Our next stop awaited us as we cut through the rolling hills and farmlands of central California. A seven-hour bus and train journey from Los Angeles took us to Lodi, a small town forty minutes south of Sacramento (which I later learned was also the capital of California), and also the town where we would be staying for the next four nights. *This is not completely true, because one of those nights we were lucky enough to find ourselves staying in Yosemite! More on that later.
We met our hosts, Linda and Richard, a retired couple living on the edge of a lake with a beautiful poodle named Trevor. These guys are no stranger to adventure and have played tour guide to friends and family of theirs visiting monthly. So we scored when Linda started planning our time in Lodi months before we even arrived in America. On the list was Yosemite, San Francisco, the Redwood Forrest, Lake Tahoe and more, but unfortunately a scheduled trip of theirs meant our time was cut short and we could only explore Yosemite. No matter, the two days we had in Yosemite turned out to be a highlight of our American adventures so far, and a place we will definitely return to.
Let me try to explain this insanely beautiful place to you. Picture this: You’re standing in a field of green grass. The sky is blue with scattered clouds, the sun is warm and the breeze is little. You look to your left and you see a wall of slate coloured rock towering 300 meters above you, from as far back as you can see to where the forest hides it in front of you. The sun has just come out after a cold, grey day, but thick, misty fog still hides most of the rock face from view. You turn to your right and a wooden bridge hangs over a wide, shallow river, flowing gently with waters so clear you can see your shadow on the river bed and fish darting from one insect to another. You look back and the river winds to the left into the light bushes, eventually hidden by the thick forest behind the rock face. You hear the blue finches chirp and smell the dogwood in the air. And then you look straight ahead, and you’re overwhelmed by the beauty and enormity of the Yosemite Falls. Dropping over 700 meters, the melted snow surges through the cracks of the El Capitan forming three tiers of falling water before before crashing down into the valley floor and spraying mist in a 300-meter radius. The power, enormity and beauty of this place is so real. It’s so perfect.
So you can imagine how awestruck we were for two days, driving along the valley floor, hiking up to five different waterfalls and taking in the beauty and grandeur of this place. Many of the roads in the highlands were still closed due to bad weather and snow. This may have been a disappointment to most people, but for me? Oh no, bad weather and snow only meant one thing: SNOW! For the first time in my seventeen years of life I saw, felt and played in real life snow. Snow that came from the sky and not a machine, and snow that was cold in the outdoors and not in an artificial environment. Yes, I turned into a five-year-old for a moment.
The first day in this ‘heaven’ was spent hiking and driving along the valley floor. It was cold and we certainly got drenched by the waterfalls more than once, but the experience was worth every shiver, every goose bump and every wet t-shirt. The highlight of this trip for myself also came on day one, at the base of Bridal Veil Falls. I’ve seen some fairly spectacular waterfalls in Indonesia, but nothing compared to this. The hight, power and ferocity were immense, and I couldn’t help myself being taken aback by the power and beauty of nature. After a long day being mesmerised by giant rocks and waterfalls, it was time to check in to our room. We were so lucky to have Richard and Linda score us this room, as reservations for camping grounds and lodges within the park grounds can be booked up to two years in advance! It was a fair bit pricey but worth every cent with the ammenities and luxury. And a raging river outside our back door only made it even better.
Day two. We set out in the morning and headed towards Vernal Falls. This is not the tallest waterfall, but it makes up for it in it’s width. This was also a waterfall that could be viewed from the top, so with a determined mind we began the three mile hike to the top. It’s called the Mist Trail, and it certainly lives up to it’s name. As soon as the waterfall was in sight, the mist was there ready to drench you. The hike is challenging towards the top, but as with most hikes that require effort, the rewards are more than enough, and the feeling of being on top of a waterfall is real. A definite must do if you are lucky enough to visit this place yourself, and the trail continues on to the even bigger Nevada Falls if you are strong enough.
No matter how good something can be, there will always be an end to it and a time to move on. But with every end comes a new beginning and it was time to say goodbye to the realms of heaven and move into the city. Yosemite, you have been the highlight of America so far. San Francisco, we will be in you very soon!