mate!

The lads setting off
The waterfall we hiked to the top of
Taking a break on the way to the top
Looking down the waterfall
Me hanging on for a good photo opportunity!
Heading back down the trail caused a separate set of muscles to start screaming in protest at the sudden activity being unleashed upon them. Jon and Wahid surged on ahead driven by the idea of a cold cocktail by the pool. Barney, Michael and I took our time, having to stop to give a hand to a lady who had fallen and hurt her ankle, and became incredibly pissed off at the endless turns in the trail making us think we were nearer to the end of trail than we actually were. Eventually arriving back at the RV with feet aching, it was time for that lovely feeling of getting the boots off, followed by the old man shuffle to the pool showers to de-sweat and de-odorise – bliss!  Chatting to the girls about the afternoon, we learnt they had spent the whole time by the pool. Who spends all their time in Yosemite by a pool?! Sounds like they had fun though so I guess that’s fair enough…

Barney took the drive out of Yosemite that evening, and with the windows down, music playing and sun setting it was a glorious drive. Except for the cheeky U-turn we had to do on the highway when we missed a turn, causing some backed up traffic, angry honking and nearly going over the road barrier to drop into the valley below. Oops! Stopping of at a random vista on the way out of the National Park we watched the sunset over the valley, with the Chilli Peppers playing out of the RV and the feeling life couldn’t get any better. Getting towards the end of the trip I realised that despite hating it at times and getting wound up with the attitudes of some others, I really did feel like I had (in part at least)become close to those on the trip with me; something that can only be bought about through spending time travelling together, and I would like to think I would stay in touch with them all after we go our separate ways.

At the Vista point
Kim, Antonia, Jon and Eshe

Once the sun had disappeared behind the hills we departed from the vista, music still blaring. We stopped for the night at a huge RV park on the way back towards San Fran, which I don’t remember the name of. I do remember that there was gold panning and a lama farm. And an overly friendly cleaner who got a little too close to me trying to show me where to park the RV on the map…

Yosemite was an amazing place to stop, and I am so glad we did stop there, and actually had a proper hike; something I had been keen to do for the whole trip. At the risk of repeating myself (for the umpteenth time), I would love to go back to Yosemite, camp there and hike a bit more around the place. The amount of time we spent at places just wasn’t enough, simply because of the nature of the trip meaning we were trying to see as much as possible in the time we had. Not that I’m complaining at all because ive seen so much of the USA now and I so glad I have been able to!

Parallel parked like a boss!
 (map from Google maps)

No comments:

Post a Comment