I didn’t learn about how the valley was formed (I did go looking for the information but got side tracked by ice cream), nor did I learn about any of the wildlife that are native to the area (I did see a squirrel though) and I definitely didn’t learn anything about the geology of the famous rock formations.
Instead I made much more practical and in-depth discoveries that will last me a life time – though, I am not saying that geology and wildlife aren’t important things to assist you in life – especially if you are prone to participating in pub trivia nights.
What’s the story: I travelled to Yosemite from San Francisco with a tour group called Green Tortoise. A tour was the right option for me as I was backpacking through Nor Cal and didn’t have a car, plus I was on my own and wanted to meet some friends. A short trip through Google and Trip Advisor narrowed the choice down to Green Tortoise, and as an added bonus the date of the next trip was perfect for me – stars had aligned. The tour bus would drive through the night while we all slept so that would arrive in Yosemite as the sun was rising, in time for breakfast and then a day of hiking. We would spend one night camping just outside the valley so we could spend the next day exploring as well before another night ride back to San Francisco – easy! It turned out to be a three days of little discoveries.
What I Learnt in Yosemite
How to turn a bus into a moving dorm room (complete with stinky feet and snorers): Green Tortoise have these spectacular buses that work the same way as caravans. During the day you have chairs and tables to lounge on, but when you want to go to bed they turn into three-tiered bunk beds – the bottom bunk was the best as you had less chance of rolling out when the bus went round a corner a little sharply. Definitely wouldn’t pass Australian road rules…
How to cut a watermelon: You would think after a life time of devouring this amazing fruit that I would have mastered the art of cutting it up. You see, all these years I have cut my watermelon up into triangle pieces so that I could eat it off the crust. However, over breakfast on the first morning I was put on fruit salad duty and it was here that the Green Tortoise chef, Adam, taught me the best way.
- Cut the ends off so it stands on its head easily
- Slice the crust off the sides off – curving the knife around fruit
- Chop up the flesh into bite sized piece – no crust to worry about
People are all talk: As we drove through the valley we all discussed which hike we would spend the day doing. Our bus driver gave loads of advice about difficulty and time required. By the time we reached the car park 50% of the group said they would be doing the Upper Yosemite Falls hike. Once out of the bus our driver pointed to a giant rock with a waterfall careening down the side “that’s where you end up when you get to the top”. Only five of us ended up taking up the challenge – we could tackle 12ks with an elevation of 2,600ft in 6 hours, no problem…(famous last words)
What half way REALLY is: About a quarter of the way up the side of the mountain my fellow waterfall enthusiasts and I decided that we must be about half way. 2 more hours and 2000ft taught us otherwise.
The power of positive thinking: It was pure enthusiasm and excitement that got me two-thirds up. The final third was a war between “you can do it” and “quit winging your annoying yourself” or “quitting this close will be the lamest thing you have ever done” and then there was the old standby lie that your parents taught you “just one more corner I promise” – what didn’t help was the people who were bounding down and saying things “it’s still a long way to go”
Getting to the top is the best feeling: Flopping down in the shade and draining the last of your water while stuffing a sandwich in your mouth is pretty awesome. What makes it the absolutely best moment ever, is the view you have of Yosemite Valley stretched out below you.
Drink the water: We saw some people using filters on the water up the top of Yosemite Falls, but we were so thirsty we didn’t bother. It was by far the best tasting water I have ever drunk, no chemicals, no metallic after taste – just pure deliciousness. For the record none of us got sick.
Hiking boots were invented for a reason: As this was a side trip I was just wearing my normal running shoes instead of hiking boots. On the way up this didn’t seem like much of a disadvantage (except for when I tripped over rocks – no protection). On the way down the advantage became clear, my runners just didn’t have the grip or the sole to deal with the slippery dust coated granite. Impending death flirted with me the whole way down as I took tiny steps to avoid sliding of the edge of the mountain.
Going down hurts more than up: Up takes mental power, real mental power – but it doesn’t hurt your body that badly, just drains your energy. Going down… well that’s another story! Soon your calves ache, then your thighs, then your abs and back, soon your whole body is shaking making the whole thing so much worse.
Standing still is not the best reaction when someone yells bear: All trip I had been pleading with mother nature to grant me a bear sighting. Almost back down the bottom of the trail I hear someone scream “bear” – it took me a full minute to process what to do, my immediate reaction was to run up the trail to see it, which then collided with the sensible reaction of running away from the bear, leaving me standing there gaping like a fool. By the time I ran back up the path the bear had been scared off.
Ice cream and a Yosemite Beer is a great mix: ONLY once you have returned from the Upper Yosemite Falls climb and are in need of sugar and beer.
You can eat what you want: A little chart at the information centre advised me that i had burnt 3400 calories in climbing the Upper Yosemite Falls track. I took this to mean that i could have seconds at dinner and not be stingy on the sour cream.
It hurts more the day after: As painful as it was coming down the mountain, that was nothing compared to trying to walk the next day. What I needed was a hot bath and a massage. Instead I went for a walk to the beautiful mirror lakes where I waded through freezing cold glacier water and had a nap under a tree.
The oldest Saloon in California can make a $2.50 beer taste like an $8 beer: Maybe it was because the classic barman who was constantly cleaning glasses, or the juke box that played 90s hits, or the great wall memorabilia, or the fact that we were in the middle of no where, or complete exhaustion – either way that beer tasted fabulous.
Watching the sun rise over San Francisco is pretty spectacular: Wake up early one morning and see it – its worth it!