USA

Seattle – end of the line

In the not too distant past, my mum met an American girl travelling in London. Fast forward a few years (and a few kids), and for our final few days we’ve stayed with the Gangwish family in Seattle, keeping the link going! After getting back into America after the ferry from Victoria, Byron met us outside the terminal building and we headed out to Renton. We’ve stayed at Byron and his wife Jen’s place, and considering we hadn’t seen each other since we were about 11, we got on pretty well! Not much has changed in that time, South Park is still funny, but nowadays we can drink beer as well.

Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier

The Frasier skyline

The Frasier skyline

After catching up with Sharon and reminiscing about her and my mom’s adventures in the 70’s, we spent our first full day in Seattle being proper tourists. We took the monorail, posed in front of the Space Needle (but were too cheap to go up it), and went to the EMP Museum. This is an amazing place, originally a Pacific Northwest music museum, it now has some excellent other exhibitions too. As well as the Nirvana and Hendrix features, including clothes, music, fan letters and more, there was a Sci-fi area, Fantasy exhibits and a horror movie hall. Being funded by Microsoft’s other guy, Paul Allen, it was full of cool interactive technology with crazy geeky memorabilia. Awesome.

Lego or real?

Lego or real?

Real or Lego?

Real or Lego?

Da da da daaaa da

Da da da daaaa da

My name is Inigo Montoya...

My name is Inigo Montoya…

In the afternoon we checked out the world famous Pike Place Market, complete with fish-throwing, the original Starbucks (stupidly big queue), the gum wall and the waterfront. Completing the all-American day of fun, we met up with the Gangwish crew outside of Safeco Field and went to watch the baseball! The Seattle Mariners vs. the Chicago Whitesox, and it was brilliant. Baseball is a sport you can zone in and out of, and there was a really nice chilled atmosphere, with lots of families and it was a very pleasant way to enjoy a couple of beers and take in the views from the stadium, designed to allow a clear view of the Seattle skyline. The Mariners won 4-1, and I’m pretty sure I understand most of the rules now.

The postcard shot

The postcard shot

Must be joke here somewhere...

Must be joke here somewhere…

Take me out to the ball game!

Take me out to the ball game!

Best seats and view in the house

Best seats and view in the house

Swing, batter batter batter

Swing, batter batter batter

The second day we did more of the same, exploring Seattle on foot and doing some shopping for a couple of presents and souvenirs, much against my wishes. I feel like everyone should just be happy to see us, but Mrs H insisted. We also visited the 73rd floor of the Columbia Center, the tallest building and indeed tallest views in the PNW. Panoramic views over the city, sound, lakes and mountain, and cheaper than the Space Needle!

Attempted arty shot

Attempted arty shot

Pioneer Square

Pioneer Square

Nosebleed territory

Nosebleed territory

A $12 view

A $12 view

The homes of sport

The homes of sport

Sum bleddy tall

Sum bleddy tall

That night, Sharon cooked us some amazing Alaskan salmon, before we got the Byron and Jen’ college experience by playing a few rounds of beer pong. My accuracy was not good towards the end, but Laura was a bit of a shark and managed to avoid too much beer.

Learning from a pro

Learning from a pro

MR and Mrs G

MR and Mrs G

Falling behind on the drinks

Falling behind on the drinks

Illegal leaning

Illegal leaning

For the last full day of our entire trip, Byron and Jen took us on a bit of tour of more Seattle highlights. Jimi Hendrix’s grave, complete with multiple half smoked joints left in tribute, the crazy looking Fremont Troll and a couple of beers in the Gasworks Park, overlooking Lake Union. Our final night, and we eased ourselves back into English culture with a trip to see the Seattle Sounders play ’soccer’! The atmosphere was incredible! We thought that the Americans weren’t too fussed about proper football but I haven’t never experienced an atmosphere like this in England.

