(To inspire you to read all of this and forgive me for not keeping up with the blog I will fill you in on some cool facts: yes we did actually see a bear, Chris hit something in the rv, I got pulled over, and we had a near death experience. I know you are excited to read now)
On Sunday afternoon we left Los Angeles (happily because we were done with all the traffic, smog, and basically LA in general. We grabbed some Subway (with guacamole again, all of the Subways down south should add that to their menu). We were staying in the Asian side of town and right across from Subway there was a jewelry store (I had completely ruined all of my Tiffany’s bracelets from being in the hot tub the night before, they were literally like a matte ugly grey color). I went in to see if they would clean them for me and the guy cleaned them and they looked perfect again. I asked him if I owed him anything for cleaning them (I have never gotten jewelry cleaned before so I didn’t know if it cost anything or what) and the guy said it was $20 cash. I thought that was super expensive and I only had 14 dollars on me. So him and I went back and forth for about 5 minutes (he didn’t speak much English) but I got away with only paying the $14 (my daddy would be proud of my bardering skills)
After that Chris and I went to this Asian Appliance company (Chris is trying to tell me now that it was called Happy Feel Good but I don’t believe him). Anyways we were looking for a small portable air conditioner because it is super HOT driving down the road with only the windows open. We look at a bunch of them and then decide to buy one for around $60 dollars. We go outside to the rv in the parking lot and fill this little machine with water (it works with water and ice). We plug it in and suddenly the thing started smoking and dripping water from a bunch of cracks. Let’s just say that we took that thing back so fast, we didn’t even have time to put it in the box. We didn’t want the rv to burn down! After those two excursions we decided it was defiantly time to get out of LA and head to Yosemite.
The drive there wasn’t too bad other than a couple miles of %6 grade through the mountains. A lot of the drive was actually pretty scenic. We even got to stop at a Camping World and Walmart to stock up on supplies. (We had been looking to stop at a Camping World since we left for the trip. Every time we pass them, they are closed or too far out of the way. We actually carried a 40 dollar vent with us, not small either, that we finally got to return and get out of the rv.)
So after about 5ish hours of driving, we pass through Fresno and start heading into Yosemite. We went in the south entrance and as we were going in there was TONS and TONS of traffic on this single land road, all heading away from the park. Chris and I started to get really worried that the park was being evacuated because of all the fires in California right now. Chris went to the Yosemite website on his phone and said that the air quality there is very poor right now from the fires which made us even more nervous; but of course we keep going. Well we realized all the traffic was from this HUGE casino right outside the park and were very happy it wasn’t an evacuation.
Chris had looked up a campsite right outside the park and around 12:30 we drove down into it hoping to plug in and sleep. The place was full and $45 !?!? a night for this crappy parking lot where all the rvs were packed in like sardines. Luckily the weather was cold enough that we decided to keep on driving and not plug in for the night (there were no more rv plug ins on the way to the park). We drive on the curvy road for another 45 minutes wondering how big of a mistake we had made going in this far until we pull up to Fish Camp, a mile from the entrance to the park. We pull down and guess what, ONE spot left (Chris and I can’t even count how many times we have gotten lucky and taken the last spot.) We pull in and go right to sleep.
In the morning we wake up and walk over to the entrance to figure out what we want to do for the day. We talk to the very nice campsite manager and he gives us a map and some information. He also tells us that there is a small waterfall just up the road. Chris and I walked up there to see it and Chris said he had kayaked bigger waterfalls than that. Haha but it was a nice start to the day. We get back and there was this creek right behind out campsite. When we were going to the waterfall we saw a bunch of Mexicans trying to fish in it but they left by the time we came back. Chris and I made some lunch and went to eat it by the creek. Our feet were in the water and all of a sudden we started to see crawfish EVERYWHERE. In our little area there were at least 6. Of course Chris decided he needs to start catching some and after feeding one of them some of his quesidilla, he got one. Overall, it was a pretty cool start to our day.
We packed up and drove into the park (saving 20 dollars with our sweet National Park Pass). Right through the entrance was the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. They wouldn’t let the rv down the road so we unloaded the dirt bike and rode off to see the big trees.
