When planning our road trip sat on our warm comfy sofa in November, Yosemite was one of the places on the agenda I was most excited to visit.
Maybe it is because as a Mac user at work and at home, I see the beautiful El Capitan mountain entering my subconscious everyday. It could also be the lovely Ansel Adams book we have in our flat, featuring the mountains in black and white beautiful imagery. Either way I couldn’t believe we were about to embark on a trip where we would be able to see them for ourselves, first hand. What a privilege!
These are the kinds of trips that someone like me always dreams of taking, I honestly never thought I would actually get to make these dreams a reality. When we finally made it there driving into Yosemite felt no less like a dream, I felt like a child looking at everything with amazement and awe. In all my life I have never seen such beautiful landscapes.
Before you even hit the official national park entrance, the surrounding areas are breathtaking. Long quiet roads, valleys and hills encrusted with beautiful leaf filled trees. The trees look like small bushes, dwarfed by the large mountains they grow on top of. You are totally surrounded by natural greenery, and the relaxing sound of water running down a stream. Instantly relaxing.
We noticed the weather change gradually as we got closer to our destination. Still wanting to keep the windows open meant adding a jumper, it started to get cool, and you could feel damp in the air. The weather felt very fresh, that smell of nature we don’t get to sence very often being city dwellers. The kind of air which makes you want to breath in deeply with every breath and exhale with an ahhhhhh.
Upon crossing the official park entrance via the 140, it immediately started to rain, and rain a lot. It was like crossing an invisible rain barrier. We started to wondered if the whole holiday would be rainy place after rainy place. Resisting our British habit of complaining about the weather though, we put on a coat and went exploring, quickly realised that Yosemite in the rain is just magical. I don’t really think any photo can do this experience justice, it is the kind of places you just have to see for yourself.
The atmosphere was filled with low hung clouds creating a beautiful thick mist around the mountains. The rain ran down the rock formations creating light and dark patterns wherever it touched. Giant waterfalls cascaded down the off the mountain tops. The green trees a darker shade of green than normal. Water crashed down the rivers, creating loud but relaxing sounds of fast running water. The rain bounced off the window screen of our car when driving. The rain fell onto our faces as we looked up in awe, such a refreshing feeling and so peaceful. We felt calm but at the same time filled with a rush of excitement. The excitement I now know you can only really feel when you are witnessing overwhelmingly beautiful natural beauty.
The beauty of a mountainous forest is very different to the beauty of crystal clear blue water on a sandy beach. I feel the need to make the comparison quickly. When looking up at the sights at Yosemite you feel so small and insignificant, you can not fail to realise that there is more to life than the things we worry about in our daily lives. Not only this but you can explore more, camp within the grounds, go for a long hike, and never get bored of the new views to see. This is beyond escapism, this is what life is all about!
The rain was so heavy and we were so unprepared unfortunately we couldn’t camp there as we had planned. It is a shame we could not stay longer or do any of the famous hikes, but it was not meant to be. So much about the weather at Yosemite then framed the rest of our journey. We planned to drive over the mountain on the 102 all the way down to Death Valley, but due to snowy conditions this road was closed and we had to take a de-tour.
This detour took us to a little place called Oakdale. This was the closest town with a motel we could find. The sun had descended and soon it was getting dark. We drove through a couple of strange ghost like towns to get there, which creeped me out a little. They looked like strange places you see only in films, so I was very thankful for Oakdale. We anticipated the stop would just be a place to re-fuel and rest our heads for the night, but it actually turned out to be one of the most memorable evenings of the whole holiday.
On the hunt for food we found the only non-chain place we could see that was still open. It turns out they didn’t serve food though, so to be polite we sat down to have a drink before we made tracks to get some grub. During this one drink the locals sat near us at the bar started some banter between themselves, then some conversations started adding us and before we knew it we ended up getting pretty drunk with them. We didn’t buy a single drink for the rest of the night, every other one was bought for us by a new person. We shared the company of a saddle maker, a cattle auctioneer, a local business man, a friendly couple and the bar owner himself, not to forget the lovely barmaid.
The place was called HB Saloon, I think we can both safely say we learnt a thing or two that night. Maybe one of them was not to judge a book by its cover or a man/woman by their voting preference. During the evening we had healthy debates, got offered to go and lasso a cow, heard the auctioneer do his famous ramble and they gave us some tips on interesting routes to take. These tips proved to be great. I left with a free rhinestone t-shirt with the name of the bar across the front and a chip for a free drink if ever we came back.
They loved their town, and it showed and we were so glad to have has that experience. We walked back to the motel giddy then fell asleep happy and ready to see what new adventure then next day had in store for us.
(All photos by @joshjohnphotos / joshjohnphotos.co.uk)