September 4, 2012

The Adventure Begins - Yosemite National Park

First - if you want to skip this post and just see pics, you can see all the pics from the first 3 days of our trip here. (I haven't had a chance to organize, clean-up, or caption them yet...but you'll get the idea.)

Now - The past few days have been a crazy whirlwind - from the moment that the storage pod arrived, we've been non-stop.

When they came to pick up our storage pod on Saturday, I noticed that, with everything we owned was in the storage pod on a San Francisco street, Tom had forgotten to lock it up overnight. Thankfully, no one noticed or, at least, no one sketchy took advantage. Lucky for Tom...he would have been in the shit house for years if EVERYTHING we own was stolen. Great job, Tom. That night, we had quality time with Bernie, Todd and Q before we finished our time in SF with drinks with a friend in from Miami. The next morning, we were both overwhelmed with excitement and a constant feeling of, "Is this really happening?"

In front of our house - right before we hopped in our car and left town!
We ran a few errands and did our grocery shopping for camping and headed out of town for Yosemite National Park. We bought the America the Beautiful National Park Annual Pass ($80) instead of paying for each park we'll visit (about $25-$30 each) and spent some time driving through the crowded Yosemite Valley section of the park. Though I'd seen photos of Yosemite before and had watched Ken Burns' documentary The National Parks: America's Best IdeaI was unprepared for how breathtaking it was. Coming around the corner and seeing Half Dome and El Cap is amazing - and a drive through the park exposes you to granite domes, cliffs and basins, as well as sprawling meadows and clear lakes and rivers. How can so many beautiful things be in one place?
Tom, hanging at our campsite

After a bit of car-exploring, we made our way to our campsite in Crane Flat. Yosemite is, predictably, very dry and dusty during the summer, and we'd been warned that the campsites are incredibly dusty, which is an understatement. Just pulling up to our site, I could feel a coat of dust lining my skin and the inside of my mouth. After a quick campfire dinner, we had an early night, looking forward to a full day of hiking on Monday.

On Monday, we packed up camp and made an impulse decision to change our plans: We decided to skip Sequoia National Park (where we'd been before) and also Joshua Tree/Death Valley. Instead, we decided to explore the east side of Yosemite (Tuolomne) for the day and then head straight for Zion National Park. On the advice of Tom's mom, we decided to hike part of the John Muir Trail to Cathedral Lakes. Without much time to adjust to the increased altitude (9,585 feet), and tired from a day of excitement and driving, we were both a bit nervous about our energy levels for the 4-6 hour roundtrip hike. Knowing it would be well worth the effort, we committed to it anyway and began our trek, which was mostly uphill and sandy. Needless to say, we had to take several quick breaks to catch our breath from the extra physical exertion required at altitude. (At times, I could feel my heart pounding in my ears and was putting on quite the dramatic show, making Tom feel my pulse repeatedly.) We made it and, as promised, the scene did not disappoint. Granite peaks make way for a granite valley, where the crystal clear Cathedral Lakes lie, full only of water from snow run-off. We sat on the side of the lake for awhile - not another person in site - and had a picnic. I ventured out into the chilly water up to my thighs, but the wind was strong and we knew a swim would mean we were shivering the rest of the day. Unfortunately, the battery for our good camera (Canon G10) had died, so we were shooting with our Panasonic Lumix TS-20. Side note: We're working on a solution for the "out of power" problem, which will certainly persist once we're abroad.
Tom, in front of Lower Cathedral Lake, Yosemite National Park
A little lake-wading at Cathedral Lakes in Yosemite National Park
After the downhill return hike, we got in the car and drove about 4 hours towards Zion National Park, crossing into Nevada, and staying the night in a small, dusty town called Tonopah, Nevada, an old silver mining town in the middle of nowhere. Much of the traffic in Tonopah yesterday were Burners, making their way home from Black Rock City, in RVs and busses caked with dirt and topped with fur-covered bicycles.

Tonopah, NV
Home to the Clown Motel
We stayed at Tonopah Station - a cheesy, foul-smelling motel/casino where elderly women sit at slot machines for hours, nourished only by a steady stream of White Russians and oxygen from their attached tank - opting to drive late instead of stopping to set up camp. After a very quick, underwhelming dinner at the casino's restaurant, we slept heavily. The best part about Tonopah was the creepy motel when you first enter town. Before we left, we made sure to fill up with gas, as there's nothing else for hours and hours.

Today, we've driven about 6.5 hours, crossing quickly in and out of Arizona and we're now in St. George, Utah. We rarely saw cars on the drive today and St. George is the first real town we've seen since we left Tonopah. We've stopped briefly to send some emails and pick up replacement supplies before we head into Zion National Park, where we plan to camp for 3 nights while exploring Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Grand Staircase Escalante.

I'm overwhelmed by the beauty of the landscape so close to where I live. Yosemite was so gray from the granite, yet most of Nevada and Utah are covered with red cliffs. I'm in complete awe. I'm not a religious person, but these places make it obvious to me why ancient people turned to the heavens to explain them. Without science to explain the deep cuts through granite cliffs and the smooth shape of granite domes, "Surely," they would have thought, "this has to be the work of something greater than us." (And, if you ask me, Mother Nature and her glaciers and howling winds, are certainly things greater than us.)

Beginning the hike to Cathedral Lakes

In front of Cathedral Peak

Gorgeous view hiking towards Cathedral Lake

A little R&R on Cathedral Lake

We were here!
Back on the road...bizarre scenery

Hello Nevada!
Check out all our Yosemite pics here. (I haven't had time to clean them up or give captions...but you'll get the idea.)


  1. You two will love Zion and Bryce! Are you going through Spingdale to Zion Valley? The Narrow of the Virgin River are amazing! Kids loved it! Happy Trails/Travels! Loads of love, Janet Matt Jack Mitch and Lucy

    1. Hi Janet! We're in Springdale now for a few minutes to use the internet at the local library (booking our camping spots for the Grand Canyon and Arches). We camped last night in Zion Valley and have 2 more nights here. Today, we took it easy - took a walk/light hike to the Emerald Pools today. Tomorrow, I think we're going to hike The Narrows. Very exciting!