After the most incredible 9 days I'm finally back home, feeling a little jet lagged. I'd been planning this Trek America trip since January, when a break up pushed me to step outside my comfort zone, I'd never been abroad on my own before but impulsively booked to do a road trip around the west coast. I can honestly say that it's been the best experience of my life and I intend on booking another similar trip for next summer (still undecided on the destination). Travelling solo was eye opening and gave me a huge boost of independence. I was excited at the prospect of meeting new people, exploring new places and the memories will last a lifetime.
My Trek began at Manchester Airport, heading to JFK and then on to San Francisco. I spent the night before in the Red Roof Inn, we were meeting as a group in the lobby at 7.30am. At 6am I headed to the diner just next door for a classic american breakfast, bacon and blueberry pancakes obviously, to ensure I was fuelled for the start of what was going to be an epic adventure. It soon became clear who our group members were, we were the bunch with huge backpacks and hiking boots on. In total there were 11 members, plus our tour leader Andrew, the majority coming from all over Australia, with a couple of europeans and brits mixed in. We did a few ice breakers, filled out some forms and through our suitcases into the back of the van before setting off.
It was a stunning week for weather, San Francisco is well known for it's misty fog on the Golden Gate Bridge but we got a crystal clear view of the city. It felt like being in a movie, you start the Trek with a walk across the bridge and it's hard not to be taken back by the views. The walk itself was longer than I anticipated, you realise seeing these things in real life puts them into perspective (the scale of the Grand Canyon was something I certainly couldn't have grasped without seeing it in person). I'm a fitness fanatic about 70% of the time so I thoroughly enjoyed being out in the sunshine, with my camera for company. This is also were I picked up my first patch! I wanted to get a unique souvenir from each place originally, but in our van they had patches stuck to the interior walls and so I decided to collect one from each place (to then stitch onto a denim jacket back home).
We stopped off for drinks, snacks and were given chance to wander around for a bit before our first part of the driving began, heading to Yosemite. Now a big part of these trips is the driving, it gives you chance to see the parts of America that you wouldn't otherwise get to experience. I also chose a camping holiday because we spent more time as a group, food shopping in Walmart, cooking in teams on a night back in camp, taking it in turns to make breakfast and wash dishes, pulling up roadside and getting out the makeshift table from the van to build a sandwich lunch station, this made it all the more memorable. It was a holiday that I would choose over sunbathing on the beach any day of the week.
Into the Wild
As we pulled further away from San Francisco, the forest grew and I found myself in a place that felt more familiar, the wilderness. Having read books like 'Into the Wild', climbed the 3 peaks in the UK and watched documentaries like 'Valley Uprising', Yosemite felt like home to me. Driving through the mountain hills whilst gazing into the valleys below I couldn't help but feel like I belonged here. It's mad but from the minute we stopped by the campsite and set up our tents, I knew I didn't want to leave. The first night was spent eating s'mores, playing games around the campfire and getting to know the people we were going to be spending a lot of time with. A few bottles of beer helped to get the conversations going and soon we all settled in.
Our first full day in Yosemite, we were given a few options for hikes and trails to follow over breakfast. A cup of camp coffee and a blueberry bagel, covered in crunchy peanut butter (how much more american could I be) was the perfect morning pick me up. We made ourselves lunch from our Walmart haul, grabbed a few protein bars and headed back deeper into the national park. We stopped off at the village were we would all meet again later, and set off in different groups as we had people of different abilities so we chose different hiking routes. The majority of our group went for the 7 mile waterfall hike, in hindsight we didn't know the elevation was 5910ft, it was intense and challenging. However, the views from the top made it totally worth it! I've never seen a place so beautiful in my entire life and I would have loved to have camped up top to appreciate the view for longer.
We had made it up in two separate groups, but all joined together at the top for a spot of lunch and to make our way back down and back to the village to meet up with the group in time. The hike was rather quiet, being outside of peak season and I think this made it even more stunning. The lower part of the routes were busier but as the incline increased people appeared to be turning back, especially families and older walkers. There was plenty of wildlife on our hike too, deer, elks, birds and squirrels (unfortunately no bears though). The photos below do it more justice than I can, the experience was unbelievable. Once back at the village I stopped for my Yosemite patch, and a hoody which I admittedly had on my shopping list from the moment I booked the trip. I stuffed in some sweets and chips and our tour leader picked us up to head back to camp. We spent the remainder of our nights cooking more s'mores, playing music and exploring the local area. I could happily have spent the whole 9 days here but there was more to see.
The night after the hike I did sleep pretty well, in fact passed out would be more accurate. The heat and lack of food probably contributed, it also didn't help that because of all my camera equipment I was the only person carrying a back pack. This definitely made my hike a little more brutal than the rest of the group but we were a persistent bunch, I'm often stubborn in these situations so it doesn't matter how difficult it gets and even though I was feeling not 100%, once I put my mind to it I won't turn back. I am glad though because the hike was the highlight of the entire trip for me, it stands out as the biggest challenge for me to date (especially since its 300m higher than Ben Nevis, which was the highest climb I had done).
The Mafia Gang (from left to right): Kelsey, Craig, Gareth, Lissa, Rebecca, Alyce, Jess, Anette, Rob, Me and Louisa.
We got up the next morning, and drove to a lake for a dip. The crisp morning air meant that we weren't quite brave enough to get into our swimwear but it did make for a beautiful little photoshoot and filming area. We spent a lot of time in Yosemite over the 3 days, but theres so much more to explore, I would love to go back and climb more of the mountains. It was time to leave and head towards Nevada for the next part of our journey but I could never forget the beauty of ancient sequoia trees and granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome. Hopefully we will meet again Yosemite...
🍑 A B Y
Aby, 24. Northerner.