America sure has some beautiful countryside. I was hoping to get the chance to visit some national parks on my visit, but wasn’t sure how I was going to make it without a car. Fortunately, I found this guy on Couchsurfing. He’s travelling from Alaska to Argentina, hitchhiking much of the way, and I was able to join him on part of his journey, along with three others. That’s how five strangers happened to rent a car together and drive out of San Francisco to visit the Muir Woods and journey to Yosemite National Park, camping over the weekend.
We began by meeting up at a coffee shop on Friday evening to plan, with me arriving late because I only decided to join at the last minute. Organisation was difficult, as we all had different itineraries. Our hitchhiking host wanted to visit all the national parks from Yosemite down to Death Valley, and not everyone wanted to join for the whole trip, myself included.
After a brief stop to see the redwoods of Muir Woods (and my first ever glimpse of chipmunks!), we headed out east in the direction of Yosemite. Time was getting on, so we needed to find a place to stay, but had no luck finding a campsite that wasn’t full. Desperately, we decided to spend the night in an equestrian campsite. Not knowing if this was allowed or not, we nervously looked out for rangers as we set up our tents. No-one bothered us, however, and we left the morning without incident.
Yosemite was certainly a sight for sore eyes, after a three-hour delay getting into the park. I wasn’t expecting traffic in the middle of a national park, but it turns out Barack Obama himself was to blame, as he had visited the park that morning and security had been tightened. Thanks, Obama! Sadly, we were too late to see the man himself, but it was weird to think that he was there just before we were.
As it was, we didn’t get to see as much of the park as we’d have liked. We managed to take in one of the graceful waterfalls, albeit amid thronging crowds, and two of us were able to sneak in a short hike to Mirror Lake, a shallow pond beautifully reflecting the surrounding rocky mountains Yosemite is known for.
Later on, we were lucky enough to find a free camping ground in the woods, and tucked in to a makeshift but cosy dinner over the stove (no campfire for us, we didn’t have a permit). The next day we made our way to Fresno where two of us set off back to San Francisco. Sadly, the rest of the trip fell apart from there, but I think we did pretty well considering none of us had met since three days prior.
Yosemite was undoubtedly stunning, but it was the quieter moments camping in the woods and strolling among the redwoods that made this trip worthwhile for me. That, and I have a new travelling companion who’s going to be with me for the rest of my trip up to Vancouver! I’m not sure if I’ll ever return to Yosemite, but if I do it would have to be off-peak and for a longer period, travelling deeper into the park and taking the time to truly enjoy it. For the brief time I had though, I’m satisfied.