The Hendrix shrine

The Hendrix shrine

The Fremont Troll

The Fremont Troll

Lake Union

Lake Union

After a few beers, we joined up with a big crowd in Pioneer Square, and then with chants and a brass band, marched down to the stadium. Our seats were amazing, right in the hardcore superfan section behind the goal. Guys stood at the front directing the chants, flags and scarves were everywhere the sound was phenomenal. We didn’t sit down for 90 minutes, it was so intense! The ground is also used by the Seahawks and is the loudest in the NFL, and the 50,000 soccer fans made the earth shake. We got all the action at our end too, with the Sounders saving a penalty, scoring two goals in the second half and having a guy sent off. And, this being America, the whole thing was a gigantic spectacle, with fireworks, flags and flames shooting up to celebrate the goals. As Mitchell eloquently put it, “this is insane dude!”.

From the Cascades, to the Sea!

From the Cascades, to the Sea!

The Emerald Army

The Emerald Army

Byron confused by soccer

Byron confused by soccer

Superfan!

Superfan!

And now, we are sat in SeaTac aiport, spending the last few dollars and waiting to board the plane home (via a quick stop in Iceland). Rest assured dear reader, there will be more blogs on this year for all kinds of top tens, costs and future plans. For now though, we’ve had an excellent final few days of our trip in Seattle, and will definitely be back.

Half time calm

Half time calm

2-0

2-0

America! F&@k Yeah!

America! F&@k Yeah!

More goals should shoot fire

More goals should shoot fire

SOUNDERS TILL I DIE! SOUNDERS, SOUNDERS, BORN IN ’74!

The last supper

The last supper

Goodnight Seattle, we love you

Goodnight Seattle, we love you

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PDX and the PNW

The Oregon Coast is beautiful, and it’s shame we didn’t get to spend more time exploring it. Like a lot of places so far in America, we need to come back one day. Without even looking around Yachats, we were on the road the morning after Crater Lake. The stretch of coast we did drive up was awesome, with the obligatory stunning lighthouse / cliffs / sea / yet another whale sighting vista stops.

Awesome Oregon

Awesome Oregon

Turning inland, we got to McMinnville, and stopped there to meet some friends we’d met in Fiji. Eric and Erin have just returned home to the US after almost 3 years living away in Korea and then NZ (see, it could have been worse mum). We had a great lunch with those guys, and then a tasty and super strong craft beer, before pushing on to Portland. So many people had told us how cool, fun and generally weird it is and in our 3 days there it didn’t disappoint.

Erin, Laura and Ben Franklin

Erin, Laura and Ben Franklin

We stayed in an AirBnB about ten minutes out of downtown, with an amazing woman called Judy. She was a brilliant hostess, cooking us breakfast each morning and giving us lots of good info and tips about the city. It was like staying with family or a friend, and the room and bed were super comfy too! We arrived in the early evening, and caught the bus into town. We knew Oregon was famous for crafty beers, but we didn’t know it was the 27th Annual Oregon Brewfest that weekend, right on the waterfront. So, new (and totally impractical for long term travel) beer glasses and beer tokens in hand, we sampled a few beers each and soaked up the atmosphere. Things could have turned ugly when Law asked for cider and I thought we’d be run out of town, but we managed to find a berry fruity ale instead!

Brewfest selfie

Brewfest selfie

Berry nice ale

Berry nice ale

The following day we explored the city, which was experiencing a bit of a heat wave while we were there. The views from the Rose Garden in the west hills were amazing, over the city out to Mt. Hood on the horizon. Downtown, we got ridiculously lucky and found a free parking space, and proceeded to spend the day ticking off all the touristy highlights.

Mt Hood overlooking the city

Mt Hood overlooking the city

Posing in the roses

Posing in the roses

The enormous Powell’s Books, which fills an entire city block almost, was amazing. We spent a couple of hours browsing and reading in there, and managed to limit ourselves to minimal purchases. A very cool place. From there we headed into the Saturday Market, full of craft things and people performing and generally keeping Portland weird. In the afternoon we had coffee at a cool little independent place, lunch from food carts and queued for about 40 minutes in the baking sun for the world famous Voodoo doughnuts. Totally worth it.

Prepping for the return to work

Prepping for the return to work

As the sign says...

As the sign says…

The voodoo queue

The voodoo queue

Totally worth it!

Totally worth it!

The next day, we got out of the city and had some fun in the nearby Columbia River Gorge. The river divides Oregon and Washington, and houses (of course) some amazing scenery. Having not gotten around to doing this in NZ, we decided it was now or never for white water rafting and we spent a few hours getting wet, cold and working out on the river. We went with Wet Planet Rafting, based on the White Salmon river just across the border in Washington. The half day trip was brilliant, lasting about 4 hours and really good fun.

