I knew what many of the key view points looked like from various pictures but they’ve really got nothing on actually being there. Despite knowing that that park is big with these giant granite structures, it still blew me away when standing in the valley looking up. The tunnel view point is amazing as you can then look (a long way) down into the valley and see El Capitan with Half Dome

I hiked up to vernal and Nevada falls on my first full day, about a 2500ft climb! I’d loved to have continued up to half dome but learnt you need a permit to do it. You also probably need to start at sunrise to avoid the heat while you’re still climbing and make sure you’re back by sunset as it’s a 12 hr round trip. Next time I’d definitely stay in the park and apply for one these permits.

Vernal falls along the Mist trail
The park is filled with overly friendly (aka food seeking) animals. This lil’ guy kept trying to sit on my legs.
View from the top of the hike, above Nevada falls
View on the way down via the John Muir trail

The morning of that hike, I’d tried to get the Yarts from my hostel at 7:25am but missed it as I saw it driving away 3 mins early just as I got to the bus stop. Grrrrrrr. Thankfully while waiting for the next bus with another traveller, some kind fellow hikers offered us a lift into the park. They were a good laugh and had plenty of useful information about the park and the hikes. As they dropped me off where I wanted to start my hike, I still managed to get lost and did an unplanned hike around the valley until I ended up where I started. I realised I was being a serious muppet as I’d walked past the start or the trail very near the start! Oh well, I saw more parts of the valley.

On my last day, after leaving slightly later after packing my bags and having a proper cooked breakfast with some other travellers and checking out of my hostel, I started up on a hike towards the top of Yosemite falls. I hadn’t planned on doing the whole thing as it’s an 8hr round trip and I couldn’t stay late as I had planned to head out to LA that evening. I walked up to a great viewpoint before turning back. It was probably a good day to not the whole thing given that overnight, that waterfall had finally stopped flowing after the summer glacier melts so I would have just started at a rock which is less picturesque! On top of that, views over the valley were nowhere near as good as the previous day as it was a very muggy day with poor visibility. Once back down in the valley, I walked over to El Capitan and got chatting to a very nice couple from Inverness while we watched a group of climbers come down the wall. However, most of them looked like they didn’t have a clue what they were doing as they were being told what to do from someone perched on a ledge and even then, they seemed to struggle… sounds a little bit like the Everest issue with so many people who don’t have the experience to do it but who try anyway. At least I don’t think these guys were holding anyone up!

El Capitan. A monster of a climbing wall that pictures can’t do justice for.

I headed into one of the camps for a shower after that and then caught the bus out of the park with the aim to pick up my bags from the hostel. Then I’d get the next bus to Merced, a transport hub, to wait until 1am for my greyhound bus to LA, getting in just in time to have breakfast or a coffee with a friend who randomly was in LA at the same time but he was leaving that day.

However, that’s not at all how it went… I had my first “what on earth am I doing with all this travelling malarkey?!” moment. Well, more of a 15hr moment. While talking to people about my plans for that night, one of them informed me that the bus station closes it’s waiting rooms at about 7pm which I hadn’t thought about happening, given that the station was clearly still in use until 1am when my bus left. So I spoke to the hostel staff to see if they knew of anywhere I could hangout until my bus came but they flatly told me that there isn’t really in Merced, assuming you want to be safe and not get seriously harassed, robbed, of potentially worse. So my plans flew out the window. I was then trying to work out what my other options were. The hostel had a bed available but as a last minute booking, it was going to cost me $90! If I could avoid that, I really wanted to but trying to find other options with very patchy WiFi and absolutely no phone signal whatsoever was tricky. A hostel worker did then mention that he had a spare bed in his accommodation on site and that he had hosted stranded travellers quite a few times before and with affirmation from another hostel who said she’d also known him to do this a few times, I went for it! He lived in a little circular hut with an external bathroom and no power attached. Great if you want to switch off from the world but I’m not so sure I’d want to live there. He seemed like a really interesting guy who had perhaps just been caught in a rut of life. He had got a degree in something like computational sciences but dropped out of his masters. He then worked in Yosemite Park for a few years before trying to make it as a Silicon Valley style person with some new business ideas for a year or two before his money ran out and he came back to work in the park. Anyway, we had some really great conversations about the ways our lives were going and I think we had quite a lot in common, particularly when it came to being indecisive with degree and career paths because of the internal battle of a “smart” decision vs. following what your heart really wants to do. It would have been nice to have got to know him a bit better but hey. Maybe in the future for all I know!

After not sleeping particularly well (the hut/yurt thing was a bit chilly during the night and I was panicking about missing my bus), I got up once again at some ungodly hour after less than about three hours sleep. On the up side though, things are always better in the morning (even if it’s still dark) and I was feeling a whole lot more confident about my upcoming journey as the worst of it was over. I’d found somewhere safe to sleep and I’d formulated a new plan. I was to get a bus at 5:50 am out to Merced. Getting in at 7:15 when the bus station opened at 7 to wait for my bus at 10:15. Yes, I was going to miss breakfast with my friend in LA but a safe place to spend the night was much more important! I was at the bus station by 5:15 after waking up probably too early but I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to gather all my things and walk back to the bus stop and I really couldn’t miss this bus. There was no other bus until 10:30 but by that point, my bus to LA would have already left and I’d be stranded in Merced. At least this time it would have been day time and I’d have signal but I would be stranded nonetheless.

However, this was not a leg of my journey that was going to go to plan at all. At 5:55 I was standing almost on the road, paranoid about being missed by a bus in the dark as I see one drive by. I jump up and down and wave frantically to get it to stop for me but it just drives on. Convincing myself that it was going to turn around and come back as we were the first stop on the journey so maybe that’s what it did, I wasn’t too disheartened. But it didn’t. Ten minutes went by and as I was chatting to another traveller, who was also disheartened by the late bus as she was probably going to miss her onwards train (I think she was Japanese given she assumed that if the bus was timetabled to arrive at a certain time, it would and therefore she could book a train only 5 minutes after that arrival time…). We then realised that actually that bus was headed towards Yosemite rather than away and I’d just confused about the directions of the road. At least I hadn’t missed the bus, I didn’t think. Time ticked on though and there was still no bus. I thought to myself that I was just going to have to get a taxi for the 1 hour journey as I needed to get out of the area. I couldn’t book a cab until 7:30 when the hostel office opened again as, with no signal, I had no way to call them. Eventually, just before 7am a bus was driving along, on the road towards Yosemite but then pulled in and turned around. I hopefully asked the driver if he was going to Merced and he said yes! Yay! He claimed the other driver “got sick along the route” but given that we were the first stop, I think he just over slept as he was weirdly adamant about someone being ill when I joked about it to him.

Finally I was on route to Merced. I am so glad I hadn’t gone the night before as even within the bus stop, I was getting harassed by people asking for food and money and generally feeling a little uncomfortable. I only felt ok with the situation as a very burly security women was patrolling around. I then finally got away from that place that I hope I never end up in again and onto LA.

Tally of times I’ve thought “WTF am I doing out here alone?!”: 1

Times I’ve managed to get myself out of a pickle: 1 😀

This was as close as this guy got to my lunch before being shooed away with a suncream bottle!