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Yosemite National Park

As many of you know, I've just started a two month road trip around America. The majority of it will be spent in hotels or crashing on the sofa of friends of mine that live all across the country. There is, however, a portion of it that will be spent camping. My family have never been a camping family, so this is all relatively new to me, and instead of starting out small, after picking up SteveO (also know as my father) from the airport, we ventured to Yosemite National Park for our first camping experience. 

I'm using the term 'camping' lightly, as I actually slept in my car whilst dad braved the tent. What a trooper!

We got there relatively late as SteveO took a while to get through customs as the airport. Once we did arrive it was pitch black, but we found our way to our camping spot at Upper Pines Campground (I’ve heard it’s quite hard to get reservations for these campgrounds usually, considering we were there in October I was able to book it a couple of weeks in advance. If you’re planning on vacationing there in summer, I believe the reservations open up in May and then you’re put into a lottery). Setting up a tent in the dark is quite challenging, but we managed to accomplish that pretty fast. As I said, I'm not a seasoned camper so even sleeping in the car was a challenge, mainly because I kept thinking that dad might be eaten by a bear in the middle of the night. 

I woke up after a couple of hours of staggered sleep to find that he was thankfully still there, no bear marks in sight! The campground was relatively peaceful in the morning, with everyone going about there business.

I wasn’t going to let camping deter me from my love of food, so I rustled up a gourmet camping feast. Thankfully, because it was after September, we were allowed to have a camp fire at any time of the day. Cue the sausage, bacon and egg extravaganza: sourdough bread topped with avocado & an egg, a few rashers of bacon, and a jalapeƱo infused sausage. 

Breakfast done and dusted, we decided to set out of our hike to Clouds Rest, a day that was about to be one of the most beautiful, but also gruelling/terrifying, of my life. 

The drive to the Sunrise Lakes Trailhead from camp took around 30 minutes, along very windy roads with extremely slow speed limits due to bears sometimes strolling across them (casual, I know). Once we got there, we stocked our backpack with water and food and set off along the trail.

The beginning of the trail was relatively flat, with a nice scenic walk through the woods. Sadly, that did not last as this was followed by a steep climb up the man made trail of rocks. The more you climbed, the more you hoped it would end and the more it never seemed to. Physically, this was going to be a killer day, and we weren’t even halfway up yet. 

These kept me going all day. Nuts, nuts, nuts. Slow releasing energy and all.

I’m not going to lie, it felt like the trail was never going to reach its summit. Every time we saw fellow hikers they told us “it’s not far now”. All I can say is that it was a very kind gesture, but they were 100% lying every single time. Eventually we made it to the Clouds Rest Trail at the top, which is a basically a very narrow walkway on uneven rocks. By this point, you can tell that the view is going to be absolutely incredible, and I can honestly say that once we made it to the top it was worth the hike up. 

I was so happy to see a sign at this point. Sadly, we were only just about halfway at this point.

Oh look, another steep hill.

Lunch time views were at an all time high (over 9000ft to be specific)

The trek back down is where the story takes a turn for the worst. We were making great time, when MY DAD DECIDED TO TAKE US ON A DETOUR. There was a clearing after a climb that directed us either to where we had come from earlier in the day (the route I wanted to take) or in a completely different direction. My father, thinking he knows best (we know now that he does NOT), decided we should go this other way. I could tell this wasn’t going to end well from that point onwards. The sun had already started going down and soon enough it would be dark.

So, we are walking along this detour path, when the great geographer, also know as SteveO, decides to take another detour from the detour we were already on. Funnily enough, my mum is the person that was a Geography teacher back in the day, dad if you haven’t already guessed, was not. This detour leads us to the edge of a cliff, so that was the first car death experience of the day. 

At this point, I finally had a little bit of signal on my phone and managed to direct us to the path we were meant to be on to begin with. The battery on it was low, and light was fading quickly. We’d left the rocky area and were walking through the woods at this point and I was getting more terrified of the fact that a bear could basically come and attack us at any point. We were walking through the woods shouting every so often to let the bears and any other animals know of our presence in the hope that it would keep everything at a safe distance. The scary thing about losing light is that everything looks completely different to how it had looked earlier in the day. 

We finally came to a clearing in the woods that had a couple of signs to different places, but no signs directing us to where we wanted to go. At this point it was pitch black and both of our phones were about to die, with no signal on either of them. With no idea where to go we came to the realisation that we were going to have to spend the night there. In the middle of the woods. No sleeping bag. No tent. Nothing. 

To say I was terrified and panicking does not even being to describe the situation. Luckily, dad had a lighter in his pocket and started gathering wood to help start a fire. We didn’t really have anything flammable in the bag and after numerous failed attempts, and more panicking (mainly on my part) we realised we had to use something else, and ended up burning my sports bra and dad's underwear to start the fire. By this point my phone had died and the only light we were able to use was from my camera, which wasn’t especially bright. To say the nights in Yosemite get cold is somewhat of an understatement, as we were in the middle of the forest in sub zero degree temperatures with just a couple of layers on. Surprisingly enough, we didn’t plan to get stuck in the forest, so we didn’t have extra attire. 

This was the first time that I realised how true it was to say time moves slowly when you aren’t enjoying yourself. 

So, at this point we’ve been in the woods for a number of hours, thankfully our fire seems to be keeping any animals that may want us for dinner at bay and I’m literally freezing my ass off. 4:30am rolls around and we see a light in the distance, low and behold a hiker is starting a ridiculous early morning hike (thank god for this crazy man). We tell him how we’ve been stuck there all night and ask him if he knows where we need to head to when it gets light. This is where it gets even more ridiculous, as he proceeds to tell us that the trailhead we are looking for is A FIVE MINUTE WALK AWAY. So we’ve been sitting 5 minutes away from the car this whole time, almost dying of pneumonia and other various factors that spending a night in the woods will do to you. I’ve inhaled so much smoke from the fire, and I’ve never felt so cold in my life.

Oh, and underwear saves lives!

Aside from that, if you ever get the chance to visit this beautiful place the view is 100% worth it, just make sure unlike me, you listen to your instincts and never allow Steve the right to have any say on where you’re heading. Next stop, Highway 1 (the beautiful picture we've got going on down there) all the way down to Los Angeles. Happy Friday, friends.

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