[Photos & video below]
As an East Coast kid, California seemed like a fairytale world where movies were made and surf bums lived out their days in Volkswagen vans in search of the epic wave. I admired it from a distance like a child admires his or her favorite superhero; unsure whether I’d ever get the chance to travel there. That dream came true recently when my now-fiancé and I (I’ll touch on that) visited Yosemite National Park.
We spent a total of three days in Yosemite, flying cross-country from Albany to Fresno and renting a car — a gas-sipping Ford Fusion Hybrid — for transportation. Tip #1: Rent a hybrid over an SUV. Use the money saved on a nice dinner. We booked our accommodations on March 1st: three months early, but still not soon enough to get the prime campsites on the “valley floor,” where you’re a stone’s throw from the trailheads and attractions. Instead, we bounced around: from a campsite on night one, to a bed and breakfast in Groveland, CA on night two, and returned to the valley for the third night to stay in a “tent cabin” — which wasn’t quite “glamping” but close. We weren’t complaining about having a bed to sleep on after a full day of hiking.
Tip #2: Reserve your campsites early, like February, if you want to snag a campsite on the valley floor for consecutive days.
We made the most of our three days in Yosemite, setting out at sunrise and not returning to base camp until well past dusk. We checked off an impressive number of sights: Tunnel View, the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias, Glacier Point, Sentinel Dome, Yosemite Falls, Bridalveil Fall, Vernal Fall, and meadows and roadside vistas that seemed untouched by the passing of time.
Thanks to our friends (and Trampoline client) Fountain Square Outfitters, Alexis and I were well-equipped for our adventures. In addition to the FSO gear we already owned, owners Matt and Nancy Fuller hooked us up with some essential (and lightweight) gear, including the MSR Mutha Hubba three-person tent; Thermarest sleeping pads; Luci rechargeable solar lights; ENO Doublenest Hammock; Patagonia Torrentshell rain jackets, which kept us dry when I proposed to Alexis at Bridalveil Fall (yeah, that happened!); and GSI stainless steel wine glasses that kept our champagne ice cold when we celebrated later that night. Not from FSO but worth mentioning was my zero-degree EMS sleeping bag circa 1974 passed down from my father. We stuffed all of our gear into the waterproof Patagonia Black Hole Duffel and didn’t have to check a bag at the airport — clutch for cross-country trips where you risk luggage being lost in transit.
We capped off our trip by driving from Yosemite to San Francisco. We had dinner at a great restaurant/brewery, Thirsty Bear (awesome branding!), and then headed to our hotel near the airport, where we were able to take our first shower in three days and sleep in a real bed before we flew home the next morning.
My first trip to the Golden State exceeded my expectations, and I’ll miss it. What I won’t miss is the traffic and congestion during peak hours; from noon until about 5 p.m., when Yosemite Valley turns into a carousel of cars and buses on the valley’s only main road. Tip #3: Get an early start, pack a lunch and hike outside of the valley floor during peak hours. Return in time to catch sunset.
Unfortunately, photos don’t do Yosemite any justice — which brings me to Tip #4: Go and experience Yosemite for yourself.