Upper Yosemite Falls to Yosemite Point

Being away from family is hard around the holidays, but there are ways to enjoy the day even when thousands of miles from your closest loved ones. Hiking, is the activity that I chose to take up my Thanksgiving this year – who would’ve thought?! 😉

Tunnel view at dawn

Since I am going back east for Christmas, it wasn’t feasible for me to get home for Thanksgiving too, so I hung around here and planned out a big hike: Yosemite Point via the Upper Yosemite Falls trail. This trail is about 4.2 miles up (and I mean up) with an overall gain of over 4,000 feet. It did not disappoint and to date, is one of the toughest but most rewarding hikes I’ve done.

I can’t stress this tip enough: start early. The climb is no joke, there are endless rocky switchbacks that are super steep. I got to the trailhead around 7:45am and started my trek.

Immediately, the uphill climb started. Before long you reach Columbia Rock (about a mile in) and are rewarded with some views of the valley.

The early morning was casting some weird shadows over the valley but it was still beautiful. I didn’t stop long, as I knew I had a long uphill climb ahead of me and I only know one speed when hiking! I kept climbing upwards and eventually was treated with a short downhill portion. It was a pleasant treat but I knew the worst was yet to come. Soon I rounded a corner and was treated to a view of the falls!

The views were already unbeatable and I couldn’t wait to get up to the top! This is where the rocky, exposed switchbacks started and they were tough. It was only in the 9:00 hour and it was already hot! I stopped for a brief period a few times but continued trekking up.

I got excited when I started to see more greenery, because I knew I was almost there! Next thing I knew everything was leveling out and the path was leading me to the edge.

Made it! It was a loooong way down. I went down to the waterfall’s edge where you follow some steep steps with handrails before turning back and jumping back on the trail up towards Yosemite  Point. I was treated to this view of the water leading down in to the falls which was beautiful.

It’s about .8 of a mile to get up to Yosemite Point, but if you have the energy/time/daylight to do it, it’s a must. My legs were shaking by the time I got up there but you guys…

You’re rewarded with the most incredible view of the park and of Half Dome with the Sierras all across the skyline. It was unreal. I stayed up there for a snack and to take lots of pictures and then turned around and returned the way that I came. Those switchbacks were plain hard going up, but coming back down was scary! It’s two days later right now and my muscles are SO sore, but it was worth it.

With the sun up a little higher in the sky on the way down, it was hot! I couldn’t believe how many people were on their way up at the 11 o’clock hour. Do yourself a favor and don’t put yourself through that, start early! I had 3L of water with me and went through 2L easy, and cracked open my 1L bottle on my way down.

On the way down, you’re treated with even better views of the falls at this time because of where the sun was hitting them…

Beautiful!

I went quick on the way back down, to the dismay of my knees and quads, but I really only know one speed and I get anxious to finish the hike on the way back down, haha! Once I hit Columbia Rock, the crowds started up and I had to pass a lot of people. Luckily most were kind and would hear me coming and pull off to the side – trail courtesy at its finest. I was surprised to see how crowded it was, given that it was Thanksgiving Day, but it also made me happy to see so many people enjoying the beautiful park together on a day that’s all about being thankful.

Overall, it was one of the best hikes I’ve ever done. From my car back to my car I covered 9.38 miles in a little over 4 hours with a 4,000+ foot climb.

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Pinnacles NP

This weekend I ventured out to my 13th National Park: Pinnacles!

This is one of the newest National Parks in the country: it was only named a National Park about 5 years ago, formerly a National Monument. It’s on the smaller side with only about 30 miles of trails to explore, but none the less, still beautiful! I headed to the East entrance and made my way to the Bear Gulch Day Area to begin my hike on the High Peaks Trail.

I opted to take the detour to add in the Bear Gulch Caves and Reservoir. The caves were a cool addition to this hike since most of my hiking has been high up in mountains – you do need a flashlight if you go in to the caves, so I made sure to grab one at the visitor center before heading out to the trail.

There were a lot of steps and a lot of narrow spaces – I had to squat down and crab walk a few times to get through some of the spaces!

Obviously it’s hard to see cause it was dark, but you can see the stairs on the left side that I climbed up.

Before long I continued up and made it to the reservoir.

I didn’t linger too long because I knew I had a lot more to see. I followed the Rim Trail from the reservoir upwards until it linked up with the High Peaks trail. Before long I was getting epic views of the rotund shaped mountains that give the Pinnacles their namesake.

I continued to climb up and eventually hit some sandy switchbacks which was brutal and exposed. It was hot! The temperature was only around in the mid-60s I believe but the sun was strong and high.

