Almost two weeks in, and a lot has happened. Long car rides, breathtaking views, and bears – oh my! We had two too-close-for-comfort bear encounters our first couple of nights camping! So close that I am completely okay if I don’t see a bear for the rest of the trip. 😊 More on that later…
This post, and others to come, will be a rough play-by-play of our lives as we travel. We will share it all - the breathtaking views, funny screw up moments, our campsite meals, and more. Feel free to read to follow along, take notes for your own adventure, or simply scroll through and enjoy the pictures.
Here's a peek at our first week...
We kicked off our trip with a full day drive from La Motte, IA to Denver, CO. and it still didn’t feel all that real (we are actually doing this!). We stayed with our friends Nick and Lacy – and their perfect new bundle of joy, Madison Elizabeth. She was not even two days old when we met her and she was all sorts of yummy! Catching up, baby snuggles, one last night in a real bed…it was a fabulous start to our trip!
We left Nick and Lacy's early, made a pit stop for gas and then decided we should make a green protein shake. We brought along our NutriBullet blender (it's no Vitamix, but packs so much easier) and filled it with chocolate protein powder, powdered peanut butter, spinach, ice and water. We thought "look at us making healthy meals on the road," until we tried to plug it in and blend. Nothing but a blip of a noise. It was quite obvious this brilliant and healthy idea wasn't going to be so simple. We proceeded to drive around from gas station to gas station eyeing outdoor outlets, but even when we found them, they didn't work. We couldn't help but laugh at our situation and continued proclaiming, "what an adventure this is!" to steer us clear from frustration.
We knew we needed to swing by the Denver REI (a must!) so we halted our outlet hunt and ventured to REI for some last minute kitchen and adventure gear. After being guided on which bear bin carrier to buy, Connor asked if we could use any outdoor outlets for a shake....embarrassing? Nah! We were granted permission, so we hustled to the car to grab our warm spinach water powder mixture (yum) and squatted down on the beautiful walkway leading into REI to whip up our breakfast. Finally! Did we get some looks? Sure. Did we care at this point? Nope. A shake never tasted so good.
We spent the rest of the day driving and noticing gas expenses rising fast. We eventually landed in Utah for a glamorous first night in our Chevy Tahoe Suite. Where, you ask? A 24-hour Walmart parking lot. Classy! It was actually quite convenient. The lot is lit and has multiple safety cameras scattered throughout, plus access to a 24-hour bathroom. Not too shabby.
We woke up feeling great! The new bed was pretty darn comfortable (shout out to Connor and his mad craftsman skills!). We drove a couple minutes to a picturesque Utah park for a morning kettlebell workout (yes, I brought a few bells). Thankfully, the park had running water for a quick clean up and electricity for our NutriBullet green shakes! Huge success!
Day three of driving took us through Las Vegas and REI (again). Can you blame us?! After a hot, dusty & long drive through Death Valley, we were approaching our first camp site at dinner time. We hadn't stocked up on groceries yet, so we stopped at the local Mexican restaurant for sope and chicken fajitas. Yum! We then arrived at Whitney Portal Campground to meet up with Skyler & Christine, whom will be our trusted travel partners (warriors) for the roadtrip.
It was pretty crazy to show up in our vehicle and not have to spend any time setting up our home/bed for the night. We pull in and that's it! Easy peasy.
Okay, now for bear encounter #1....
Around dusk, Christine & Skyler's friends, Arne and Ly, arrived and we started a fire. A few moments later we were all sitting around the fire, just a couple feet from the bear bin. If you are unfamiliar with bear bins, they are essentially a metal locker that you place all your food and toiletries in so bears do not come into your tent, break into your cars, etc. - and when bears are fresh out of hibernation and hungry AF, you best be using them.
We had all of the required items in the bear bin but the doors were open because what bear would walk right up to our bin when we are sitting & chatting two feet away around the fire...
"Holy s***! A Bear!"
Everyone jumped up and sure enough, this gutsy black bear was right up in our bear bin. We all went silent for a moment, trying to remember what to do (the rules are different based on the type of bear) while also trying to grasp that there was a wild black bear so close to us. After the initial shock, we began yelling and waving our arms to scare it away.
Needless to say, we shut our bear bin immediately and went back to enjoying our fire (while checking the perimeters on the regular). No more bears came back to us that night but we did hear other campers banging pots and yelling - so that black bear was not giving up!
