Our time in Yosemite National Park marks the longest any of us have ever spent at a single campsite – 7 nights – and it was lovely to have a “home” for that length while on the road. No more bear encounters like week one (phew!), but we felt our fair share of excitement and perhaps a wee bit of terror (<-- might be just me).
These posts are intended for us to log our experience, to keep our squad in the loop and perhaps to give you any ideas or inspiration if you venture to any of our destinations. Enjoy the insight on what we saw, felt, ate, etc as you wish!
Week 1 ended with our arrival to Yosemite National Park. Check out our week in the park below!
Even though we woke up in Yosemite, Connor and I left Yosemite by 8 am. We drove out of the park to meet up with our friend, Al, in Merced. He drove all the way from Bakersfield, CA - roughly a 2-hour drive for each of us. Along the way, Connor and I drove through many teeny towns (including one with the world's oldest saloon) then made a pit stop at a park to move our bodies. We did a core and backbending yoga flow to balance out all our sitting in the car. It felt so so good! We used the park outlets to make green protein shakes, freshened up in the bathrooms and then got back on the road.
We also took advantage of cell service and applied for Half Dome Lottery* as soon as we could!
*One of the goals for our time in Yosemite was to do the Half Dome hike. You need a permit to summit and we all got rejected when applying prior to our arrival so our only option was the lottery. You apply online in the hopes of hiking 48-hours later. As a group of 6, we submitted 4 different applications ($10 each) with faith that one of us would be accepted.
We met Al at J&R Tacos for lunch (Mexican burrito for Connor & Breakfast Tacos with side salad for me). It was so nice to catch up with him and see a familiar face! He hung around even after lunch as we ventured to a coffee shop (Coffee Bandits) to work on Vibe Up, and upload/edit travel pics. We worked for a few hours then headed back to camp. Dinner was simply sandwiches in the car (fancy!).
Upon returning to camp, we heard all about the beautiful views of Yosemite from Christine, Skyler, Andrew and Heather after their hike and viewpoint experiences of the day!
As we sat around the fire that night, Ranger Steve came up to talk to us and we mentioned our anticipation of getting accepted for Half Dome. He casually mentioned 3 deaths of people hiking up in the last week. Um...what??? I did not want to know that. Should we be hoping for permit approval after all? Eep!
After missing out on the Yosemite beauty yesterday, Connor and I needed to play a little catch up. While the rest of the crew took an easy morning at camp, we got up early & drove around Yosemite just after sunrise to view the huge waterfalls (so powerful!!!), the infamous Tunnel View and Glacier Point.
We made our breakfast there (oatmeal with blueberries and apple with peanut butter) too. Yum!
The second we had cell service, we checked emails about half dome acceptance.
We got it!
Everyone was denied, but my application was approved for all 6 of us to hike up tomorrow! Yay? :)
We stopped back at camp for lunch (leftover burrito bowls) then I headed to the lodge just outside the park to use their free wifi. I continued working on Vibe Up while Connor and crew read, laid in hammocks, napped in our inflatable lounger and enjoyed the day at our site.
Connor came and picked me up in time for dinner (curried quinoa with chickpeas, broccoli and onions courtesy of Skyler and Christine). We chatted about our early departure for Half Dome the next morning, made a batch of popcorn, sat by the fire, then packed our bags for the next day and off to bed early we went.
Today was the day. Half Dome. Will we die? No one knows. Okay, perhaps a little dramatic but I would be lying if I said I wasn't thinking about it a little. We woke up at 3:30am to leave by 4am. We wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to complete the hike while avoiding our summit at the hottest time of day.
It was cold and crisp when we left. We ate our breakfast in the car (rice cake with peanut butter & banana) on the way to the trailhead, warmed our cheeks with our heated seats, then walked the half mile to the trailhead in the dark after parking.
There are different routes to the top and we took the Mist Trail to witness the roar and power of the falls. We hiked the steep wet and slippery steps while enjoying an unavoidable cold + misty shower the whole way up. (No pics because we were that cold and wet, sorry.) But here's a quick video from the top!
When would feel that sunshine? We wanted it badly! Unfortunately, it was still behind the rocks.
Sun found us when we made it to Yosemite Valley (hooray!). We made our way through lots of uphill hiking, past gushing waterfalls, and stopped often to breathe and take in our surroundings.
When we got glimpses of sub dome and half dome, a bit of "holy poop" feels set in. Then we had to hike it! Sub dome was steep! Lots of steps then smooth slanted rock to climb. It was instantly evident why they discourage this hike with any rain in the forecast! Even on dry land, it was slick.
(Video footage below - try to take it in without getting too dizzy!)