I saw this cool rock tunnel, and failed at a selfie-timer attempt before other hikers came up behind me…

Before long I made it to (what I thought was) the top. There were awesome views of the surrounding mountains and you can even see the San Andreas fault from some of the view points!

I continued on along the High Peaks trail where I saw a “warning” sign of steep and narrow trails ahead – oof, I thought I had finished with the climbing. There was a good portion of the next part of the trail that had railings to allow you stability while climbing large steps…

And some railings that were just providing you safety from dropping hundreds of feet down. The views didn’t stop along the way…

Eventually I made my way back around to some intersections where I followed signs to return to the Bear Gulch Day area. By the time I made it back to the car, I had gone about 6 miles and climbed about 1,300 feet in elevation – not a bad day at the park!

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Vernal and Nevada Falls

Two weeks ago, I ventured back out to Yosemite to tackle the Mist Trail to the top of Nevada Falls! I really have been trying to get out to Yosemite before the snow hits and the roads and trails start closing. This one did not disappoint and was a great climb.

The trail was pretty easy to find and we got there early which was a great decision – it was pretty crowded when we were coming back down. We were anticipating a steady climb and right from the get go, we were climbing! We went up through some beautiful canyons up a steady hill until it leveled off a bit where there were restrooms and a water station. Then after a short walk we hit the stairs that led us to Vernal Falls!

Those stairs were no joke…

But soon enough we made it to the look out for Vernal Falls…

Being late October, the falls were very low, but still beautiful! This trail is called the Mist Trail because when the falls are at their peak, the stairs and trail get soaked with the mist from the falls, I could only imagine how treacherous those stairs would be while wet… they were hard enough bone dry.

Before long we were at the top of Vernal Falls…

We enjoyed the views of where we just came from (see that trail to the left, that’s the route we took up!), and eventually continued on towards Nevada Falls.

We had some great views of surrounding rock formations as we made the steady climb up and we eventually saw Nevada Falls ahead. We pulled off the trail to get a good view of the falls straight on…

Then we made it back to the trail to climb, climb, climb up the last steep portion of rocky steps…

Until finally we made it the top!

We hung out, ate some lunch and snapped pictures at the top, taking it all in after the 1,200 foot climb.

We had hopes of heading back down following the Jon Muir trail so we could get some different views of the canyon and valley, but a portion of the trail was closed due to damage. That meant we unfortunately had to head back down the steep steps which my knees were not happy with, but going down was a lot quicker than coming up.

Overall it was a beautiful day for hiking this trail! I’m looking forward to getting to see more of Yosemite before the winter strikes, and hopefully I can find a way to get up there to explore when the snow hits.

One Week, Three National Parks

You didn’t think I could actually move within 45 minutes of the gates to Yosemite and wait more than 24 hours to check it out, did you? Because I couldn’t.

I flew back in to Portland Wednesday night, got a few hours of sleep and headed south! I got to Fresno after a little trek down the Oregon coast…

Until I eventually hit California and Redwood National Park! I didn’t get a chance to do a ton of exploring, but it was still cool to drive through the scenic highways surrounded by the giant trees!

I got to my “home” for the next three months on Friday, and Saturday morning I was up and driving up 41 in to Yosemite! I did a little research on some shorter hikes with killer views, since I was pretty out of hiking-shape and didn’t want to commit to a long day. I ended up driving to Tunnel View – not realizing that I passed the hikes I planned on going to, on my way there. Regardless, it was a cool view, albeit, WAY overcrowded.

I retraced my way in to the park and headed back towards the road to Glacier Point. I realized later in the day that it was a “holiday” weekend (Columbus Day), so now I see why it was so insanely crowded. I hate crowds. Especially when I just want to hike and embrace nature and you’re stuck behind a family of 6 with small children screaming.. *eye roll*.

I did the Sentinel Dome hike, which was short but worth it! Great views of El Capitan…

And Half Dome…

Once that was finished, I kept going down the road and reached the parking lot for Glacier Point. If you’re planning on going here, I highly recommend going EARLY. I waited 30 minutes just to get in to the parking lot and got so annoyed that I just ended up driving around everyone. I ended up finding a spot on the side of the road on my way out, which was lucky but I snagged it. I made my way over to Glacier Point…

It was a solid introductory day to Yosemite!

This past weekend I got to go check out Sequoia! I stopped at General Sherman… The largest known tree, by volume, in the world.

I ventured around the Congress Trail where I saw the President…

& the Senate…

After about three miles I made it back to my car. My next stop… Moro Rock!

This was a short, super steep hike, up a bunch of stairs…

That led to a panoramic view of the High Sierras and the valley!

My last stop for the day was around the corner at Crescent Meadow! I ended up reading my directions wrong and walked about 2 miles more than I was supposed to, but it was all beautiful so no complaints! Eagle View, a section of the High Sierra trail, was my plan…

So in my first week at my new assignment, I’ve successfully checked 3 National Parks off the list!