Now although these trees aren’t as tall as the coastal redwoods (they grow to 628 feet tall and the ones we saw top out around 310 feet) It was about a mile hike out to see the Grizzly Giant (one of the largest trees in Mariposa Gove and is estimated to be about 2700 years old). The branches on top are 7 feet in diameter!
1/4 mile further there is the Clothespin Tree which you can walk through or stretch out in like Chris and I did. We knew that we didn’t have much time to spend (we have less than 2 weeks until we have to be back in Clemson) so we decided to turn around and hike a different trail out.
We were going to load the dirtbike back on the rv and the parking lot was packed with cars. (Loading the dirt bike usually takes about 10 minutes because you have to unscrew the ramp hook up up roll it on blah blah). Some nice guys from the car next to us offered to help Chris just lift the bike on saving us time. We drive over to the gas station and paig 5.09 a gallon to fill up (in case most of you are wondering, gas in California hasn’t been too bad yet. The only time we have ever had to pay over 5 dollars was in the Grand Canyon and Yosemite.) After that we went to the back country permit office so we could hike off into the wilderness and camp for the night. The permit was free although we had to put a credit card deposit and pay 5 dollars for a bear canister rental. All food and scented things must be locked up in there and let me tell you, it even took Chris and me a couple minutes to break into it.
We had gotten our permit to hike out to a waterfall about 3 miles from the main road. We parked the rv on the side of the road and had to empty all of our open food into the big bear locker in the parking lot. We were the only people parked there and the only people that were going to be camping within miles of there. It took us almost 2 hours to pack up our packs and bear proof the rv. It was about 5:30 when we finally started hiking in and our big pack had to weigh at least 80 pounds (we had a tent, sleeping bags, the bear canister, gallon of water, lantern, and a lot of extra stuff that we didn’t have to take when we went to the Grand Canyon). I carried the pack for the first, lets say .5 miles and I almost fell to the ground. They failed to tell us that we would be hiking straight up a mountain for 3 miles. It was even steeper than the Grand Canyon. Chris did the guy thing and carried it the rest of the way up and I carried the small pack. The sun sets at 8:20 and we were getting close to both the sunset and the waterfall. Chris tells me to start looking for a place where we can camp when all of a sudden…..
A BEAR!!!! I freak out and stop in my tracks and say omg Chris look there is a bear. He doesn’t believe me at first because he was concentrating on the GPS but when he turns and looks, there is a bear about 30 feet from the trail scratching his back on a tree!! He was really close and we decided to just keep walking because the bear stopped what he was doing and just started staring at us. We walked another 15 feet and then decided to take the camera out and try to take a picture. The picture turned out blurry but we didn’t want to mess with the bear anymore. We kept walking down the trail, turning around ever 10 feet to make sure he wasn’t following us. It was really cool to see the bear but it did make me a lot more scared to be sleeping out in the wilderness that night. We were also scared that our rv might get attacked in the parking lot. (It was impossible for us to empty all the food and smelly things into the bear locker because we didn’t want things to get stolen)
We get to the waterfall right as the sun sets below the mountains. Great, beautiful, wonderful, ummm we still need a place to sleep. So we kept following the trail and the forest turned really lush and green all around the creek that let to the waterfall. (The rest of the forest had big trees and had a lot of fire damage which prevented brush from growing). Chris and I dropped our packs and literally started running to find a spot……and there it was, the perfect camping spot right on the creek (which was not allowed, oops, we had to sleep somewhere). We run back and grab the packs, quickly make a fire ring, put up the tent, get firewood, then relax and make some dinner. We were really tired from our busy day so we went to bed around 11:30 after sitting by the fire and enjoying being back in the wilderness and away from the noise and pollution. Before we could sleep, we had to wash all the dishes and put the bear canister, med kit, bug spray, sunscreen ect. all over 100 feet from our camp to keep us safe. Call me paranoid but we also slept with the lantern on all night outside just in case.
