Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wanderlust Wednesday: Yosemite National Park

Where: Yosemite National Park, Yosemite, California
When: October 2014

The sun wasn't going to make its entrance for hours, but we were up. The hotel was silent, everyone was asleep, and when we finally stepped out of the hotel and onto the street, we found few people were out and about on that Wednesday morning.

The City, New York City, is the city of my childhood. It has been pressed into my mind that all cities are like New York -- they never sleep -- but I was wrong and San Francisco was there to prove it that October morning.

We stood on the sidewalk, having been told that the bus for our tour would pick us up outside the hotel, and waited. I grew a little nervous as the time grew closer -- were we supposed to request that they pick us up there? It was in the itinerary paperwork I had filled out but was there more to it all?

We had dressed in layers despite that it wasn't horribly cold that morning. We knew Yosemite was a bit of a higher altitude so we figured layers were our best bet. We also packed snacks for the long bus ride, as well as some driving entertainment.

My phone went off, a San Francisco number calling me, and I quickly answered. Just a friendly customer service representative letting me know that the bus was nearby. We waited only a few moments more before boarding the small bus filled with sleepy-eyed people and a cheerful driver and... off we went.

The small bus quite literally picks everyone up from hotel to hotel. We were going up and down so many roads and it took ages but finally, we were on our way just at daybreak.

On Highway 580 going East
The ride IS long from San Francisco -- our starting point. Four hours one way then four hours back makes for a hellish commute but our driver was sweet and understanding. He provided information on the area and stopped for bathroom breaks and meals.

On the way out, we stopped at a produce stand for the bathroom and a chance to stretch our legs. Further down the road we stopped once more for breakfast before continuing on for our final destination: Yosemite State Park.
Sierra Nevada Foothills
I have a tendency to fall asleep on long car rides but thankfully stayed awake on the drive out to Yosemite. With my familiarity of landscapes being secluded to the East Coast, the change in landscape in California was entirely new to me. Foothills became steeper and soon we were in the mountains. The roads were somewhat terrifying -- is it just me or does California not seem to have a lot of guide rails? But the views were just breathtaking.

As soon as we made it through the entrance of the park, we made our first stop in the grove of the giant sequoias. We were given the option to complete a walk down the giant sequoia trail or hang out around the bus. Since we were in the higher altitude, the air was much thinner than most of us were used to and I quickly discovered that means I had to take much more frequent stops to catch my breath during our walk. Still, we did it. It was chilly and I had an extra sweater to put on which I was very thankful of. Hood up, hands in pocket, we made our way down to see the more famous trees.

What was so mind blowing for me is that I, a self-proclaimed country girl, had never been in a forest that was so silent. You couldn't hear vehicles, airplanes, nothing. There were no noises that were not naturally made by the earth and its many animals. Birds chirped, squirrels were everywhere, and a breeze made the branches of the tall trees bristle against one another. It was so beautiful and so peaceful. Plus, I saw the biggest pine cones of my life!

Once we made it back to the bus, we headed off for a more lengthy drive. It seemed to take longer than I had expected for us to get to the main destination -- Inspiration Point where you can see all the major spots of Yosemite. Maybe it was because I was hungry. Along the drive we saw the end result of wild fires. Often enough, I hear of fires blazing in California. Homes are in danger, helicopters drop water, large areas are completely destroyed. I never truly understood how destructive these fires are until we passed by an area that had been destroyed by fire in the 1990's -- that's 20 years ago and still trees were just charred sticks and only tiny trees and bushes had managed to grow in the area.

Continuing on, we made our way over hills, around sharp curves and then through a tunnel. Upon exiting it we were introduced to the most breathtaking sight of my life.

Just look at that. That was what was outside my bus window. The entire bus, all of us tired tourists, gasped; cameras were taken out, flashes and clicks made, and I had tears in my eyes. We were all glued to our windows at this point and stared with complete awe as we made our way through the winding roads and trees, through another tunnel, and finally to Inspiration Point.

It looks like a picture, that was one of our reactions upon getting off the bus. It's so surreal that this is a real-life visual and not something created on the computer or seen online. This type of beauty does exist in real life and it was just so completely mind blowing.

Once more, it was quiet beside the sound of the tourists and tour vans at the look out point. With California being in such a horrible drought, and our visit taking place toward the end of what was the dry season anyway, all the waterfalls that are so famous weren't visible to us but that was fine. It could have made the visual better, sure, but what we saw was certainly not something to nitpick over.

After staying at the spot for a bit, the bus took us into the valley and to the visitor center. This area has camping grounds and bungalows for rent, which I would love to stay in one day. Through the trees all you could see was rock foundations unless you looked directly up to see the blue sky. Ravens hung in the trees and cawed at us while we had time to walk around and take the area in. We also had enough time to rent a bike, but passed on that in favor of getting a big lunch and relaxing for a bit.

This stop gave us plenty of time to eat, use the bathroom, and relax outside of the bus before boarding it and heading home. Still, we stopped once more on the drive for a bathroom break and dinner before continuing on toward San Francisco.

But prior to getting to San Francisco we stopped at Treasure Island and looked at the San Francisco skyline as the fog rolled in. It was a great way to finish the trip.

Our driver dropped everyone off by means of who was closest to the bridge when we crossed over into the city. This made the drop off time speed by, something we were very thankful for by this point as it had been a very long, eventful day. As soon as we got off the bus we made our way wearily up the steps of the hotel and crashed shortly after with the scent of the freshest air I've smelt still lingering on our clothing.

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