Crossing the border

Crossing the border

Ready to get wet

Ready to get wet

The guides were great, bantering with us and each other, and making sure everyone was safe. The rapids weren’t too extreme, from class 2 to 4, and some of them felt pretty epic. At one point we had to get out and walk alongside a waterfall that was too high to go over, with the option to jump off a 20 foot ledge on the other side. Obviously I was straight over, and I was very proud of Mrs H for following suit and not wussing out like a few people did! The river was pretty cold and flowing quite fast, but the helmets, wetsuits and life jackets kept us alive!

Husum Falls, bigger than it looks

Husum Falls, bigger than it looks

At the end of the day, we went over the 10 foot high Husum Falls. This was optional, and the guides warned people it could all go upside down, but we braved it anyway. Just as the boat got vertical we hit the water with a shock, but everyone managed to stay aboard our raft. An awesome end to the trip. After this, we drove back the scenic highway along the river, passing by waterfalls and vista points constantly great scenery. At the end of the day, we were knackered and Judy, being the amazing hostess she is, cooked us dinner!

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls

The Columbia a River vista!

The Columbia a River vista!

Nowhere near enough time there, but brilliant few days in Portland.

Cannon Beach, some angry clouds

Cannon Beach, some angry clouds

Moving on the next day, we hit the coast again at Cannon Beach for a picnic, then Ecola State Park. Amazing coastal scenery here and best of all was Indian Beach, the place that was used instead of Belles Beach at the end of Point Break! More than worth the $5 park fee. That night we stayed in Astoria, home of one of the greatest films ever made. It was still pretty hot out, but I made Law walk a couple of miles in the evening to find 648 38th Avenue. Why? Because this is the house they used in the Goonies! And for Film Studies bonus points, we passed by the Astoria Elementary School which is where Arnie worked in Kindergarten Cop! Geek overload.

Lose something bra?

Lose something bra?

A sharp whistle gets the kids in order

A sharp whistle gets the kids in order

Goonies never say die... And apparently also like Israel

Goonies never say die… And apparently also like Israel

Awesome

Awesome

The next couple of days, the last ones of our road trip with the car, were spent on the Olympic Peninsula. We quickly ran out of superlatives on this blog for scenery, but again this was just amazing. From Astoria we crossed the 4 mile long bridge into Washington, and cruised through the forests and logging towns until we got to Lake Quinault. After a bite to eat we had to take a dip in the stunningly clear blue water, flanked by the pines and spruces and with Mountains on the horizon.

Lake Quinault

Lake Quinault

Post lunch dip

Post lunch dip

That wasn’t it for the day though, and making the most of the glorious weather inland we stopped at the Hoh Rain Forest and went for a walk. The trails here pretty flat so while we discussed my impending joblessness and Law’s impending new job same placeness, we enjoyed the huge trees, hanging moss and glacial river. Nice.

Thinking about office work

Thinking about office work

Gnarly mossy trees!

Gnarly mossy trees!

Pushing on, we didn’t stop in Forks, the home of Twilight and a pretty grim looking town altogether, and got to our accommodation in another cabin in the woods. This one was the winner, thanks to the unexpected and deliciously homemade breakfast that awaited us in the fridge! That night, braving the grey mizzle and wind, we drove down the road a bit towards Rialto Beach. The weather just added to the wildness of the place, with huge cliff stacks and whole trees of driftwood. Huddling together and drinking our wine from a plastic cup, we spotted a pod of dolphins and watched them play about in the surf for the next half an hour. Another of those holy-crap-unforgettable-type moments.

Rialto Beach 'sunset'

Rialto Beach ‘sunset’

Proper Cornish picnic weather

Proper Cornish picnic weather

Dolphins!

Dolphins!

Another long blog so far but we are nearly at the end of our trip so are fitting a lot in! This is the last bit, I promise. The following morning, the skies on the coast had cleared and we went back down to Rialto. It looked totally different in this weather, and with the tide low we walked to the end and climbed through the hole in the rock. It has a real end of the world primal feel with the cliffs and trees and I took a lot of photos. A lot. Also, seeing as we hadn’t done this yet in the states, despite passing by Venice and Malibu, I made us get in the sea. It was very, very cold!

