We gave ourselves two days to get from Maple Canyon to Yosemite National Park, our last official stop of the road trip (already?!). Friday (5/12) started with an easy drive north to Salt Lake City and an early check-in at the hotel we treated ourselves to. We spent a few hours getting good hot showers, charging devices, catching up on current personal and political events, and raiding the hotel room of anything that may be useful down the road. Given that my last hair cut was before Thanksgiving, I also decided to treat myself to some pampering by getting a few inches of hair chopped off. It doesn’t take much to feel absolutely glamorous these days.
After a really delicious dinner I suggested we entertain ourselves with a few rounds of bowling. We had a lot of fun bowling with friends in Red Rocks at the beginning of the trip and figured it would be a good way to kill some time. Ground rules were set. Best out of three. Loser buys ice cream for dessert. I’ll let you sort out who’s Player 1 and who’s Player 2 (hint: I’m not Player 2).
The next morning (5/13) we wandered around Salt Lake City, mainly sticking to Temple Square and the surrounding area while trying to avoid buildings we weren’t allowed to enter. The parts of Salt Lake City we saw seemed clean and quiet, without the hustle and bustle I’d expect of a major city. The people seemed generally polite and well-dressed, but with little diversity among the crowds we encountered.
After a couple hours downtown we left the city and headed west to see the salt flats. This was a detour I had insisted on since we missed seeing the salt flats in Bolivia earlier this year. Although I’m aware the size of the SLC salt flats are a far cry from those in Bolivia, it was still an interesting addition to our list of unique landscapes we’ve seen on this trip. The ground felt like it should have been more fragile and I expected to be able to make footprints in the salt, but it was actually really hard and crusty. The flat white surface also distorted my depth perception which caused a few missteps when attempting to avoid deep puddles of water.
We continued on with the drive until getting up and over Donner Pass, then spent that night (5/13) at a rest stop along the freeway. Sleeping at a rest stop made it relatively easy for us to rise bright and early the next morning to finish the drive to Yosemite National Park. Once inside the park it took well over an hour to get to the campground because of road work and weekend traffic. There was some mild concern of the Nanavan overheating while stuck in traffic and barely moving. However, with fingers crossed, we arrived at our campsite without any issues and settled in for the week ahead.
On our first full day at the park (5/14) we decided to hike to the Upper Yosemite Falls lookout. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans in store for us. A couple miles into the hike we stopped to have a rest and a snack. Just as I was trying to decipher if we were getting wet from the mist of the nearby waterfall or from rain, it started to hail. The forecast and the skies didn’t look promising for the afternoon so we made the easy decision to bail and head back down the trail. Once back at the trailhead we hopped on a shuttle that took us to one of the park’s villages where we got some tea and dried out before heading back to camp.
A few climbing friends from Seattle joined us mid-week and stayed with us for several days. As had been the case when meeting up with friends and family along the way, I enjoyed the change of pace and extra company they provided. On most days during our week in the park Alastair went climbing with the guys while I had solo wandering, walking, hiking, reading, and writing time. I went for a couple long walks through the valley (training for a 4-day walk in July I’ve managed to sign myself up for) and successfully hiked to the Upper Yosemite Falls lookout under clear blue skies.
Each evening we reconvened at camp and shared stories from the day, usually while taking in the warmth of the campfire. On our last night in the park we waited around the campfire until it got dark, then drove to a meadow at the base of El Capitan, a massive 3,000-foot rock wall. There are many world-famous routes to be climbed on the face of this rock and the average climber takes about five successive days to climb up. Since climbers must spend the night on a ledge or port-a-ledge during their ascent, we got to see more than a dozen twinkling headlamps of climbers en route along the face of the rock wall. It was difficult to tell if they were still working their way up or just setting up camp on the wall for the night, but either way it was a good reminder of the scale of the wall and of how many people attempt the routes when the forecast allows.
At the end of the week it was time to pack up and head out. This departure felt a little different than the ones before, more of a finale rather than a stop over since our trip was coming to a close. We’d be homeward bound from here on out.