Next up: King’s Canyon 🙂

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Picking the Next Adventure

When people asked where my next stop was and I excitedly told them: “Fresno, CA!”, I got a mix of responses. Anything from “Where’s that?”, to “Oh, that’s a sketchy town”, to “What’s in Fresno?.”

Before I pick a contract, I definitely like to do my research. Besides looking up the facility that I would be working in, I like to focus my search on a few key areas:

  • Safety of the area – what’s the crime rate in the area? Are there neighborhoods that are safer than others? Can I go for a run without having to watch my back/avoid certain areas?
  • Walk score – this is something I didn’t know existed until I started travel and was looking up apartments often. A Walk Score for a certain area basically will tell you how walkable this area is; do you need a car to do most of your errands or can you walk to a local store/bar/restaurant? Along with the Walk score is often a transit score, a bike score, and going along with the safety, a crime grade.
  • Run-ability – This is one that is important to me because I am an avid runner. I don’t want to be restricted to a treadmill or the same old loop in a park. Running is one of my favorite ways of exploring a new area, so I want to know what types of trails are available to me. This isn’t a must-have, but it is something I look in to.
  • Rent prices – this is an obvious one. I need to know what I’m going to be making and how it relates to the cost of living in that area. Can I afford to get my own place (which I prefer 99% of the time), or do I have to maybe consider a roommate? What are the pros and cons of each option? Also along with rent, looking up where my facility is in relation to my apartment. Do I pay more to be closer to my facility? Or can I get away with being a little further away to pay less? Are there even short term, furnished places available in this area?
  • Activities in the area! This one was probably my biggest sway with this Fresno assignment, as explained below. But I want to know what I’ll be able to enjoy on the weekends at an assignment. Am I going to be in the middle of no where with nothing to explore? Are there national parks nearby? Do I know anyone nearby? Does it seem like I can make friends easily?

So why Fresno?

This. Yosemite National Park is about an hour from where I will be living. Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks aren’t too much further. Proximity to National Parks was a huge pull to accept this assignment when I was faced with the choice of two different opportunities. Don’t worry, I’ve already calculated that Pinnacles NP is 2.5 hours, Channel Islands NP is 3.5 hours, and Joshua Tree, Lassens Volcanic and Death Valley NPs are each 5.5 hours away. 

Fresno is slightly under 3 hours to San Francisco and a little over 3 hours to LA. I have a friend from college who lives in San Francisco, and I have a friend in LA until December while she finishes up her final PA school clinical – it will be great to be able to meet up with both of them while I’m out there!

Cost of living in Fresno is pretty low compared to the coastal town that I turned down the offer for. I debated going for my own place and paying more money – but ultimately I decided that I could save a ton of money (aka put all of that towards loans), if I found a room to stay in. So I hit Facebook groups and similar websites to search for affordable living situations. I came across a woman offering a room and private bath for well under my expectations and gladly accepted her offer.

Another reason I chose Fresno was for the facility that I will be working in. This assignment will challenge me in ways that I haven’t been challenged yet in my 2 years as a PT. It’s a new-to-me setting, but something that I’ve wanted to get in to since school. When the facility was willing to train me and take me in, knowing that my experience was minimal in this setting, I knew I had to jump on the chance and take this next 3 months as a learning experience. Like I always say – you can do anything for three months. 

As for making friends, I’m hoping things fall together just as easily as they did in Oregon. But who knows. I’ve looked in to different gyms and have searched for co-ed soccer leagues, since that’s something from Philly that I miss so much. I actually just bought a Groupon for spin classes at a facility close to work – I figure that might be a good way to meet some people my age. I always have the Facebook groups to reach out to, and maybe my facility will have some people around my age that like to explore and will be my hiking buddy.

So today, I say goodbye-for-now to my family and the East Coast, board the plane back to Oregon, grab my car and all of my belongings, and start my trek down the coast to the Sunshine State. I’ve already planned a few stops along the way and I can’t wait for this next adventure!

One Contract Down…

And just like that, my first travel contract has ended and I am now enjoying a little break on the East Coast before diving in to contract number two. So let’s chat.

I didn’t know what I was getting myself in to.. starting something so brand new and foreign to me was terrifying. It was something that I knew needed to happen – I was just in a place in my life where I felt stuck; I was in a rut and needed a change. But all of that didn’t make it less terrifying. Picking up and leaving behind everything that you know: your routine, your best friends, your family, your work, your comfort… That was the hardest thing. Leaving everything behind. But I knew that if I didn’t do it, I would always wonder, what am I missing out on?