Rialto with views

Rialto with views

Anti vampire weather

Anti vampire weather

Textbook wide arm pose

Textbook wide arm pose

Cold!

Cold!

I took a lot of photos

I took a lot of photos

Bald Eagle, looking rather majestic

Bald Eagle, looking rather majestic

Driftwood trees

Driftwood trees

For the twi-hards

For the twi-hards

After removing my finger from the camera long enough to drive, we turned east into the park. Lunch and another, warmer dip in Crescent Lake, and then up into the mountains to Hurricane Ridge. After doing the short trails around the visitors centre, and despite the relatively late time of the day, I convinced Law that a hike up Hurricane Hill would be a good idea. A sweaty mile and a half uphill later, and the panoramic views of the Olympic Mountain Range, endless forests, the Straits of San Juan de Fuca over to Vancouver Island and Canada (our next stop) and all the way out to the Pacific proved me right. The mountain goats wandering around helped make my case too.

Warming up after the sea

Warming up after the sea

Olympic views

Olympic views

Forgoing shopping to hike

Forgoing shopping to hike

Mind-blowing meadowy mountains

Mind-blowing meadowy mountains

Horny

Horny

Looking at Canada

Looking at Canada

Yet another vista

Yet another vista

Reservoir Goats

Reservoir Goats

Bambi lost

Bambi lost

This meant we got in late to Port Townsend which we’d like to have had a more time in, but the huge fish burgers and wine gave us a nice taste of the town and were a great final meal of our US roadtrip. The following morning, we drove down to Bainbridge early, caught the ferry to Seattle and said goodbye to the mighty Nissan Versa after 3180 amazing miles.

Back to backpacking

Back to backpacking

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On the road

Spoiler alert: this is a long blog with a lot of pictures. Blame America.

The day we left San Francisco, the city was wet and grey so we we were glad to have done the cycling in the sun the day before. But as we got further north, and the sun came out we had a great day of road tripping. Highway 1 continued to wind around the coast, and the scenery was just as spectacular as the Big Sur. Surf beaches, mountains into the sea, cliff stacks and ridiculous views all day. We stopped for a picnic at one point, and once again saw a whale swimming by!

Big Sur NoCal style

Big Sur NorCal style

Not the worst looking picnic spot

Not the worst looking picnic spot

Bodega Bay was a cool little town to stop in, and we had some tasty chowder at The Birds Cafe, named after the fact that Alfred Hitchcock filmed some of the classic film there.

Spot the tourist

Spot the tourist

At the end of the day we stopped in Fort Bragg. It wasn’t the nicest motel in the world, or the prettiest of towns, and the weird smell of Indian food clashing with weed kept wafting into our room! But it was fine and cheap, and the free pastry in the morning was alright.

The American motel experience. Funky smell!

The American motel experience. Funky smell!

The following day was another load of epic driving, and through some more of the most stunning scenery. After another stretch of coast, we turned inland at the end of Highway 1 and into the Redwoods. These are some of the tallest trees in the world and the road felt endless as we cruised through the thick forests. After the coast, the sea of green that surrounded us so different. We drove through the kitchy Chandelier tree, that had a tunnel cut through the trunk for carriages back in the day, and tourists with $5 today!

Tough to keep your eyes on the road

Tough to keep your eyes on the road

She just squeezed thru

She just squeezed thru

After this we pulled off the highway, and took the scenic Avenue of Giants. This is a 30 mile stretch of road twisting through the huge trees. There were various groves to stop in, and we spent a lot of time wandering amongst the trees and craning our necks. It’s impossible to capture the scale of the Redwoods in pictures, but we tried!

Big wood

Big wood

Sum bleddy stump!

Sum bleddy stump!

They're this big

They’re this big

That night, we stayed at a campsite just outside Crescent City right in a Redwood forest. Drinking wine and having a picnic outside our cabin and seeing the sun set on the trees was a pretty good end to a couple of epic days of driving. From the craziness of LA to the coast and now these trees, via Yosemite, California has got a lot going for it!

