Fresh from our first few days in the camper came the main event on our road trip – Yosemite National Park.
But to get from the coastline to the wilderness required nearly 5 hours of driving, through the dry Californian countryside.
We arrived at dusk, without anywhere to camp for the night, as we hadn’t had the 6 month foresight to book a pitch in Yosemite itself.
So, James was keen to find a spot just outside in the National Forest, but the guidebooks and Yosemite website had repeated warnings… about HUNGRY BEARS!
Blasé as ever, the threat of brown bears stealing our food in the night and ripping our camper open like a tin can hadn’t crossed his mind. Chris wasn’t so keen. We had no bear proof containers and no idea where was and wasn’t safe.
So, after one of our biggest arguments of the trip, James reneged and parked up in Mariposa, around an hour from the park.
And as it happened, our Soarin’ Eagle attracted another spray painted camper van, and we had a lovely night with a couple of Dutch travellers.
James would like it noted that Yosemite Park Rangers told us the next day that bears weren’t a threat in the National Forest!
Nothing quite prepared us for the sheer beauty of Yosemite or, sadly, the thousands of other people who wanted to enjoy it too.
Many of the most famous sites are concentrated around a thin strip of valley floor largely developed with roads, camp grounds and lodges, connected by a shuttle bus.
So the illusion of wilderness was shattered slightly. Nevertheless, the first sight of Yosemite Falls gushing over a sheer granite rock face was incredible. We trekked for three hours to get a closer look.
Knackered after the trip to the majestic falls, and rewarding ourselves with a few bourbon and cokes for lunch, we were too tired to do any more climbing on our first day so instead went for an explore on the valley floor.
We ambled around, through babbling brooks and redwood enclaves like a pair of Boy Scouts, before calling it a day and heading back to the van once the whiskey had worn off!
Again for our second night, as we hadn’t booked far enough in advance (shock horror), we had to drive out of the National Park and find another lay-by.
Now the threat of bear attack had been very much extinguished (and Chris had to eat a slice of humble pie), we found a spot about 20 minutes away and bunkered down ready for an early start.
You need at least two days to do Yosemite any kind of justice, so next morning we were up with the larks to see Mirror Lake and Vernal Falls.
We were back in the park by 7am, got out of the van, but then a bleary eyed Chris froze. Right before him was a big fluffy black creature, sniffing around a bin, right by a sign warning of bears.
For a split second he was convinced he and James we goners. What he didn’t notice was the lead, and behind a tree sat a human. Or the big black fluffy dog’s owner!
He really was labouring the point about the bear thing! Anyway, Mirror lake was no where near as impressive as it sounds, and looked more like a swampy bog.
But Vernal Falls did live up to the hype as the one trek not to miss in Yosemite, and were more impressive than the eponymous Yosemite Falls. We also got soaked in the process!
We also had a run in with a rather bolshy squirrel, who took a liking to Chris’ GoPro – so much so it made a lunge for it. Fortunately no fingers were bitten, with multiple warning signs around Yosemite that these furry forest dwellers carry the plague!
Having spent all of our time on the valley floor, we’d been told the best views are to be had by looking down on it.
So our last stop in Yosemite was to drive up to Glacier Point, famous for simply one of the best views either of us has ever seen. It barely looked real.
And what a way it was to end our two days stomping around this most incredible of landscapes, in the 30 degree heat. Next we had the 200 mile trip back to the coast, first through winding forest roads and then a pretty much straight Highway back towards the Pacific.
Again, with no confirmed sleeping spot, another argument broke out before we settled on perhaps the least secure overnight spot of the trip, in a lay-by just outside Morro Bay. Sometimes a bit of planning doesn’t hurt!
It was slightly sketchy, and we both slept with one eye open, yet again in fear we might have chosen a notorious dogging hotspot!