This past Memorial Day weekend, fourteen others (friends and friends-to-be) and I ventured out to Yosemite (also, Sonoma). Personally, I had never been to Yosemite before and had no inclination as to what to expect... and man, was I amazed at the creation God has crafted out there.
Sadly, we didn't go camping or backpacking. We rented an Airbnb out near Sonora, a few hours away. As much as I love SLO and the people who are still here that I am close to, I think it was a much needed time to be able to escape SLO for a few days and share life with other alumni (from both SLO and other schools).
We drove up Friday night after work. Originally, we were to leave around 8:00 p.m., but we ended up not leaving til around 10:00 p.m. Long story short, I ended up waiting a few hours extra for some folks from SoCal to make their way up to SLO, whereupon I drove the rest of the way up to the rental unit. When they arrived, we departed from the house with a fully loaded car packed with personal belongings, sleeping bags and pads, cooking equipment, various ingredients, and a whole lotta joy. Also, energy drinks mixed with water go a long way.
First of all, I hadn't realized that the trip was a 4.5 hour drive. When we finally got to Sonora, I took a wrong turn and ventured onto a windy gravel path through the woods that eventually looped back onto the main road. There were a couple moments where my wheels lost traction on the gravel, but thankfully we made it out and to the cabin safely.
By the time we made it to the rental, almost everyone who had arrived earlier in the evening had fallen asleep. Props to Ptub for staying awake and letting us in. We quickly unloaded and started to hit the hay. The girls ran into a problem trying to figure out sleeping arrangements... as a certain someone fell asleep diagonally on the queen-sized bed the girls were to share that night. But eventually as the night progressed, sleeping arrangements were figured out and the night swept us away.
Even after a long day of work, packing, driving, and unpacking, I still got up with the other early risers on Saturday morning. I formally met a couple of new faces, and also embraced the many old faces who also made their way out to the rental the night before. We had a light breakfast of pancakes with an apple-syrup concoction and some fruit. I had never realized fruit was so expensive until buying them in bulk for this trip.
Somehow, we ended up watching a few hours of Titanic in the morning. During which, a few people went to town to grab some last minute toiletries/supplies, and a special surprise for someone later in the evening. Meanwhile, the remainder of those who stayed at the rental took a break from watching a movie about a ship sinking after hitting an iceberg to take a walk and breath some fresh air around the rental and the surrounding area.
The area we were staying in felt a lot like home; albeit, perhaps a little less lush and tropical The air was fairly humid after some recent drizzling. It was a little cloudy, but not completely overcast. Pretty much still tank-top and shorts weather. Eventually in our musings we came across a dirt trail that lead to who-knows-where. We decided to follow it for some time before turning back to the rental as the group who went to town had returned and were in the process of making lunch.
When we returned to the cabin, we were happy to dive into some home-made baked mac-and-cheese for lunch. Meanwhile, we finished the rest of Titanic... from which we coined #womenandchildrenonly as a social media tag for the weekend. There were women with us, but I hope the men didn't consider themselves as children...
After lunch and finishing watching ship sink and a woman throw a highly valuable diamond into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, the group made its way to a lake (think, pond) within 10 minutes of the rental. We found ourselves lost on the first leg of the walk, but we did eventually reach the fabled hole in the ground filled with water, algae, ducks (and ducklings) and stocked fish. And lo and behold. A ROPE SWING!
A few of the adventurous folk swung into the lake from the rope swing and swam out to the floating platform in the middle of it. Meanwhile, a few local residents and visitors were trying their luck at catching some of the stocked fish. I'm fairly certain we ruined their chances of any "Catch of the Day" honors with the ruckus we were making, both in the water and out.Others stood around, talked, and shot photos (aka me). Overall, spending time at the lake was one of relaxation and serenity. Some folks brought along some hammocks and hung them in the trees and a few people skipped rocks on the lake (some of us failed miserably). Physics.
After a few hours at the lake, we ventured back to the rental. Thankfully, I had brought our house's slow cooker along and threw in some pork butt and secret ingredients to make Kalua Pig and cabbage... Between the 15 of us, I think we ate about 7-8 lb of meat and cabbage, and 10 cups of rice that night. Good stuff.
Most of my night consisted of prepping food for Sunday night, knowing we'd be extremely hungry and tired after the Yosemite hike. Big thanks to a handful of people who helped prep! Meanwhile, many of the others played games and talked the rest of the night away.
6:00 a.m. is never a good wake up call. But strangely enough, some of us woke up well before the alarms sounded throughout the house. Breakfast was simple: bagels, cream cheese, and fruit. We packed our bags for the day, made sandwiches, and rode out to Yosemite. On the way, we were supposed to pick up gas in Sonoma, but miscommunication occurred and we ended up buying gas closer to Yosemite. Oddly, gas was cheaper up in Yosemite than in SLO. Finally, two hours after leaving the rental, we arrived at our destination: the base of Yosemite Falls.
Yosemite Falls is one of the largest waterfalls in North America. It is a staggering 2,425' from the edge of the waterfall to the valley floor. The trail leading up to the falls are complete switchbacks laced with stone "stairways". Overall, the hike from the valley floor to the top of the falls is around 7.2 miles out and back, but it felt like much more. Over the course of four hours we labored up a 2,700' elevation change with numerous other hikers seeking to reach the top. We were met with breathtaking views at every stop and lookout point.
The hike was strenuous. Probably just about as strenuous as I had imagined reading some of its many reviews. Thankfully, many of the other hikers were encouraging during their descent and in our ascent. But really, just 10 more minutes is never just 10 more minutes. Our fifteen-man group got split in thirds as we ascended the trail. I was happy to find myself with the caboose, freely chatting with two/three individuals on the way up, catching up on life and taking in the scenery.
We were relieved to finally reach the top of Yosemite Falls. It felt like such an achievement to reach the top and the views were spectacular. After an hour or so of wandering and waiting for a couple of people, who found themselves lost and off the main path, we started our descent to avoid the looming darkness as sunset approached. It was quite a struggle getting back down, at least on my part.
We arrived back at the rental at about 10:30 p.m. Thankfully, we had prepared some Portuguese Bean Soup the prior night. So we spent the rest of the night eating and in merriment as a few fellows sang along to some musicals. I have some videos for blackmail.. Ha..maybe not.
Drove back home.
What was learned:
- Yosemite is a beautiful place, and I want to go back again and do more hikes
- National parks are free for all current US military members
- Cooking food in bulk is fun and cheap (approximately $2.02 per person, per day)
- Stairmasters are probably your best bet at getting in shape for a strenuous journey.
- My current camera bag is not ideal for long day hikes.
- Compact water filters are useful
- The longest road is not necessarily the best road
- Ptub really likes musicals
- People are amazing
- God is amazing
Until next time.