Awesome name for road

Awesome name for a road

Glamping in the Redwoods

Glamping in the Redwoods

The next day, we hit the road early pushed on into Oregon. Since seeing an image of Crater Lake in a Reader’s Digest type book as kid, I’d always wanted to go there. We weren’t sure we’d fit it in as it was quite a detour from the coast, but we are so glad we did! The drive out there was awesome, as we slowly climbed through more redwoods and forests, passing by a river gorge and a lot of crazy looking Sasquatch chainsaw-made statues. Also, we learned the states have some different laws – so far no sales tax (awesome), and you aren’t allowed to pump your own gas here.

Laura didn't believe until she saw this evidence

Laura didn’t believe until she saw this evidence

However, as we got higher and closer to the park, the skies got greyer. Crater Lake is supposed to be an amazing sight – as the name suggests, the lake is at the top of a mountain in the crater formed when the volcano exploded thousands of years ago. It’s water is entirely made up of snowmelt and rain, and is some of the purest in the world. When we got there on the afternoon after our early start we saw… nothing.

Our first view of the lake

Our first view of the lake

The whole top of the mountain that the lake lies in was swamped in super thick fog! The scenic 30+ mile drive around the rim, which we started and then abandoned, had visibility of about 10 feet – it was crazy! So, after joining the crowds of slightly angry Americans in the visitor centre (”And you’re saying you’re not sure if the weather will clear!? Great thanks”. The poor park rangers got this and worse) we headed back to our cabin in the woods and drowned our sorrow with a huge meal in the diner across the road.

Fortunately, the next day was the complete opposite. We got up early, and the sun was out and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Our first proper sight of the lake from the rim was breathtaking. The water is so blue it’s hard to describe, and we stopped a few more times on the rim drive to take photos and just stare gormlessly from different angles. But, in the spirit of making the most our time in the area, I had found out what the highest mountain in the National Park was and made us climb it!

First proper view!

First proper view!

Happier with this weather

Happier with this weather

The Phantom Ship

The Phantom Ship

Mount Scott is just under 9000 feet, but it wasn’t too difficult a hike. After an hour of switchbacks and sweating, we were at the top. The views were incredible. The lake is obviously the big draw and dominates the western view, but staring in all directions was awesome. We could see some of the Cascade Mountains, tipped in snow, and all around were endless green forests and no sign of civilisation. Incredible and so worth it. Plus, because it’s a hike and not too easily accessible, there were hardly any people up there!

Not for everyone first thing in the morning

Not for everyone first thing in the morning

To the top, past snow!

To the top, past snow!

Leading the way

Leading the way

Worth the hike

Worth the hike

Amazing

Amazing

After climbing to the highest point in the park, we did the next obvious thing and got to the lowest. The lake itself is only reachable by one trail because the sides of the crater are so steep and unstable. Boat tours are available but expensive, so there were quite a few people trekking down to the small dock at the base of the trail. But just beyond the dock, the path moves on to the most natural cliff jump spot I’ve ever seen. Yeah, you can climb down to dip your toes in the safe way, but really when else are you going to get to jump into the crater at the top of a volcano, into the deepest and purest lake in America?

Hoping it's deep enough

Hoping it’s deep enough

Hell of swimming pool

Hell of a swimming pool

Surprisingly it wasn’t that cold, and I was quite happy swimming around peering into the stunning blue depths. After drying off and hiking back to the top, we found a quiet spot on the rim for one of our most scenic picnics yet! Crater Lake, like Yosemite and some parts of New Zealand and the rest of this trip, is one of those wow places that we’ll never forget.

Crater Lake...

Crater Lake…

Another decent lunch spot

Another decent lunch spot

Epic

Epic

But that wasn’t all our fun for the day. After leaving the lake we had the small matter of a 200 mile drive back west to the coast to deal with. Continuing Oregon’s trend of being really damn good looking, the drive was amazing. The entire way wound down through the trees, along rivers and gorges and was just stunning. When we finally hit the coast, the pretty continued. First the huge sand dunes, then rough and rugged coast with forests right down the cliffs into the sea and picturesque lighthouses. After a bite to eat in Florence, we watched the sunset into the Pacific and finally made it to our motel in Yachats in the dark.