After conquering sub dome, we got breathtaking views of the half dome cables. And by breathtaking, I mean terrifying. Okay, terrifying may be strong but heck! It looked like a vertical climb up! Remember those 3 people that died the week prior. Now I get it. I couldn't be 4th, right? The odds were in my favor....or so I kept telling myself!
We put on our gloves (to help with traction on the cables), applied sunscreen and announced words of encouragement to each other before hitting the cables. Here we go!
(FYI, I am fully aware that hundreds of people do this hike successfully daily but that did not take away my fear of heights, sweaty palms, or glimpses of falling to my death). So thankful for my supportive and patient hubby who vowed to go behind me - if I fell, he would catch me. ;) What a guy.
The first few steps on the cable with my lightweight running gloves (no grip whatsoever) had me in instant panic. Luckily, former hikers left a pile of amazingly grippy climbing gloves near the cables. I turned around and walked back to snag a pair - and thank heavens I did. There is NO way I would have made it up without them. The climb was steep and the traction of my boots was sub par. My mantras the whole way up were...
Don't look down.
4 points of contact at all times.
I can do this.
(Check it out in this video)
The 400 feett up the cables felt like 400 miles and took us about 40 minutes total. Connor made me vocalize that I was okay many times and told me that I was doing great - much needed during my mini mental panic attack about a quarter of the way up. My forearms were shot from squeezing the cables so tightly and I simply focused on getting from one wooden plank to the next. Until...we made it!!! Such a great feeling of accomplishment paired with intense fear knowing we had to go back down. How much for a heli ride outta here?
WHAT. A. VIEW.
Those packed sammies never tasted so good or so well deserved! We spent nearly an hour at the top of half dome soaking in the views and snapping pics to document our victory.
The way down was scary, mainly because of the number of people simultaneously heading up. As I stepped ever so cautiously and held on for dear life, Connor basically jogged down face first. Something that still gives me the tingles thinking about it.
We hiked back the opposite route we came up to see as much of the trail as we could. My knees were starting to get angry about mile 12 or so (thanks to dance, tumbling, and genetics) but we made it all the way down. With the extra mileage on the way up and the .5 mile to and from the car, we hiked nearly 20 miles total.
How will we celebrate this accomplishment, you ask? Quesadillas, of course! Heather and Andrew made quesadillas over the fire with onions, cilantro and jalapenos. They hit the spot!!
Dessert was a sweet quesadilla with peanut butter, banana, and dark chocolate. We made one and shared it as a squad. YUM. Then we hit the hay early and slept so soundly.
What a day.
We had to bid our farewell to Andrew and Heather before breakfast then Christine made us some blueberry protein pancakes! We added some peanut butter and bananas to a few, and oh baby! Yum factor was off the charts.
We all needed a little wifi time so we headed to Rush Creek Lodge and worked on all things boopbod for a few hours. I am ever so grateful that I happened to overhear in the visitor's center that this lodge had free wifi. It was my only option this whole week in Yosemite and I had lots to do for our Vibe Up program!
The lodge was super duper nice, had a fab pool area, great gift shop with healthy groceries, shuffle board, library, and more. They even hosted s'more nights and had a live band and beer party one night! So fun. If it is in your budget (or is your preference over camping) I would highly suggest staying there!
After our work day, we had something HUGE to look forward to: showers! Connor's former boss let him borrow a portable shower - a bag you fill with water and leave in the sun so it heats up - and tonight was the first trial. We created a roomy shower with tarps between our two vehicles and it was pure magic!
Dinner consisted of Tuscan White Bean soup with fire grilled nachos (cheese, avocado & tomatoes) and fire grilled corn on the cob. It was our first night just the four of us and we spent all night around the fire, telling jokes and making up stories about our campsite neighbors (the Robinson’s). We entertained ourselves with this for far too long. :)
Connor and I once again had an early morning wifi work date at the lodge, then the four of us headed to Yosemite Valley for a beach day. We drove around for nearly an hour trying to scope out the perfect spot to enjoy the sun, water and views. We took a gamble, parked and followed a short trail to this private beach. We still have no idea if we were allowed there but it was pretty darn picturesque and hard to pass up.
We noshed on our bagel sammies, watched Skyler put on his wet suit and swim around in the frigid water, read, napped and enjoyed the view of El Capitan and any rock climbers we could spot!
Dinner that night was a group affair! We made pesto pasta with whole grain rotini, red peppers, onions, mushrooms & chicken (separate for me - the only veggie in the group) served with Asian-style salad (ginger sesame dressing). Delish!
