After the man made mania of Vegas it was time to rejuvenate and retreat to nature.
The drive itself was long and pretty unmemorable except from a wonderfully weird stop off at Peggy Sue’s: a traditional 1950’s diner, gift shop, ice cream parlour, pizzeria and dinosaur park.
Travelling up unknown winding mountain roads in the dark is never the best idea so we were all relieved to eventually arrive at Narrow Gauge, a quaint little Inn perfectly located moments away from the Sugar Pine Rail Road and only a few miles from the entrance to the national park. The receptionist gave us a warm welcome and reassured us that though bears could smell for over a mile they were friendly and would not eat anyone.
After a boring 8 hour drive the last thing any of us wanted to do was to get back in the car but the Inn’s restaurant was closed and now armed with the knowledge that if I ate someone I couldn’t blame the bears we thought it was best to take the receptionists advice and head to the nearest hotel. I assumed that we would end up eating at some sort of Travel Lodge but instead we were pleasantly surprised to arrive at Tenaya; a luxurious alpine style lodge with roaring open fires, stone walls, mounted animal heads, and the biggest Christmas tree I had ever seen.
Sitting by the window, eating amazing hearty pub food, watching people toasting marshmallows over an open fire pit with a glass of red: I was in a winter wonderland.
Waking up early in our tiny woodland getaway was so incredibly quiet compared to the rumbling of Harley Davidsons that I had become accustomed to in Vegas.
After stuffing our faces on freshly prepared waffles at the Narrow Gauges plentiful complimentary breakfast we were sufficiently fueled for a morning of exploration at Yosemite National Park.
Our first stop was Mariposa Grove to see the giant sequoias, the vastness of the trees made me feel like a hobbit on an adventure, as demonstrated in this photo:
Even though we re-confirmed with a ranger that the bears would be hibernating, me wandering around the park with pockets packed with home made muffins swiped from the hotel caused bear paranoia to kick in again. Whoops!
Despite causing panic, our surrounding were so tranquil that even a city chick like me was briefly converted into a happy tree hugger.
The winding mountain roads down to Yosemite Valley were stunning but the american style of bumper to bumper driving did not mix well with the huge drops and narrow passages.
Unfortunately the infamous mirror lake was dry, however the meadows, streams and waterfalls running down the unusual rock formations were plenty to behold.
As we crept back up the valley towards the exit we took every opportunity to stop and photograph the seemingly never ending enchanting views.
Though once again we had not left ourselves enough time and only managed a whistle-stop tour this was a magical way to spend the morning.
Next up was a trip on the Sugar Pine Rail Road but as we sped into the entrance we watched the steam train chug by without us.
We were all very disheartened but luckily a lovely train driver came to our rescue and said he would take us on a train car up to meet the powerful locomotive.
Speeding through the forest in our tiny cart was super fun and with only us and a small family onboard I felt like we were getting a VIP tour of logging history.
After a short journey and a wander in the forest we hopped on the giant steamer and continued our journey at a much slower pace.
The scenery was stunning and Ayesha making friends with the obligatory train buff (who was dressed head to toe in locomotive merchandise) was fun, however I think that the slow pace accompanied with my short attention span would have become tiresome therefore I was glad that we had the opportunity to ride on both the speedy small car and laborious locomotive.
Even though it was only for one night, staying at Yosemite was one of the highlight of my trip. On the website it states that America’s first national park is, ‘not just a great valley, but a shrine to human foresight’. I am hugely thankful that so many people including John Muir lobbied to protect this natural beauty, next time I am definitely coming armed with camping gear and a little more time.