Back to the coast

Back to the coast

Risking RSI from too many selfies

Risking RSI from too many selfies

In these four days we racked up a lot of miles, and could have hit Portland, our next stop, in a much more direct route. But this section of the road trip was just incredible. Long driving, windswept and wild coastline, the tallest trees on earth, huge American portions of food and unique natural wonders. The best zigzagging detour ever.

Sunset from Cook's Chasm, Oregon

Sunset from Cook’s Chasm, Oregon

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If you’re going, to San Francisco…

After leaving Yosemite we headed back to the coast to soak up some NorCal vibes and some of the general entertaining weirdness in sunny Santa Cruz, on our way to San Francisco.

Santa Cruz Boardwalk

Santa Cruz Boardwalk

It’s a really cool little town, with a pier, a boardwalk and an old school funfair, where I let Sam kick my ass at air hockey.

A tightly fought match

A tightly fought match

I got my revenge by taking him for an American diner experience in a couldn’t-tell-from-the-outside-but-actually-completely-veggie restaurant. Fortunately it was a completely authentic American experience, because we ordered two things from the appetisers menu and this ginormous feast arrived…

Veggie food is healthy so this is acceptable

Veggie food is healthy so this is acceptable

We won’t be going hungry again!

We then had a lovely walk around the West Cliff to watch the expert surfers and sea otters surfing so close to the cliffs. Beautiful, but scary!

Santa Cruz surfers

Santa Cruz surfers

Santa Cruz lighthouse and surf museum

Santa Cruz lighthouse and surf museum

The next day we drove up some more of Highway One’s beautiful coast on our way to San Francisco, stopping for lots of pictures along the way.

Shark Tooth Bay

Shark Tooth Bay

We stayed in a nice and cheap Airbnb in a suburb of SF and spent our first night eating clam chowder on Fisherman’s Wharf out of a sourdough bread bowl (I am definitely going to try this at home when we get back) and visiting the late night Exploratorium, a very cool science museum full of weird and wonderful hands on experiments. Thursday night is adults only and costs just $15 and I think the alcohol only enhanced our scientific understanding.

Mmmmmm chowder

Mmmmmm chowder

The Bionic Sam

The Bionic Sam

I have no idea what I was supposed to learn from this

I have no idea what I was supposed to learn from this

We then had a full day of exploring the city, visiting City Hall (where my cousin got married last year), the really crooked Lombard Street, Jack Keruac Alley, the Beat Museum and Chinatown. And eating some really good Vietnamese sandwiches as recommended by the Lonely Planet. If there is a queue of cool looking people, you know it’ll be good food.

The world's crookedest street

The world’s crookedest street

City Hall

City Hall

One of the biggest tourist attractions in the city is Alcatraz, the former high security prison on an island in the bay, which housed some famous inmates including Al Capone. The tours seem to sell out weeks in advance, but Sam managed to get us some tickets. The boat trip out to the island is pretty cool, with lovely views of the city and bridges.

Alcatraz

Alcatraz

On the island itself we took the really fascinating audio tour of the cell block, narrated by former guards and inmates. The notorious prison closed it’s doors in 1963, but was a really eerie place to be. Apparently it was voted in the Top 25 Scariest Places in the World. The tour definitely had some interesting stories of failed escape attempts, riots and prison life.

An Alcatraz Cell

An Alcatraz Cell

The cell block just 1.25 miles across the water from the city

The cell block just 1.25 miles across the water from the city

Back in the city we decided that, even though San Francisco is famous for being incredibly hilly, we would hire bikes for the day. And also, there was a voucher on Groupon. We cycled round to Golden Gate Park and across the famous bridge itself, around to a cute little town called Sausillito. It was a really fun way to explore these areas, but some of the hills were pretty tiring on the legs!

Golden Gate Selfie

Golden Gate Selfie

That night, we had a final dinner in San Francisco in a local style Mexican restaurant, complete with Mexican soap operas and a Spanish language fist fight between the owners and some disgruntled patrons!

Bueno!

Bueno!

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Yosemite in two days

After Monterey, our next destination was a 3 hour detour from our coastal roadtrip inland, to the Yosemite National Park. When we were planning our trip we weren’t sure if we would have the time, but wow, we are so glad we managed to fit it in!

We arrived at the Yosemite Bug Youth Hostel on Sunday evening, which is about 30 miles from the park itself (and so about half the price), and in a beautiful spot in the woods. Monterey had been a bit chilly, so when we stepped out of the car into the 32 degree heat, it really hit us!