We wake up in the morning to the bigs chirping after getting a pretty decent night sleep. The temperature was nice and it was a beautiful sunny day. We start to tear down camp and make pancakes over the fire for breakfast. We needed to hurry up and get back to cell phone service because it was a Monday and Chris is always SUPER busy on Monday’s with work. Chris is the professional camping pancake maker (ever since the pancakes he made on Spring Break 2 years ago when we camped on the Chattoga with Scotty and Cori). It was around noon by the time we started hiking out and we were a little sore from all the hiking we did from the day before (yesss Kevin we are trying to get into better shape 🙂 Luckily our hike today was completely down hill (which is worse for my knee) and we hauled ass out of there. I think we made it out in little over an hour when it took us almost 3 to hike it. We get back to the rv and…….
everything was fine (haha I built some suspense there with the ….. you thought a bear attacked the rv didn’t you!) We unpacked out food and trash out of the locker and no one stole anything (yay!). Chris hops in the driver seat and we had to drive a couple miles back to the back country office to return our bear canister. The roads there are very narrow and not really made for rvs and trucks to pass each other. The road also has big poles sticking out every 30 feet so the snow plow trucks don’t drive off the road in the winter. Well lets see, old rv, small curvy roads, frequent metal poles, and cliffs……..BANG there goes our passenger side mirror. A truck crossed over the line and Chris avoided it by swerving and it took out the mirror and mirror extender we had on it. Unfortunately, my window was open so the mirror shatters and comes in the rv hitting me (I was completely fine, most of it went outside) Chris freaked out when he saw that I might be hurt (I did scream) and he swerved hitting the back corner of the rv loosening the awning. We pull over and none of the damage is bad. We actually even have an extra mirror in the rv in our pile of stuff we were going to return. We walk back to the pole we hit and make sure everything is out of the road before we get back in and drive again, Chris of course made me drive after that.
We return the bear canister and could get a little bit of phone service by the hotel there. Chris checks his 12 voice mails and calls people back because we know there is no way we will have service as we drive the 45 miles out of the park. At first we weren’t that impressed with Yosemite; it was beautiful but it didn’t seem like we had seen anything too special at this point. We went into the village…eh…and then just decided we had seen enough and started heading out. A couple miles outside of the village there was a bunch of really sick rapids that we got out to look at. There were a bunch of class 4 navigable rapids all right in a row; if only we were a little better at kayaking we totally could have run them.
We stop a little while later to take pictures of this other waterfall down the road that was really cool. The drive then started to turn waayyy more senic. We started to see amazing views and even climed up to 10,000 feet! I think the road we were driving on was 120 (we were basically just following the GPS) and it was breathtaking. This drive, although it was long and slow, totally changed out views about Yosemite. We stopped so many times to take pictures and I don’t even think most of the pictures do it justice. We even got to see snow on the ground! This is the first time I’ve ever seen snow in the middle of July. We wish we could have had another night to camp up in the wilderness, even though it was a lot colder up there. There were lakes, rivers and waterfalls everywhere and we even saw a bunch of dear on the side of the road.
Now most of you wouldn’t appreciate this but I am saying this in support of all rv drivers in the United States. They go slow and they are hard to drive no matter how much experience you have. There are places called turnouts every mile or so and we pulled off every time to let cars pass. We probably pulled over at least 30 times and had 2 people that honked and waved. So here is my public service announcement, as long as you don’t tailgate us, we will pull over for your guys; when we do pull over, a wave is greatly appreciated because we do go out of our way and waste time slowing down and stopping.
So after we stop in our shorts and t-shirts to throw snowballs at each other, we jump back in and I am still driving. There wasn’t any turnouts for a while so I could see in the backup camera that there were a couple cars backed up behind us. All of a sudden, red and blue flashing lights behind us and a speaker saying for us to pull over ASAP. Those of you who know me or have been with me when I got pulled over (Brittney, Amelia, Olivia), know that I do NOT deal well with it. I immediately start teering up because I didn’t know what I did wrong. The park ranger comes up and said I went left of center on a turn and wanted to make sure I hadn’t been drinking. Of Course I Haven’t Been Drinking!!! I could obviously barely even drive these roads sober!! (note from chris: haha, she drives like a drunk person) He asks for license, registration and insurance and luckily I had labeled the registration and insurance in an envelope and knew where they were; my drivers license was another story. The rv is a MESS and I mean complete and total MESS. It took me 5 minutes to dig through pounds of dirty clothes and out backpack as I am freaking out the whole time I am looking. He takes everything back to his car and comes back with only a warning, PHEW! I can’t afford a ticket.
