I will never again underestimate the immense value and brilliance of running water.
It’s been a crazy week. We spent about a day and a half in San Francisco before heading out on a three-day camping trip to Yosemite. No reception, no (proper) toilets, no actual beds – just thirty something people on a bus driving around the mountains getting steadily dirtier and smellier.
And it was awesome.
Day 4 // San Francisco, part one
We pulled up to our hostel from the night drive around 11am on Sunday. Exhausted from the hikes, on the verge of a cold, and desperate for a shower and a bed, we collapsed on our bunks as soon as we checked in. Around 5 or so (once we were rested and clean), we decided to take a walk around Chinatown which was just down the block from the hostel. Sipping boba tea and trying to find something to do that night, we ended up buying tickets to a comedy show at the Punchline. It was a showcase line up kinda deal which was pretty cool. Took some time to really pick up but we were laughing our heads off by the end of it. Totally recommend it. Although the drinks and food are a bit expensive for what they are / how much they give you so eat somewhere else beforehand! After the show, we walked back to the hostel to get a proper night’s sleep before a day of exploring.
Day 5 // San Francisco, part one (continued)
We woke up early and after a free breakfast at the hostel, headed out to the Embarcadero. We walked all the way to Pier 39 and explored the shops (my faves: Chocolate Heaven and Lefty’s!) We circled all the way around to see the sea lions which was really cool! Then we continued on to Fisherman’s Wharf and walked all the way to Coit Tower. It was a cloudy day so we decided not to go up in case the weather was better next weekend. Unfortunately, Zoe was now actually sick with a cold, and both of our bodies were crashing from the intensity of the past few days.
Dehydration is real, yo.
But we powered through and on our way down from Coit Tower the sun came out and gave us a burst of energy. We walked back to the Embarcadero and took the trolley to Castro Street. Or well, at least we tried. We got as far as Market Street and then they kicked everyone off and none of the other trolleys were taking people and it turned out there was some sort of strike and the trolley workers had called in sick and I have no idea really what was going on but anyway we ended up just taking an Uber the rest of the way. As if in tune with our moods, the day became overcast and drizzly as soon as we stepped out, and our energy was running low. We ducked inside a little retro hipster diner called Orphan Andy’s just in front of the trolley station. It was cozy and the sandwiches were humongous and great so we stayed there for a while to refuel and rest up.
When we were done eating, we walked to Haight Street aka hippie heaven and strolled in and out of weird funky shops before it started to drizzle again and we ducked into a bookstore. After aimlessly browsing, we stumbled upon the travel section in the very back and literally sat for an hour and a half staring at the books and talking about fantasy trips and future travels because it’s us and that is apparently what we do. Somehow, eventually, we managed to drag ourselves out and kept walking all the way down to Amoeba which is this awesome music and record store.
By the time we got back, it was late evening and we were exhausted. The bus to Yosemite was leaving that night so we had about three hours to kill back at the hostel while we waited. Still sad about saying goodbye to our new friends and tired from a day of exploring, we grabbed two massage chairs, plugged in our phones, and vowed to make no new friends.
That didn’t last very long. No sooner had we taken a seat in the quiet little atrium than this blonde Polish kid strolled right up to us, plopped himself down, and struck up a conversation. Neither Zoe or I were much enthused. After cockily poking fun at us for about an hour, he abruptly stood up and invited us to “a concert”. Which turned out to be the live music playing in the dining room next door… But by that time, somehow, against all odds, he had managed to completely charm us and another hour later of talking and messing around we were basically ready to declare him a lifelong friend.
But because life is unfair, Zoe and I were leaving in just a few minutes for an overnight drive to Yosemite and he was heading out to Vegas in the morning. We had another sad goodbye that by no means logically matched the level of friendship (two hours, TWO HOURS, and we were basically the three musketeers) but the whole situation reminded me of what I love most about traveling. Instant friendships and special connections.
Tomek, if you’re reading this — MASSACHUSETTS! Thanks for being so annoyingly confident and becoming our friend.
Anyway… The rest of the night just consisted of getting on the bus and getting ready for a night drive. Nothing like the one before which had just been us two and a few other people. There were about thirty something people going on this trip and the bus was crowded and hot. Depressed about continually saying goodbye to people, we fell asleep as soon as we slipped into our sleeping bags vowing yet again to make no new friends.