The Yosemite Bug Hostel

The Yosemite Bug Hostel

We hadn’t made any firm plans for what we wanted to see, but Sam kept mentioning an awesome 15 mile hike he had read about. I really wasn’t convinced until I read some of the reviews on the yosemitehikes website, and I had to agree that it sounded brilliant. One guy described it as ‘after you do the Panorama Trail your life will be broken into two parts; before the hike and after it’.

So, we made up our minds to do it straight away and got up at 5am the next day to try and avoid some of the heat.

We're going up where?

We’re going up where?

The first part was a trail called ‘The Four Mile Trail‘ which is actually nearly 5 miles and is all uphill. Starting at the valley floor, we walked steadily for about 3 hours, through beech and then alpine forests, on switchback after switchback. Once we got into the rhythm of it, it felt really good, and we only saw one other group of people the whole way up.

Keep on walking

Keep on walking

As we got higher and higher new vistas would appear around the corner, like Sentinal Dome and El Capitan, and our first look at the famous Half Dome was just incredible.

Sentinel Dome

Sentinel Dome

The views kept getting better and better

The views kept getting better and better

We turned the corner, and POW! Half Dome!

We turned the corner, and POW! Half Dome!

Half Dome and Yosemite Valley

Half Dome and Yosemite Valley

The end of our first trail was at the top of the peak, at Glacier Point, one of the famous look outs that you can also drive to. After stocking up on Gatorade and gummy bears at the shop, we looked at more spectacular views of the whole valley. The walk was definitely worth the payoff!

We made it tot the top selfie!

We made it tot the top selfie!

We then started on the next Trail, The Panorama Trail, which took us down to Illouette Falls and then up a ridge which had a detour to a fantastic view point of the valley, but no railings and a terrifyingly sheer drop, so I couldn’t spend too long there.

Sam gets too close to the edge at Panorama Point

Sam gets too close to the edge at Panorama Point

Getting up close to the wildlife on the Panorama Trail

Getting up close to the wildlife on the Panorama Trail

We climbed some more before dropping down to Nevada Falls for some sausage sandwiches and a paddle in the stream to cool off.

Nevada Falls

Nevada Falls

The Trail then took us down a really steep path on the Mist Trail to descend a seemingly endless steep stone staircase right next to the Vernal Falls, before finally, we hit the valley floor again.

Going down

Going down

I think the whole walk was about 15 miles and took us about 8 hours. We were pretty hot and sweaty by the end, but it was such a brilliant introduction to the park. We celebrated with a pint and a chicken burrito back at our hostel.

A well earned pint and burrito

A well earned pint and burrito

The next day my legs were a bit like jelly so we had a bit more of a leisurely start, before heading into the park via the south entrance in order to visit the giant sequoia trees.

The Grisly Giant Sequoia Tree

The Grisly Giant Sequoia Tree

A big ol tree

A big ol tree

The Mariposa Grove is home to some of the largest and oldest trees in the world and they are so gorgeous to walk around in. We did a nice loop around the grove to see some of the star attractions and after a few miles it got nice and crowd-free, and the Forest became wonderfully peaceful.

Peace and quiet in the trees

Peace and quiet in the trees

On the drive back to the valley we stopped at the tunnel viewpoint for some more pictures (I think we managed nearly 300 in two days here!) and then the Bridalveil Falls, which, along with Yosemite Falls, aren’t at their best in the summer as they are nearly completely dry. Never mind, we’ll just have to come back in the spring when the snow melt makes them a spectacular sight.

The vista from Tunnelview

The vista from Tunnelview

Bridalveil Falls, almost completely dry because it's summer

Bridalveil Falls, almost completely dry because it’s summer

After visiting the museum and gift shop in the village we headed out of the park, via a completely isolated bit of the river for a swim!

Cooling off in the river

Cooling off in the river

Yosemite has been one of our absolutely top favourite things we have done this year. And it’s been a pretty awesome year! It is so stunning, and even with the summer-time crowds we could easily get away into the seeming wilderness with a few lovely walks. I’d definitely love to visit Yosemite again.

I LOVE YOSEMITE!!

I LOVE YOSEMITE!!

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