Big Parks, Big Trees, Big Donuts

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The remainder of our California trip. Traveled from Bishop to Death Valley NP, Yosemite NP,

Hey guys! Thanks for being super patient with us about this blog post. I know we have some dedicated followers and we don’t mean to disappoint. We’ve had the best few days/weeks (I can’t even keep track anymore) and have been playing outside almost every day. From meeting up with friends and family, to climbing in one of the most beautiful places, it’s been our favorite part of the trip so far. I really don’t want to leave!

Anyway, we left you all off in Bishop, CA which seems like an eternity away. We traveled to Death Valley National Park (which is more popular than you’d think) and were dreading the time we were about to spend back in the desert. On the plus side, we were meeting up with a friend of Hunter’s from college. We were able to settle in to a sweet spot with shade, but remained below sea level at -190 ft. Chloe arrived and immediately we were all talking about their time together at UVM and what we’ve all been doing with our lives. Even though California is in a drought, we heard about California’s bad water habits. They wash their cars EVERY DAY, which might be part of their problem. We also couldn’t escape the fact that everyone here drives like maniacs, and we were once again greeted without smiles and with short sentences…ahhh, to be on the coast again.

We learned too that Chloe isn’t a fan of the desert, but the next day we were able to tour the park with a pool in mind and a beautiful sunset at the Mesquite sand dunes. We stood at the lowest point in the contiguous US (282 ft below sea level), hiked in the shade, and played like children on dunes that were as soft as snow. Chloe is living out of her Toyota Tacoma, and has us thinking of what we can do with a van/truck/bus. Hunter and I were each able to geek out with Chloe over our favorite activities: me with birding, and him with plants. For being the desert, it was pretty cool (see what I did there?)

There were a lot of awesome parts about this post that I don’t want to miss you out on, so here are the pictures from Death Valley! (more text below)

After a short hike (though no hike is ever short with birders) we departed Death Valley in high spirits, and surprisingly, still alive. Although it was sad to leave Chloe, I think we were all ready to escape the relentlessly barren desert – even Chloe cut her trip short and split for San Bernardino. We began driving the only road leaving the park to the West, which took us tauntingly close to Bishop, and battled through screaming winds and sand covered roads to escape the lowland. The transition from one valley to another took all day, but Sarah and I were both breathing easier as we descended into the lush, imposing, magnificent Yosemite Valley.

We didn’t know what we were in for. First, we ran into some issues with our campsite (it was a walk in when we tried to specify we needed a drive-in). The next day, we tried to snag a first-come first-serve site, but we were then notified the park just started accepting reservations. We got on the waiting list and crossed our fingers, feeling hopeless as she wrote our names for #26. We made our way toward the valley, but it was covered in moving parts. Ignorance was in the air, and we couldn’t breathe. After gathering our thoughts and trying to come up with a game plan (we had to be back at the ranger station for 3pm to try and get a campsite and it was already 11) we soon learned it was free admission week for all of the National Parks. And we were there on a Saturday. Yikes. Parking was impossible, the shuttle buses were packed tighter than sardine cans, and I just wanted to be on the highest point where these screaming people couldn’t waddle their way up in their denim jeans and (for some odd, ridiculous reason) knee high boots. Seriously, people.

Our stay was too short, and the magnitude of the park left us feeling as though we’d barely scraped the surface of possible adventure here. Our talk circled around backpacking and learning to trad climb, and we intend to be well prepared for a return trip. Amidst the hubbub and bustle of free admission week, we found another slice of home on the West Coast – hanging with Jean and Rob! Our first chance to entertain out of scamper, we cracked beers, ate a big meal, and enjoyed the sun set as the masses filed out of the valley. Inspired by the RV next door, we posted up in the parking lot for the night, careful to be as incognito as possible in a teardrop (two free nights in Yosemite? Yes please!). Our time crunch had us moving early in the morning, and after a short trip to the Yosemite visitor center, we gawked at the massive granite walls all the way out of the Valley.

The next part of this trip was something I had been scheming and plotting from the beginning, and stems from an obscure infatuation I have with the music of Aesop Rock – So, ‘let me put you up on Bob’s Donuts’. A tiny hole-in-the-wall San Francisco bakery, Bob’s Donuts is filled with the most delicious confections I have ever consumed – sorry Allie’s. The donuts are incredible, as are the apple fritters, and the dude working the front took the time to recommend his favorite spots in San-Fran to a couple of first timers. We collectively avoid cities, yet drove in exclusively for these donuts, and I would do it over and over again. Seriously, I can’t sing Bob’s accolades loudly enough, but turning Fryerstarter by Aesop up all the way might come close.

Leaving San Francisco, we got our first exposure to how expensive northern California is. After balking at the prices for a local KOA, we searched for nearby hotels, which of course, sent us scampering back to the campgrounds. Regardless, all we needed was a place to crash for the night, and Petaluma was a reasonable in-between stop for our jaunt up the coast.

The next morning we cruised north along the Pacific, ending at Clam Beach campground – a cheap place just south of our next stop, and close to some beach-side cliffs and boulders! Though it was a little too late to get any good climbing in, I have a feeling we’ll make it back to moonstone.

(so much more text below)

Also, California, what’s up with your insanely high gas prices and camp fees? $45 for a campsite? Are you bringing me breakfast in the morning, too? P.S. Don’t even try to tell us it’s because you’re on the coast because Oregon was immediately like $0.40 cheaper per gallon AND it’s full serve. So. Go Oregon!! (post coming soon)

Moving on. Ever since reading The Wild Trees, I’ve been dreaming of the Redwood trees that live in the Northwest Pacific. These tall, fire-proof bark, water-dwelling trees hold more ecosystems within it than I could’ve even imagined. Salamanders that somehow survive off the water droplets and tiny organisms. Lichen, moss, and so many bird species live in this community. It was only a mile and a half to hike in, but it took us 45 minutes because we were staring at every plant and bird–and without ANY crowds!! Yay!

We obtained a permit in this foggy place and gained access to a dirt road that led us down 6 miles to the Tall Trees Trail. We stopped to gaze at flowers, fallen trees, birds, and unknown tracks. We passed few people while on the trail. Admiring the silence and talking as little as possible, we each have our own way of soaking up the environment around us…you can imagine why obnoxious people bugs us.

The tall tree grove was a mile loop that led people where some of the tallest trees are known. Although there are others that are thought to be bigger (they were explored by scientists and others and the location remains unknown) these sufficed for us. We had to lay down to really be able to see to the top without hurting our necks. It was peaceful and a much needed backpacking trip in set for the future. Later in the afternoon we took a walk on the beach and finally saw the pacific.

Before we wrap this up, we want to give a huge thanks to a few people who have helped us along the way. Even though we’re on the west coast, we still feel the love from the east and feel like we’re at home. Lexi, Kim, Laura & Mike, and Chloe have all come through in their own ways to help us. We are so grateful we have you guys to feed us and help us even when we don’t have to ask. Thank you all!!

Though we’re in Washington now, these posts take so much for us to write, we were only able to fit this one in for today. Coming up next is Oregon and Washington, probably my 2 favorite states we’ve been in 🙂 Enjoy these pictures for now!


2 thoughts on “Big Parks, Big Trees, Big Donuts

  1. Yes, you should definitely learn to trad climb and go back to Yosemite! As always, your photos and commentary are a welcome distraction from work.


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