After indulging in Las Vegas and having a few nights to recover from our hike at Zion it was time to leave Sin City behind and get back to nature by visiting two more of America’s National Parks.
First up was Death Valley, somewhere that I had been desperate to go to since our last road trip two years before; unfortunately we had once again run out of time and could only drive through the park instead of hiking it, but that was better than skipping it out all together.
Our first stop was Zabriskie Point and though we had to battle with a few Chinese tourists I was taken aback by the barren rock formations carved harshly from the land. The scenery looked almost other worldly and I felt like I had stepped into a Star Trek adventure. Though all I wanted to do was run around and explore we were on a tight timeline and had to jump back into the car again.
The deeper we got into the park the weaker our phone signal got, but instead of panicking I pretended I knew what I was doing and confidently gave Pablo directions that I was completely making up. Soon the roads turned from long stretches along flatlands to winding ones that were carved into hillsides framed by piles of rocks and rusty barriers that stopped us from tumbling down the sheer drops. As we turned one corner, a small coyote joined us running along beside the car like a small fluffy park guide.
Descending back down from 4000 above sea level we were greeted with everything nature had all at once, there was more flooding on flatlands, framed by snow covered mountains as side winds blew sand across the car. Death Valley was one of the strangest and most harsh pieces of land I have crossed and is somewhere I would love to explore more instead of just passing through, but Yosemite called.
Thanks to my amazing navigation we crossed through Death Valley with no problems and were soon on the highway again. On our way to our next National Park we made one more quick stop at The Fossil Falls, a geological site created by volcanic activity and water from glaciers Sierra Nevada.
Though it was cold, and wind whipped our faces, I was so happy we had decided to take the time to clamber over the rocks to see the falls, as though they were harshly carved out from the land they held a strange, dark beauty.
As we got closer to Yosemite the weather got progressively worse and though nowhere near as dangerous as Zion it was far from ideal driving conditions, but we arrived safely.
To counteract act our disappointment of our accommodation in Vegas we gave ourselves a real treat and book one night in Tenaya Lodge, a luxury hotel that we had only been able to afford a beer in last time. Taking off our well worn clothes and slipping into complimentary robes was a real treat and not the type of luxury travel I will be experiencing again anytime soon. A quick splash in the pool to help our muscles unwind and we were ready to get hiking.
The weather had not eased up and the snow was so heavy that they had actually closed the park for the first time in 20 years the day before. Not ever letting a little bit of bad weather get in our way I threw on my snowboarding gear and was ready to get going. Two years before, we visited Yosemite but did not have enough time to fit in a proper hike, since then I have dreamed of going back and taking in those incredible views from a height.
After paying our entry into the park the ranger asked if we had snow chains, then went onto explain that if we didn’t and got into an accident on the park roads basically no on would help us. Having just come from Zion (which was truly treacherous) this snow chain policy was a bit of a curve ball so we headed into town to see if we could rent any chains. The short conclusion to this woeful tale is no, you have to buy them and for our size of car it was going to be at least $150, which our budget just couldn’t stretch to.
Utterly defeated we checked in at Narrow Gauge Inn, a much more basic, but cute, little inn where we spent the evening drinking wine and watching movies.
I am used to disasters as part of our travels and try to keep my spirits up, but this time I couldn’t get past my disappointment. After sulking and drinking for a while I pulled myself together and began creating a new plan. The West Coast of America was getting hammered by storms so we made the decision to cut Highway 1 from our itinerary and instead head straight back to LA. Though I was desperate to venture down the stunning coastline from San Francisco to LA realistically it would have been miserable in the pouring rain so it made sense to cut our losses. At least in LA, no matter what the weather, there would be plenty to keep us entertained. Kept up all night by our neighbours having really odd, loud, sex I could not wait to get back in the car and say goodbye to this part of our trip.
Though we did have a bit of a strop at the turn of events in Yosemite and we were tired from a month of the worst weather to hit America in decades, I am so glad that Pablo and I are on the same page when it comes to travel. We allow ourselves to be sad or angry when things don’t go the way we expect then we move on and plan how we can make the next stage awesome. Though our disorganisation freaks lots of people we know out, for this type of trip with so many unexpected twists and turns it really worked out in our favour.
I am not giving up on Yosemite just yet and hoping that my third visit sometime in the future will be the lucky one where I actually get to hike!