When you think of a majestic stretch of wilderness, Yosemite National Park almost always seems to be at the top of the list. For me, Yosemite has always been enticing, and yet slightly intimidating. So of course it was on my bucket list. I was fortunate enough to plan a backpacking trip to Yosemite, over Memorial Day weekend. At first, the thought of a holiday weekend in a national park like Yosemite brought to mind images of crowds with obscenely white sneakers and Selfie Sticks, set to a seemingly out of place backdrop of mother nature's most epic views. Not exactly my cup of tea. I am happy to tell you, this could not have been farther from my experience.
My boyfriend and I left Los Angeles early in the morning, and (thankfully) zoomed through the five-hour drive. While Memorial Day may remind most people of summer and sunshine, that is not always the case in the mountains. Dark rain clouds and fog covered the famous views that we had so highly anticipated as we drove in... Now, I am a person who will normally rejoice at the sight of a grey sky, and scoff when the sun comes out, but in this particular situation, I was slightly disappointed that Half Dome and El Capitan were no where to be seen. Nevertheless, we continued on to the backpackers' campsite to spend our first night. This was actually a lovely addition to our trip that the parks services offered. We were able to spend our first night at an actual campsite reserved entirely for backpackers, who may arrive too late in the evening to begin their hike immediately. (Backpackers take note!) We spent our first night in the mist and the clouds listening to a small creek flow by our tent.
A park ranger warned us that evening that a male bear had been coming in to this area for the last few nights, and we MUST have all of our scented items safely in the bear canister. If I am being completely honest my heart skipped a beat and I double-checked my pack for anything scented. I looked over to my partner in crime beside me, whose face was lit up with near elation... A look I found to be slightly misplaced for the current situation! However, much to his dismay, no bears bothered us that night.
The next morning, at the crack of dawn we were up and out. As was everyone else around us... We all had a destination to get to! There is no sleeping in, or leisurely breakfast hour at this campsite! As the sun rose, and the sky cleared, I caught my breath. Half Dome towered over my head, the cliffs stood strong and in plain sight. Yosemite, in all its glory stared me in the face. As I took in the magic of this place, I was reminded of how small we really are compared to all of the wonder in this world that we are privileged enough to experience. It took some time to shake that feeling and continue on our way.
The trail we chose to backpack through was called Yosemite Creek Trail, located just off of Tioga Pass Road (which had only opened a few days prior for the season.) This part of the park is closed for the winter, as it is not accessible through all the snow. One of the many "plus" sides to this was that the trail was almost entirely our own. In my opinion, nothing beats being out in the middle of the woods completely away from people and the ever exhausting day-to-day. The freshly melted snow caused the water to run wild, covering parts of the trail and forcing us to find rocks to jump to as though we were part of a Life-Sized puzzle. It twisted and turned... Disappearing in some places all together. (Yes, we did get lost once or twice, but you could hardly call it an adventure if we hadn't!) Other spots led us up rock walls and through towering trees. Every step was something new, and every step was more gorgeous than the last. Our packs were heavy with the weight of food and supplies for four days; our feet were sore from climbing uphill and downhill and then up again, even farther. But somehow this all seemed secondary. The steady rhythm of walking and breathing sparks conversation, and creativity... And the pain seems to add to the adventure.
We set up camp along side the river, in an inviting little clearing. We filtered the icy water, bundled up for the night's cold, and explored the woods around us. We made friends with the animals; the eyes of the deer in woods glowed like flashlights in the dark as they cautiously investigated who was invading their home for the night. The beauty of that peaceful feeling is addicting. In my every day life, I have an almost embarrasingly difficult time doing nothing. But there is something about the silence of the mountains that consumes me, and pushes me in to a different frame of mind. One where all stress goes away, and I could spend hours simply talking, or sitting on the green grass and writing... Which is exactly what I did.
Yosemite creek flows and tumbles through the woods until it cascades down the cliffs and becomes the iconic Yosemite Falls. Yosemite creek trail leads you directly to the top, and I couldn't wait to be RIGHT. THERE. As we made it to the end of the trail, you could almost see the valley in the distance. As we got closer, and the incredible view became more apparent, yet again my breath was taken from me. The falls tumbled down to the valley below us, and the site of the never-ending wilderness stretched on as far as the eye could see. My stomach started doing more flips than an Olympic gymnast as I looked over the edge of those cliffs, and down the 2,425-foot drop to the valley floor. That view is something I'm certain I will remember my entire life. There was so much to see, I could have stood in the same spot all day and not taken in half of it. The rich greens of the trees around us, the lushness of the valley below us, even the granite walls had shades of blues and oranges that I didn't think possible. Of course, my thrill seeking love danced daringly along the edges of the cliffs as I closed my eyes and let the sunshine seep through my pores... Let the fresh air penetrate my lungs... Simply allowing that feeling to find a home in the chaos that is my brain, and hold me over until my next adventure.
I think nature is healing. I think fresh air works wonders. I think adventure is healthy. My trip to Yosemite was incredible in every sense of the word. I can't wait to return, for I can only imagine how much more wonder that park holds. But for now? It's on to the next adventure!
"For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream."
-Vincent Van Gogh
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