Any guesses where we started the day? The lodge, of course! More work needed to be done so Connor and I spent the morning and afternoon being productive while Skyler and Christine hiked Yosemite Falls. Of course, we wanted to hike but duty called and we (okay, mostly I) felt less stressed by checking some more things off the our to-do list. My knees were okay with more rest too. :)
That evening we set up a duo shower - our bag of water and Skyler's! Fancy. After showers, it was game time. We played Spot It! and Pusoy Dos. Connor and I made a "moscow mule" (courtesy of my ginger and lemon doTERRA oils), threw together a batch of popcorn with nutritional yeast, and spent the rest of the night trying to get a picture around the fire - spoiler alert, none of them turned out well. Camping is thrilling stuff.
We spent one last morning and little of the afternoon at the oh-so-fabulous lodge to figure out our destination in San Francisco.
We left Yosemite, spent most of the day driving and ended up completely indulging ourselves with a.....
Can you guess?
.....night in a hotel! You heard that right. We decided to live that fancy life and got a room at the Hilton DoubleTree. Not only did the warm cookies fill us with utter joy, the huge discount from AAA did as well.
Our night was spent using all the amenities available to us there - coin laundry, free wifi, hot tub, free hot showers that weren't timed, a huge bed we could sprawl out in...we soaked in it all. Oh, and we got to catch up on a few episodes of Westworld too. Bonus!
We woke up early to get our errand & tourist day started. Our first stop was the Verizon store to look into new phone options for me. My phone plan has been up for awhile, the battery life is pathetic, service is spotty, and it has its fair share of glitch-y moments - not to mention the screen has more cracks than can be counted. All that said, I decided it wasn’t worth the extra monthly payment at this time, especially when we have as little service as is. Stay tuned, though. I may soon be overcome with annoyance and cave.
Next stop, our Amazon locker! This was our first time using the lockers and it was so convenient. If you are unfamiliar, you can shop on Amazon and have it delivered to a specific locker in select cities. A perfect option for us on the road. Our loot included a knee brace (those steep descents will get ya), hiking socks, and silicon bags (to replace our wasteful Ziploc bags)! We finished our to-dos by grabbing groceries and making sandwiches for lunch.
Now for the real touristy things. We were told we had to swing by Bi-Rite Creamery for ice cream and to expect a 2-hour wait. We went with no time frame and definitely waited in a long line that nearly wrapped around the building, but it went pretty quickly and gave us enough time to decide what to order. Connor went with Honey Lavendar & Sea Salt Caramel and I chose Coffee Toffee & Ricanelas (cinnamon ice cream with pieces of snickerdoodle cookies mixed in). All of the flavors were spot on. We enjoyed every spoonful while sitting across the street in Dolores Park.
We then found a one-hour parking spot near Fisherman's Wharf so tried to see and explore as much in 60 minutes as possible. I did get distracted by a group of street dancers and stood in anticipation of their show until Connor whispered in my ear, "You know this is part of our hour, right?". Oh yes! Shoot. Thanks for the reminder. Off we go.
We walked around, passed the numerous shops selling Clam Chowder in bread bowls, caught views of Alcatraz, the bay and the bridge, then wandered back to our car. A quick trip but still fun!
At this point, we needed to start thinking about where we would sleep that night. I still had some Vibe Up video editing and exporting to do (and this take hours upon hours for a single video) so...
we made the tough decision to spend the money and stay at the DoubleTree one more night. More warm cookies, yes please! Apparently parking in San Fran is insane and even hotels will charge up to $80 for the night so we felt like we were saving money with the free parking and free wifi. Similar to night one, we enjoyed the hot tub, hot showers & HBOGO.
Our final morning in San Fran started with the highly anticipated pastries from Tartine. We shared an almond crescent & morning bun. Beyond. Delicious.
After that breakfast, we immediately focused on lunch. Obviously. We drove just a few blocks away to Saigon to get Vietnamese Banh Mi take out to eat after we crossed the Golden Gate bridge.
Made it across the bridge to take some pictures and for everyone to enjoy their sandwiches with a view.
Next stop was the Cypress Tree Tunnel.
Then off to the Point Reyes lighthouse, which was supposed to home to some of the West Coasts most beautiful shoreline. Unfortunately, we arrived in a thick Marine Layer and could barely see the ocean below us. A big bummer but it still made for some spooky pictures.
Back on the road to Santa Rosa, CA for a Costco food & gas pit stop and delicious brewery stop at Russian River Brewery - known for their Pliney the Elder.
Santa Rosa was our planned end point destination for the day, but we decided to keep driving and ended up arriving late at a State Park campsite. Travel tip – arrive late & leave early at campsites and you sleep for free!
Whew! A lot has happened in week 2. What's in store for week 3? Redwood National Park and Crater Lake - aka STUH-UH-NING photos to come!