National Tree Week

Apparently, last week was national tree week – who knew? Mind you, we have all sorts of ‘national weeks’ (‘national talk like a pirate’ week is one of my favourites!) so why not one for trees?

Skipping through twitter, I found loads of posts on trees and it got me thinking about the most beautiful trees I know: those in Yosemite. There’s something about the noise of the wind through those tall, solid trunks and the smell on the breeze that captures my soul.

Although I’m generally in love with the trees in Yosemite (ours just don’t seem to cut it over here), flicking through my photos reminded me of the most impressive specimens I have ever seen: Mariposa Grove.

Mariposa Grove is a Sequoia grove filled with giant Sequoia trees, and when I say giant, I mean humongous! These things were like massive pillars, rising up to cut shadows out of the sky. The grove is home to some of the most interesting trees in the park, including the tree that is now a tunnel, the grizzly giant, the fallen giant and the telescope tree.

Standing in the middle of those trees was like being a tiny ant; insignificant and very humbling. We often take trees for granted, despite knowing their importance on the eco-structure of our planet. If it takes a hashtag to remind us to marvel at the trees around us, then I’m happy to bump #NationalTreeWeek up my list of favourite hashtags.

Unplanned Nights Out

It’s really nice to get glammed up and head off for a night on the town. Half of the fun is in the getting ready and the other half is reliving the memories the next day. Planned nights out can end up a little stale sometimes however, and it’s always those nights that just ‘seem to happen’ which make the best memories.

With that in mind, here are a round up our top 3 spontaneous nights out on our travels:

BBQ Party In Yosemite, California

A few baked potatoes and sausages made up most of our camping meals. One of the nights in Yosemite saw a family camp next to us – wow did they put us to shame!! They had floodlights, RVs, tables, chairs and so much food!! Being from the UK, we are naturally a reserved bunch but one of the guys bounded over and invited us to join them for dinner. I’m so glad we accepted, as the night was full of amazing food (including meat cooked in a hole in the ground!) excellent company and more than a few beers. We got to learn about them and their travels and even picked up a few camping tips along the way. It was lovely to be invited into someone else’s party and we had the best night of our trip.

Ruin Pubs in Budapest

Szimpla Kert was an amazing night out, but it took us a while to find it! You can read about it here.

Street Singing in Croatia

We were returning back from the little shops and wine bars in Split when we stumbled across an open air gig. One of the bars (Luxor) opens out on to a courtyard where lots of people (locals and tourists alike) sat watching the two performers, one singer and one guitarist.

They were playing a whole range of songs and the atmosphere was great. We sat down on the stone steps, under a blanket of stars and listened to the music play. We got speaking to a lady who was travelling with her university course and exchanged some conversation about places to visit, things to see and her observations on the city. We also might have shared a few chips! It was an easy and relaxed way to share experiences with others (even for an introvert like me!) and was one of the best evenings of our trip.

All of these spontaneous nights out had one thing in common; speaking to other travellers. Without chatting to other people, our experiences would have been far less interesting. We’d never have known where the best ruin pubs were, or learned about other people’s camping tips. Make a point of speaking to fellow travellers and locals, you’re far more likely to learn about a cool place to go.

Half Dome: Subdome

You can read part one and part two of our trip up half dome here:

Part one

Part two

The Sub-dome was in sight! After a gruelling but beautiful hike past Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls and through Little Yosemite Valley, we reached a sign to say that Half Dome was a mere 2 miles away.

By this point, I was done in. I was struggling to breath (asthma and altitude do not go hand in hand) my voice had gone almost completely and I was shattered. I also knew that we still had a roughly 4-5 hour hike back down to the valley. I am a very stubborn person and I refused to turn back until I made the Sub-dome. By this point, I’d accepted that there was no way I was going to make it to the top of Half Dome. Physically, I was too knackered to pull myself up those cables, and I’m not sure if I’d have been entirely ok with the height, but I was determined to meet my goal of reaching the Sub-dome.

After some challengingly steep switchbacks through the forest, we passed through the section of the trail where a permit was required and broke above the tree line.

Being that high up, and that close to the Sub-dome was incredible. Despite feeling broken, it was probably one of the biggest highs of my life!

The views were incredible. Snow-topped mountains in the distance, blue skies and harsh granite surrounded us from all angles. It felt like we were in the sky and Wandering Beeb was in his element, snapping pictures of anything and everything! We had achieved our goal and it felt amazing to have been successful at something so physical.

After spending some time taking in the views (and catching our breath), we decide to retrace our steps and head back down the trail. By the time we hit the bottom of the waterfalls, it was almost dark. Torches on, we continued to navigate our way down. There were few people left on the trail and as it got darker, we realised that we must have take a wrong turn somewhere. We could see the lights from the toilet block across the river but there was no way we could see of reaching them. The path had gotten narrower and we were both starting to feel panicky. Afterwards, we admitted to really understanding the dangers of the park at this point, given that we were in bear territory and unsure of where we were.

Trying to remain calm, we hiked back up the path, eventually realising that we had taken a hidden fork in the trail and had headed down a bridal path instead of the main trail. It was such a relief to find the right path and head down past the toilets and water fountains, knowing that we would soon by back in the Valley, surrounded by people rather than bears and mountain lions.

We eventually arrived back in the valley at about 10pm. We were hungry, knackered and sore, and still had a 45 minute drive back to Wawona to our tent. It didn’t matter. We’d reached the Sub-dome, we’d pushed ourselves to the limit and we’d almost touched the sky.

Wash your spirit clean

– John Muir

Half Dome: Nevada Falls and Little Yosemite Valley

You can read part one of our trip up half dome here.

The two trails up Half Dome split at the top of Vernal Falls. The Mist trail takes a short detour to the top of Nevada Falls (adding a little distance on to the journey), whereas the John Muir trail is a more direct route. We never want to miss anything (especially as it takes so much effort to climb Half Dome!) so each time we have taken the Mist Trail.

It’s about a 2 mile hike from Vernal Falls to Nevada Falls, characterised by switchbacks and some rocky pathways through a forest area. The sunlight weaving through the trees and the light reflecting off the water at the bottom of Vernal Falls created beautiful little rainbows in the mist.

The top of Nevada Falls is a beautiful place to sit and chill, having gained an extra 1000ft above Vernal Falls, taking us to a total height of 6000ft above sea level. On our first trip, this was as far as we got. We’d set off far too late in the day and didn’t really want to hike in the dark, so we chose to stop at Nevada Falls, spend some time exploring and then headed back down the trail.

One of my best memories of that particular trip was taking off our shoes and socks and paddling in the calm water of the Merced River before the waterfall. It was a perfect way to refresh ourselves after the steep climb!

Our subsequent trips have seen us hiking much further up the trail. Leaving Nevada Falls behind, Little Yosemite Valley is a much flatter part of the hike. Surrounded by trees, it offers some welcome shade from the blistering heat. I loved the surroundings here; the sounds of the forest and the smell of the trees. The scent was almost overwhelming and it makes me think of adventure every time I smell it. This was a stunning walk with glimpses of Half Dome through the trees.

Little Yosemite Campground was a big milestone for me – I hadn’t expected to make it that far!! If I was to do the trail again, I would definitely consider camping at this campground to acclimatise to the altitude and rest up before attempting the climb to the top of Half Dome.

The Mountains are calling and I must go

– John Muir