After that, I made Chris drive. The ranger also warned us about the steep grade we were only a couple miles from. He said it was the steepest thing he has ever been on and said we have to have good breaks to make it; another reason to make Chris drive. The sun was setting and we were contemplating just staying and the beautiful campsites and saving the difficult drive for the morning. We knew that we just needed to get out because we didn’t have time to stay. We see the first sign that says 8% grade for the next 11 miles. For those of you that don’t know, most of the roads that have run away truck ramps and really steep grade signs are only 6%, 8% is even MORE insane. We start going and in less than 2 miles, we had to pull over because our breaks basically stopped working. There were overheated and if you poured water on them, the water evaporate instantly. This is when we knew we were in trouble.
At this point we couldn’t make it back up the mountain but we also couldn’t go down; we were basically stuck on the side of the road waiting for the breaks to cool. Being stuck isn’t too bad when you are in an rv because we made a nice dinner and watched a movie while we waited. After almost two hours, they were cooler and Chris thought we could try to go another couple miles. Now you have to understand that the rv was backfiring the whole time, there are a few mechanical problems that we haven’t identified yet that could all be very critical for this drive, we are driving a 1973 rv, there is a STEEP cliff on one side and only a few places to pull over. We were basically prepared to crash into the mountain if necessary; it was really scary. We buckled our seat belts, said a quick prayer, a kiss in case we didn’t make it, and slowly started heading down.
Obviously I am writing this right now so we are alive and well. I can’t remember the last time I was that scared though. If I had cell phone service I probably would have called home and woken up my family just to say I love them. We were very lucky. At this point there was one gas station and nothing else for miles. We filled up on gas and kept on driving.
For those of you that have never driven through no where, we have multiple times now. Literally a road, (this one have tons of dips in it) and the road has no pull offs, intersections, or any other cars on it. Chris tells me to look at a map because it is almost 11 at this point (it took hours to get only a few miles out of the park) and I say hmmm, the nearest rv park is over 100 miles away. The nearest town is 40 miles away. So we get to the town and see a sign that says population 164. 164?!?!?! If you have a baby or go away to college they actually can update the population. There was one gas station/grocery store/post office combination that was all closed. We bought some gas and decided to keep driving until we had cell phone service. We drive for another mile and by the looks of everything, we are back in the desert, surrounded by mountains. One bar of service, no service, extended network, roaming…..finally 2 bars of service!! We pull over right there and decide to just sleep on the side of the road for the night. We watch a little tv and then go to bed in the middle of no where.
We wake up in the morning around 9:30, burning up because it was so hot. Chris answers some calls and then we keep driving. Oh ya I think I forgot to say this but we are in Nevada now. If you want to know where, just pick a spot away from civilization and thats where we are. We finally came up on a town today and it was unlike anything we have ever seen before. It was almost like and old cowboy town (Chris said he expected to see a Wagon Wheel or something). We are sitting in the McDonald’s right now so I can finally blog some for all you avid readers and so Chris can answer Illstreet e-mails. Unfortunately about 4 bus loads full of smelly, loud, annoying high school kids filled this place for almost 45 minutes. Chris and I almost had to step outside to get some fresh air. From here was are going to get on route 50 and head in to Moab where we will hopefully be able to do some kayaking.
Look for updates to LA and San Diego soon. I am going to try to catch up on all of those as soon as I can and post more pictures. I really do apologize for not having time to write. We have the whole rest of our trip planned out (not because we are over achievers otr anything, we are basically following one of the routes in a cross country book Chris bought) and have only a week and a half of adventures left to go. From Moab we are going through Colorado, Kansas, and St. Louis (where we have to stop and try to find and apartment for me for law school.) We are about 11 hours still from where we need to be in Utah so we will probably be sleeping on the side of the road again tonight (although at this point we REALLY need showers, it’s been a couple days, and to do laundry; I just washed my face in the McDonald’s bathroom) We miss you all and can’t wait to get back out of the desert again.
(sorry this one was so long, 6 pages in Microsoft Word—I have to type in there so it corrects my horrible spelling for me)