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SEQUOIAS. STARS. COOL PEOPLE. LET’S GO camping at yosemite.  After a week in San Francisco patiently awaiting the results of a dream job interview, I felt the itch to surround myself with nature.  So Friday morning I packed up and took a solo road trip 3 hours east to check out Yosemite National Park.  Jump in, let’s check it out.  Vaminos.

Road Trips: Utterly Underestimated.

The drive is a little slow in the beginning, but for the last 60 miles you wind through an untouched land that reminds me of Australian countryside.  Vineyards whirl past, as well as herds of sheep and cows eating breakfast.  Let’s stop for a coffee in a small city called Groveland (population 1,200).  It is good to see small places.

Home in Groveland, California.

Only a dozen or so miles later, we’re at the entrance of Yosemite.  $20 for a week-long pass, that’s pretty typical.  Let’s jump out and head into the information building.  Always have to say hello to these friendly folk.  You can make their day with a genuine smile, and they are always to passionate and eager to help.  Cool, we have our map and have figured out our to-do list for the day.  First stop, Sequoias.

Welcome.

Patches of these purple flowers (Alpine Penstemon) were in bloom throughout the Park.

Great music is playing, nature is everywhere, the sun is shining, and we’re cruising over smooth roads toward seeing our first Sequoias.  I don’t know about you, but I have been fasciated by their sheer size for ages.  They’re massive!  Tuolumne Grove.  We have arrived.

You ready to see some big fricken trees?

Let's Do it.

Let’s start down the trail.  There are a few other travelers, so I always smile and say G’day as they pass by.  Funny enough, almost all are international… I have to admit that I was kind of daydreaming, bouncing along, when all of a sudden right smack in front of me is the biggest tree I’ve ever seen in my life.  Wow!  I hugged that Sequoia like it had never been hugged before.

Tree Hugger.

As we continue down the road there is a sign that says “Tunnel Tree.”  Oh hell yes.

I feel tiny.

I had to take a seat on my yoga mat to ponder the size of this creature, taking it in.

I had to take this photo lying on the ground in order for it to fit.

Let’s wander a bit further down the path to the last sight of the trip, a fallen Sequoia.  This tree is so long that it might take a few minutes to walk it’s full height. But at the end the roots are completely exposed, and there is a cave that has been hollowed out of its massive trunk.

Horizontal Sequoia

2 can fit in there comfortably.

Goodbye for now Sequoias and thank you for being so awesome!  Let’s get a little deeper into the park.  The Information Ranger, told me about some cool tunnel views.  On the way there, we bend around a corner and the dense pine forest turns into the aftermath of a forest fire.  Crazy.  It reminds me of scary scenes in “The Land Before Time.

Its all part of the cycle.  After this next turn, the greenness is back, and we get our first view of some waterfalls.

I had to stop and get out of my car to take a picture here more times than in any national Park I’ve ever been to.  Every turn is stunning.  Dramatic natural beauty.

Imagine if everyone's commute looked like this. Traffic is no good for the soul.

Alright.  We got some great snaps, did a little stretching, and a few little hikes.  Let’s head toward the campsites to see if we can make some friends.  The rangers told me everything is sold out, but I have a feeling I can find some space to spend the night.

Lower Pines Campground.

I get to the campgrounds and drive through slowly, checking out the impressive setups.  Some people really go all out, its cool to see.  There are families with young children, the kids worn out and sleeping as the adults are clinking beers over thecampfire.  Firewood is burning, people are laughing, the energy is calm and happy.  Then I spot four young guys playing frisbee while dinner is grilling up.  One is wearing a Cubs hat. (I’m from Chicago)  Score.  Hello new friends.

Frisbee throwing friends. And their Bear Box.

I park my car, jump out with my camera, and say hello.  “Hi, I’m Kelly.  I’m writing a blog about cool travelers, can I take your picture for it?”  Soon enough we are drinking beers, swapping travel stories, playing Catchphrase, and pondering life philosophies.  These guys have been best friends since they were Freshman in college, and they keep in touch by camping for a week every year.  They do it properly too- intense hikes, tasty dinners, cold beers, and Smore’s (an American camping staple).

Cool Travelers.