While bears can most certainly tear into your car, I felt comfort in sleeping in a big vehicle rather than a tent. We started our day with a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs with tomatoes and onions, and healthy dose of bacon and sausage (for the rest of the squad).
Our mission for the day was to get some work done (on the Vibe Up program launching tomorrow!!) and get permits to hike Mount Whitney. Only 160 permits are given out daily and Connor & I were the only two in our group without them. We headed to a coffee shop in Lone Pine, California (13 miles from our campsite), worked for a few hours, sipped on sub par coffee then headed to the visitor center to request permits.
We got them! It is still early in the season so we got lucky this last minute. We grabbed groceries and headed back to camp for a solid carb-filled dinner that would prep us for the 14 miles the following day. We devoured whole wheat pasta with spinach, onions and tomatoes, a big salad and again, more sausage for the crew. It was an early night to bed to rest up for the long day ahead.
3:30am hit and we were up prepping our daypacks.
And now for bear encounter #2...
Connor and I were the first ones up and moving so we headed to the bear bin to fill our daypacks with the sandwiches and snacks we prepped the night before. We had our head lamps on (it was still dark outside) and as we walked to the bin from our car, we scoped out the area for a bear - nothing in sight.
Ly joined us a minute later and within 30 seconds she looks right at me and calmly says, "Um, there's a bear behind you." I said, "What!?" (assuming she was joking after our experience the night before and because Connor and I just checked the perimeters). She repeats, "There's a bear behind you."
I turned my head and holy guacamole the bear was inches from me...like smelling my backside, close. Just standing there staring at me. I spun around and again, paused - as the bear side-eyed us questioning if he should stay or go. We quickly started banging our hiking sticks on the bear bin, yelling, and before the bear ran off he swiped a day pack from the bin (Arne's). He put it in his mouth and ran down the hill.
This hike was the reason Ly and Arne joined us and the "stolen" backpack had everything Arne needed to complete the hike successfully...so Skyler and Arne started running down to the bear. Luckily, the bear released the damaged bag after snagging an apple and shredding the trail map.
If that doesn't wake you up, I don't know what will...
We collected ourselves and headed out to begin our hike at 4:30am - the trailhead was only minutes away.
We hiked for an hour in the dark, then arrived at Lone Pine Lake at sunrise. It was stunning! The water was glass-like, the warm glow of from the sun was magical and the calmness of it all was just breathtaking.
The hike took us through streams, meadows, steep boulder climbs, lots of snow, past a frozen lake and more. We drank fresh glacier water via our Sawyer filter and it all felt pretty surreal.
We could not completely summit Mount Whitney (22 miles total rather than the 12 we conquered) due to the last 97 switchbacks being completely covered in snow. The only way to ascend was via the chute (aka climbing up the snowy mountain with ice picks, microspikes, etc). We did not have the proper equipment so we sat at the base and watched people summit. Many people take 2-3 days to complete the full 22 miles because the chute gets too slushy if you start it past 6 or 7 am.
Even without the summit and the extra ten miles, it was a beautiful and challenging hike!
We landed at the bottom with painful feet, sore knees and treated ourselves to beer and showers. We took turns using the one stall behind the little store at the trailhead. You had to climb over/squeeze through a rock wall to get to it - it was dirty and small but so worth it.
We made some of our dehydrated meals for dinner (easy after an exhausting day) and headed to bed early!
Connor and I woke up early to take pictures at a waterfall near our campground, then had one last meal at our campsite (egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches with optional bacon & sausage).
We drove to Yosemite early morning, called our parents & siblings along the way (4 hour drive), stopped in Bishop at Von’s to get food for us and our group dinners. We have never spent so much time in a grocery store. Planning out meal options, cooler space, budgets....it was hilarious but we managed to make it out of the store alive and well.
The drive through Yosemite was amazing. Lots of winding roads and amazing views. We entered through the east entrance and our campground was on the far west entrance so we had quite a scenic drive along the way.
When we arrived at Hodgdon Meadow Campground, we met Andrew and Heather (two more Cali friends of Skyler & Christine's). They would be joining us for a few days.
We got organized and prepped dinner - burrito bowls! Brown rice with corn, black and pinto beans, salsa, romaine lettuce, avocado, cheese and tortilla chips. Simple and so yummy!
We ended our first night in Yosemite around the fire after putting up Christine's copper lights. This would be our home for the next week so decorating appropriately was essential.
Week 1 complete. Stay tuned for more on Yosemite National Park! No more bear sightings, but we did venture out on a hike that took three lives just days prior to our ascent...