16. YOSEMITE, CA

(Alert! Start with Day 1 of our “30 Days x 30 Cities” blog series to follow this trip from the start)

The night before we departed for Yosemite I was wired. Maybe due to the caffeine and sugar from our evening in San Francisco, which ended in coffee at Dandelion and dessert at Tartine. Or perhaps I was just excited to be moving again, on to the next big thing.

Whatever the reason, I stayed up until 3am working on the blog which left me buzzing and useless to navigate the following day. What should've been under a 4 hour drive took most of the day as we failed to study the map to our B&B prior to departing. Our pampered brains simply didn't anticipate the fact that our phone would lose a reliable signal once we neared the park.

Instead of arriving at our B&B, we stumbled into the valley via a southern park entrance. Up to that point, the terrain from Sausalito had been lackluster and I hadn't bothered to prepare myself for any major views or elevation.

Well, ready or not, there they were...

The famed peaks and domes and vistas of Yosemite appeared almost out of nowhere. Before I knew it, we were much too high up, winding through the forest on a two lane highway that fell off the face of the Earth to one side or the other.

I was as unnerved as I was awed. The weariness from the day's longer-than-anticipated-drive mingled with the rising elevation threw my equilibrium into a tailspin. Once we reached our first checkpoint, we promptly paid for our park pass then made a sharp left out of the valley to find our destination.

I won't belabor the fact that we completely missed the turn again and ended up in the historic town of Groveland. Home to the oldest, continuously running bar in the country, The Iron Door Saloon, a few eateries and some shops, we surrendered to a late lunch / early dinner and prayed for Wi-Fi to navigate to Blackberry Inn.

We retraced the 15 "mountain miles" back up where we were greeted by Steve, our host at the B&B, slightly perplexed at our arrival time. We resisted sharing details as we were shown around the property and to our room by our newfound, "I hang glide off cliffs in my spare time / I've seen shit / I also get shit done / Nick Nolte-sounding" kind of guy…

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Our mornings at Blackberry would start with expertly prepared breakfasts where we'd converse with interesting travelers from all over the world — some wandered in from nearby San Francisco while others ventured from Spain and Australia. Our fellow guests were pleasant and friendly and eager to share highlights from their trips.

On our first morning, we were surprised to learn that we missed a magnitude-6.0 earthquake in CA, mere miles from where we walked the previous day. Um, yikes.

We also encountered confused foreigners trying to make the math work regarding our trip. One guest finally inquired, "Wait, did you say a month? I thought Americans were only given very short vacations?"

Si, tis true. But we don't subscribe to that life fellow traveler, no grazie.

The next morning we set out for a day hike per Steve's recommendation. On our way, we stopped off at Tuolumne Grove to gaze in wonder at their stands of Giant Sequoias. We ceremoniously walked through a giant pass that had been carved through of one of the massive trees as a tourist attraction back in the 1800s. Unimpressed by the towering trunks, I overheard one guy tell his wife "I mean, once you've seen one..."

Midday we continued on Tioga Road to a 7-mile roundtrip hike at Cathedral Lakes. We entered the trail from a roadside parking spot at 8,500 feet and hit an immediate climb. Leveling out over the remaining hour, we emerged from the dusty, rolling trail's intermittent views at the afternoon's coveted destination.

At mile 3.4, the forest politely parted and transformed into a majestic meadow, bowing gracefully to meet a glacier-formed lake. We were psyched to finally be hiking a section of the John Muir Trail, not to mention the fact that, aside from a few other passing hikers, we had the lake completely to ourselves.

We immediately stripped down to our suits and stepped into the pristine, clear water. Surprisingly mild near shore, the water turned colder and a rich, emerald blue as we edged up to the deep. Zan swallowed the fresh mountain air, completely dunked himself, then headed off to photograph. After some time, I lazily pulled myself onto shore and spread out on a sun-soaked rock to take a long, hard nap.

Refreshed, we grabbed a snack then suited back up for the hike out. Within a couple hours, we were showered an enjoying a delicious dinner at Hotel Charlotte back in Groveland. Suffice to say, we collided hard with our fluffy pillows that night and awoke to a new day, new crew at the communal breakfast table and a new adventure.

Our second full day was centered around a guided trip up to Glacier Point. While we typically avoid these pre-booked touristy traps, we nonetheless enjoyed the nerdy humor of our knowledgable guide as he made "fungi" jokes and freaked out like the dog from Up every time he spotted a rare plant or critter. 

As our bus grinded up the infinitely steep, narrower than should be legal, fall off the face of the Earth roads, the driver assured us not to worry — lucky for us, he shared, he was a licensed pilot (though you might still want to turn way if you suffered from vertigo) as we rounded the 45-degree, one car at a time, there's a mirror attached to the jagged wall, death defying, hairpin turn. (Insert pooped pants here.)

At the top, we stopped to marvel at the expansive views littered with stupid people staring down at their smartphones. Panicked by all the stupid parents* capturing the majesty of the moment on their iPads while their kids dangled as close to the edge as possible, I quickly found the entrance to our trail and set off.

That afternoon we hiked, jogged, skipped and sprinted down most of the 8.5 mile descent of the Panorama Trail. It was breathtaking and otherworldly and far too much for my brain to take in. More drama than a movie. More dazzling than science fiction. More fun than se... well, no.

As I ducked below precariously perched boulders and scampered along rocky edges, I couldn't imagine this experience not dominating my dreams that night.

Those sharks would surely have nothing on the past few days, way up in the sky, running about at 10,000+ feet.

Whatever. It'd be worth it.


* Who do I need to write to get the licenses of stupid parents revoked? What's that you say? You don’t actually need to pass an exam or apply for a license to make a person.

Yeah, that explains a lot.