As we chat, hang out, and eat dinner, Ranger Mike pays us a little visit.  He gave us a quick lecture about bears and food coolers: If they are empty you can leave them outside of the bear box, so long as you keep the lid open.  “Bears are pretty smart,” he says.  “If they can see there’s nothing in it, they’ll leave it alone.  But if the lid is closed, they get curious.”  I look around at all the bear boxes and think how cool it is to be spending the night where the Bears like to sleep.

Ranger Mike from Germany.

It’s pretty dark, and the beers have been flowing.  The energy of the campsite is pure and vibrant.  On my way back from the bathroom I wandered around a little bit.  (p.s. nice work Yosemite, a very clean and practical loo.)  I came across a lively group of 8 playing “Apples to Apples.”  Cool people alert!  They spend a Friday night drinking beers and playing board games in Yosemite.  So I went over and said hello to my new friends.  We had a very funny 10 minute conversation.

Cool Travelers.

Heading back to the campfire, the boys take me to a meadow they had discovered earlier that day.  To reach it, we have to walk across a creek on a fallen tree- an obstacle that is much more difficult in the dark and after a few bud lights.  But 5 for 5 we all make it, and when we reach the meadow I gasp.  Holy stars.  Thousands of them, impressively shiny, but dim compared to la luna.  The moon was about 3/4 full but she gave off so much light that I could see my new friends’ faces completely.  We sat in a circle laughing and philosophizing, laying back every once and awhile to be in awe.  What a great night.

I wake up with the Sun, which is early this time of year in Yosemite.  Spending the morning in a place feels like this feels like a step closer to heaven.  Or Pandora.

Yosemite at 6.30am. That's a professional photographer getting set up.

I take a few hours slowly cruising through the park, stopping here and there to take a photo.  Light happy music and generous morning sun make this drive more like a meditation.  I say goodbye for now, thank Yosemite for her unabashed beauty, and exit the park.

I will conquer you, Half Dome. 8836 ft, 2693m

My first trip was intended to be a short one, just to get acquainted.  I learned about 3 hikes that sound like an amazing experience; Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and the Mist Trails.  Consider all three of you on my to-do list.

Trout fishing in the rivers on the Valley floor is supposed to be spectacular during the right time of year.  I also heard of some intense rock climbing spots, and if you bring binoculars, you can watch climbers tackle the steep cliff faces. Add wildflowers, bird watching, and of course, bear spotting, and this amazing place will satisfy any type of traveler.  For the weary camper, they have accommodations that are basic, but dramatically overpriced.  Don’t forget reservations whether you’re in a bed or a tent.  Although you may luck out and snag a cancellation, if you’re with a group or a family, better safe than sorry.

Road tripping back to SF.

We need a little energy before the drive back.  Quick stop at Firewall Coffee House for a cup of “Good Fricken Coffee.” Drink it in house out of big cozy ceramic mugs.  Mingle with the locals.  Try one of “Kelly’s Cookies.”  Not just because she has a cool name, but because they are delicious. Choose between a tea cookie, oatmeal raisin, bittersweet chocolate, or my fav; the date nut circle.  Amazing.

Yes please.

Amazingness.

Thanks for coming on the journey.  Drive safe now!   Wishing you Safe and Attractive travels.

Carpe Diem!

Kelly Robinson

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Overlooking Marigot; Dutch Side, St. Maarten.

La Napoule, France. Ah, the Mediterranean.

Key West, Florida USA

Island near Naadi, Fiji (Forgive the old Camera)

On top of Capri, Italy.

Kovalam Beach, Kerala. South India

The National Monument, Washington D.C. USA

The Bimini Islands, Bahamas

Manhattan Beach; Los Angeles, California

Sitges, Spain

San Francisco Bay, California

Winter. Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Cogburn Ostrich Farm, Arizona

Stanford University; Palo Alto, California.

Posing in front of the Eiffel Tower; Paris, France

Coastal Corsica, Amalfi Coast

Port du Plaissance, St. Maarten.

Polka Dancing Group, Central Park. NYC, USA

Porto Cervo, Sardinia

Oh, the Hamptons.

Wishing you Safe and Attractive Travels.

Carpe Diem!

Kelly Robinson

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