So I told my self: Self. It’s only three months. You can do anything for three months. If you hate it, home will always be there. So I went. And I am so happy that I did.

Fortunately, I was blessed with a great first contract. My coworkers were great, I got an actual orientation (that I actually asked if I could get less and get on the floors), the nurses were more than welcoming and became great friends, and I really just enjoyed my time there. The hospital was smaller which made for easier orientation, given that I was used to hospitals twice it’s size. It definitely had it’s challenges, as any new job does. Figuring out each doctor’s protocols and what papers each post-op patient needs and how to decipher the orders in the computer system and getting to know the nurses so that they know me and know when to ask for me. All of that became easier over time but it took some adjusting – and even my last week I was learning things that I didn’t know I was supposed to be doing the entire time…. whoops.

Having a good place to work definitely made my adjustment to the travel life a bit easier. Another thing that helped was making two great friends from the start of my contract.

These two made the last three months so much better. I was terrified of not making friends and not finding anyone that I wanted to hang out with, and was so blessed to find these two via social media.

Whether we were exploring somewhere with just two of us, or all three of us were able to get together, we were always having a great time.

Making this move across country was one of the best things I’ve ever done. It’s been hard – it’s never easy to see your friends thousands of miles away doing things together or only seeing your brand new nephew via social media cause you haven’t had the chance to meet him yet. But, mentally, I’m in a really good place right now. I’m learning more about myself than I ever knew. I’m putting myself in uncomfortable situations and surviving. I’m exploring new-to-me places and getting to experience adventure that I never would have been able to experience. I’m making life-long friends in places I never thought I would ever be.

I’m living my best life, the best way I know how – exploring, adventuring, taking risks, letting loose.

Never stop exploring.

So my adventure continues now… After spending some time here on the East coast, visiting friends and family, I’ll be flying back to Oregon, grabbing my car that’s packed with my entire life – and driving down the coast to my next adventure: Fresno, California.

North Cascades Adventure

A few weekends before my contract was up, a few of my fellow travel friends and I hit the road headed way north to escape the horrible valley smoke we were all inhaling for a week. The wild fires have been so horrible this year in Oregon – worse than other years, I’m told – and it’s literally been like you’re walking around inside of a campfire whenever you’re outside. We were happy to get away a bit, even though it meant a good bit of driving.

Devon picked me up on her way North from Roseburg, then we hit Albany and joined up with Kristen – then we were off to Everett, Washington! Devon has some travel friends living there and they gratefully offered up their couch/floor space to us so that we could go explore North Cascades National Park!

The night started out smoothly… Until Kristen’s car decided to pop a tire, on I-5, in the middle of Washington, still 100+ miles from Everett. Ugh. We called AAA, they said it would take them over an hour, we said okay… We hung up then said, let’s just change it ourselves! We “phoned-a-friend” and he walked us through it and within 20 mins, we had a new tire on there! Now I can say I know how to change a flat tire, life lessons. We hit the road and finally got up to Everett a little after midnight – we immediately went to sleep. Upon waking up, we first had to get Kristen a new tire. We stopped at a diner while she sorted that out then joined us while we waited for the car. Eventually we were on our way to North Cascades!

Our original plan was for a pretty intense (what we thought was 8 miles but found out at the visitors center, it was not) 10 mile hike with a 5000′ gain. But with the late start – we didn’t get in to the park until noon – the weather, it was raining and super windy, and recommendations from the rangers at the visitors center, we opted to skip that hike and think about doing a shorter one.

Our first stop though: Diablo Lake!

The hike we were planning on would have taken us to one of the peaks above Diablo, giving you an incredible view of the surrounding mountains and of course, the stunning blue of Diablo Lake. The lookout was just as stunning, rain and wind and all.

As we drove through the park, we passed trailheads and read up on them as we passed them, initially planning on going for a 7 miler. We ended up stopping at Washington Pass Lookout and, you guys…

Unreal.

Epic views.

We ended up scratching the 7 miler at this point and ended up going for the 4 mile hike to Blue Lake. I like that our day went from YEAH 8 mile hike! to NO 10 mile hike. to 7 mile hike! to Yeah lets just do 4. It was the perfect day though just exploring. That’s the thing about national parks – you really can just drive through them and experience so much.

Blue Lake trail was easy to moderate – there were some up and downs but it levels off around the middle in a meadow.

And before you know it you’re there!

I went around and explored different view points while my friends went the other way, my direction was a dead end with less views so I went to meet up with them on the other side. We found the perfect spot to relax and drink a beer.

It started to rain a bit harder so we packed up our stuff and hit the road back to Everett. Our night consisted of drinking beers, ordering in Chinese food and playing card games – basically laughing and just enjoying each others company. It was a great weekend away!