You can imagine how long that lasted…
Day 6 // Yosemite, part one
We woke up at the crack of dawn, pulled over at a tiny campsite for a quick breakfast. Then we headed into Yosemite National Park for a day of hiking. Zoe was in the worst part of her cold but kudos to her, we still managed to hike all the way to the Upper Yosemite Falls lookout. We didn’t climb all the way to the top (low energy and also not enough time) but the views of the waterfall and the park were absolutely incredible. We left around 4pm for a two hour drive to our campsite in the Inyo National Forest. They don’t let people actually camp out in Yosemite but since the following day we were going to be in that area anyway, it worked out well. We cooked a delicious taco dinner as soon as we got there, and spent the rest of the night around the campfire. Zoe was still pretty sick and knocked out right after dinner (on the bus this time cause it was too cold to sleep under the stars) but I fought off sleep for a little while and once again taught everyone Pterodactyl and Cheers Governor and as the only American around the fire, introduced everyone to the wonder of s’mores.
I still didn’t know anyone all too well but until that night, I hadn’t realized just how international this group was. New Zealand, UK, Australia, Korea, Argentina, Italy, France, Israel, Germany, Holland (oh my!) Different languages, mixed languages, people talking and laughing, the random English word among a foreign expression. It was fantastic. Finally I joined Zoe on our bus bunk around 10pm and quickly fell asleep.
Day 7 // Yosemite, part two
Another early wake-up call and quick breakfast and we were off. This day was much more chill, no hiking, just total relaxation. Our first stop was Mono Lake which was insanely cool. The water is so salty that you can actually just float standing up or on your back. It was hot out but the water was straight up freezing. I almost didn’t go in but I had to try the floating at least once. I slowly immersed myself, one quick dip backwards. The water felt so weird! Like a bit slimy but then as soon as I stepped out my skin was white with dried salt. After another hour or so, we headed to June Lake Beach for the rest of the afternoon. A beautiful lake with snow-covered mountains in the background. It felt unreal. The water was freezing as well but there was a rock not far from the shore so Zoe and I gritted our teeth and ran right in as fast as we could, quick immersion. I made it to the rock and climbed on top and sat there soaking up the sun and admiring the view and yeah procrastinating on the cold swim back to shore. We spent the rest of the afternoon laying out in the sun.
The best part of the day though? Coin. Operated. Showers.
Up at the visitor’s center, we had a luxurious four quarter five minute shower and I finally felt human again. God I love running water.
After everyone was squeaky clean, we headed back to camp, made dinner, and spent the rest of the night by the fire. No games this time, just friendly conversation and music and jokes and relaxing. It was less chilly that night, no wind, and I went to sleep (still back on the bus) around midnight.
Day 8 // Yosemite, part three
Last morning waking up amongst the pine trees of Inyo. After breakfast, we packed everything up into the bus and headed to Tuolumne Meadows for a day of hiking and swimming. Zoe and I opted for the hike up to Lembert Dome, probably one of the coolest hikes ever. At the top you’re basically just scaling the side of the mountain and all around us these huge mountain peaks with snow (IN JUNE!) There was even some snow on the ground on the hike up! It was warm and we were pretty high up so the air was harder to breathe and the sun was really strong. But wow… When we got to the top, it was unbelievable. We stayed up there for a bit, taking pictures and enjoying the view before heading back down to the bus. Our next stop was a quick trail to see the sequoia trees. It was insane! Those things are huge. We walked the entire loop down and even climbed on a huge fallen one before heading back to the bus.
It was late in the evening by the time we arrived to our final stop of the night, a little park in Groveland, California. We made a quick tasty pasta dinner and got the bus ready for our night drive back to San Francisco. Once everything was packed and loaded and clean, we walked a block down to Iron Door Saloon, the oldest one in California, featuring cheap alcohol and free karaoke. It was an awesome night. Zoe and I sang Call Me Maybe and then I did Dancing Queen and everyone was dancing and singing and drinking and we all stumbled out around 1am back to the bus. Once we triple checked we weren’t leaving anyone behind, we were off and I was asleep.
I’m writing this now in the early morning of day 9 from the San Francisco Green Tortoise hostel. We are exhausted and desperately need a shower and a bed but we are back in the land of running water and flushable toilets and I couldn’t be happier. We have to wait a bit until we can check in so we had some of the free breakfast and are fully planning on sleeping all day as soon as we get our rooms.
Up next, a weekend in San Francisco before our final three days camping down the Pacific Coast Highway back to LA. Until next time!