Canada had become a safe and familiar place for us over the year we had been studying at Trent. We were about to leave all of that behind and cross the US border into Washington. After some initial confusion from not realizing that speed limits were now in miles per hour rather than kilometers – so people weren’t actually travelling almost twice the allowed speed all the time – we found that much of what we saw felt like it could fit into a Canadian landscape.
We didn’t have a route south planned out – for a couple days we just drove as far as we could towards Yosemite, our first US destination. Unfortunately that meant driving straight past a lot of places that we could have spent weeks exploring but we had the second date of the trip to keep as a week later we had arranged to meet friends in San Francisco.
We arrived in Yosemite Valley in darkness late at night and pitched our tents at the North Pines campground. We woke up as the sun entered the valley the next morning. Yosemite was a place that we had all seen pictures of before, we knew the names of the domes, some of the famous climbs, and we felt like we had a slight grasp of what Yosemite was. Actually we had no idea. That first morning, was spent in a state of incredulous awe, staring up at the enormous granite rockfaces that surrounded us in the valley on almost every side. Far more eloquent writers than us have written about the valley and it’s tempting to quote Muir or Adams but instead we would urge people: just go. We had all read the words and seen the pictures but neither went any way towards really preparing us for what we saw that morning.
Over the course of the roadtrip we’ve come to the conclusion that it is possible to see a lot from a vehicle but you can only really experience it on your own feet. We familiarized ourselves with the area on the first day by taking a walk around the valley floor. The route followed forest trails but walking along, you were always aware of the valley walls’ presence. We made it a priority of ours over the next few days to get up as early as possible in order to see as much of the area as we could during the limited amount of time we had. So, the next morning we were up and out of the campsite in double quick time to get up to Taft Point, our first opportunity to get above the tree line and take in the breathtaking view looking down into Yosemite Valley, with the likes of El Capitan and Half Dome glistening in the Sun after a rain shower leaving us transfixed.
Timelapse – Yosemite Valley (by Sam)
The thing about Yosemite however, is its ability to be an incredible place at any time of day or night. Driving back from Taft therefore, we unintentionally happened upon Inspiration Point, which led to us standing in silence watching the sunset as the light gradually receded out of the Valley, leaving the area initially in a stunning array of colour before plunging it into eerie darkness.
The next day we managed even better and were up, breakfasted and leaving our camp by 6am to begin what would be our favourite part of the all-to-brief trip to the Sierra Nevada region, the Panorama Trail. Sam spent most evenings not in the valley and was able to capture some timelapse footage from both sunrises and sunsets in Yosemite. Unfortunately one SD card was lost and so the video below is all that remains. (Look out for the headlamps of two climbers finishing up El Capitain on the last shot of the video.)
We then made the drive east to San Francisco where we spent a few days as real tourists, walking up and down the steep hills, and spending days visiting the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island. We’re currently in the car heading south along the Pacific coast on Highway 1. We’re entering Big Sur and we’re basically not writing anymore because the views from the windows are so nice so we’ll leave it here!
Road trip. Two months. Five European friends across Canada from Toronto to Vancouver and through the States from San Francisco back to Toronto via as many cool places in between as we can find. We’ve used cities as way-markers but our interest is in the land we’ll travel through between them. Along the way we’ll pass through more National Parks than you can shake a stick at. Camp stoves, beaches, forests, mountains, waterfalls, adventures and waking up in a tent somewhere new every morning.
Keep up with us throughout our journey via the weekly blogs posted here that we’ll be writing for Osprey Packs or follow us on Instagram:
Photos by Sam, Ciaran and Lara.