Summer is all about seeking adventure, and what’s better than exploring our own backyard? There are several places in Santa Cruz to sight see (the most obvious being the beach), yet I always forget about the beautiful mountains we are surrounded by. I quickly made a list of hiking spots I wanted to visit. My first stops were Big Basin and Castle Rock (UH-MAZING views of Santa Cruz mountains). While there are more places on my list, there was one in particular I have dreamed of exploring and it’s a wee bit outside of Santa Cruz…Yosemite National Park.
To many surprise, I had never been to Yosemite. I know it’s a bucket list destination, so I thought this summer was the perfect time to go. I pitched the idea to a dear friend of mine and I was thrilled when she said she was on board! We set a date and I began counting down the days! The night before our trip, we made a quick stop to the grocery store to stock up on snacks and fresh produce for our sandwiches (my friend and I both have a sweet tooth, so of course I brought cookies!). We called it a night, knowing we were going to start our day early.
Early morning came and I was eager to get on the road. We put on our hiking gear, loaded up our backpacks and we were on our way! Once we reached Mariposa County, I knew we were getting closer. The drive down the valley was absolutely beautiful! We hadn’t even made it to the park entrance and I wanted to stop at every turn to take a picture. The sound of the water flowing down the Merced River was so soothing and tranquil. I couldn’t wait for everything else that was to come!
We made it to the park just before 8 AM and parked near Yosemite Falls. I was in awe of my surroundings – sky high rocks, the fresh smell of pine trees and the soft sound of distant waterfalls. We took a few moments to appreciate the beauty of the valley floor and Yosemite Falls.
We decided to hike to the top of Vernal Falls via the Mist Trail. The trail was no walk in the park (pun intended). While the views were breathtaking, it was definitely a workout! The last half mile is quite steep, with over 600 granite rock steps! At this part of the trail, you will learn first hand why it is called the Mist Trail. With temps in the mid 90’s, the drizzle of Vernal Falls felt cool and refreshing. We were enjoying the mist, so we paused for a quick power snack.
It was so rewarding making it to the top of the waterfall. Having close to no hiking experience, it was quite the accomplishment and I felt an instant sense of peace and relaxation. The panoramic views were like a painting – something you think you can only see in a museum and cannot touch, yet there we were admiring every piece of it with all our senses.
After our hike, we ate our lunch and decided to explore the valley floor which included peaceful meadows, distant views of Half Dome and lots of squirrels! We learned so much about this historic park by visiting the Yosemite Museum, Yosemite Village and the Ansel Adams Gallery (and of course made a pit stop to the gift shop!).
I cannot describe enough how beautiful Yosemite is, and how much MORE there is to explore! I am so eager to go again. If you have not been, I encourage you to go like right now! It is SO worth the drive and SO fulfilling for your soul. My suggestions: get there early, pack lots of snacks and water, take lots of pictures and remember this quote…
“The human spirit needs places where nature has not been re-arranged by the hand of the man” ~Anonymous