Day 5 of the Western BLT tour with Trek America was our driving day. This is an unavoidable part of covering a large area in a small space of time. Whilst some of the longer 21 day tours, and even the 14 day tour I'm doing this summer (August 2016), have more driving days, none of us were particularly looking forward to the 9 hour 45 minute drive it would take us to travel from the glimmering neon lights of Las Vegas to the towering mountains of Yosemite National Park.
Shawn explained that as a commercial driver he was only allowed to drive 10 hours in a 24 hour period, meaning we had to be smart about our stops and make sure we left them on time. Despite this, he made sure he stopped at some interesting ones, and we even had our lunch 20 miles from Area 51, the rumour extra-terrestrial testing compound of the US.
Throughout my travel diaries I've mentioned that I was slowly starting to feel ill. Well this happened to be at it's worst on this day. I was cuddled up on the bus with a hoody, and two thick blankets over me whilst still shivering. This was at the same time everyone else wanted the air con on as we were in the middle of the desert. Yeah, it was bad.
After about 6 1/2 hours, we reach the Tioga Pass, a road that reminded me of the Snake Pass linking Manchester to Sheffield. Just like the Tioga Pass, it gets closed in the winter due to heavy snow, and after travelling on it I can see why. The bends and sheer drops are bad enough, let alone trying to drive on it in a mini bus and trailer.
Those with a keen eye will notice the Plague caution sign in the toll both window. That's not a joke. Squirrels, chipmunks and other animals carry the plague in California and Arizona meaning most National Parks, including the Grand Canyon have warnings around everywhere. Whilst there's only one of two cases a year of it actually passing to a human, I'm not going to lie, it did freak me out when I first saw the sign.
Despite all this Tioga Pass is possibly the most beautiful road I have ever been on. If Yosemite needed any introduction, this one would be perfect. With road carved into the towering granite peaks we crossed bridges over rapids and held our breathe as we went through tunnels. We finally stopped for a little photo opportunity at this lake which happened to be by the side of the road. All I can say is that these pictures will never do this place justice. The crystal clear blue water, and the towering trees were something out of a fairy tale. Although I was ill, I was certainly in love.
After a quick stop to see some Seqouia tree's, we made our way to our hostel for the next two nights. As the day turned into dusk our eyes were peeled, waiting for a bear to appear at any moment. As I turned my head back in the van, I saw one. The shadow of a brown bear plodding through the trees. Of course we past it so quickly there was no time for a picture, but that moment was magical.
After a long day of travelling we finally arrived at the Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort. If you've ever wanted to stay in a real-life Dirty Dancing kind of cabin, this is your place. Built on the side of a mountain, the resort has cabins up and down, with a central kitchen and resturant. All 11 girls stayed in a cabin with bunkbeds with our own showers and bathrooms. It was like one big sleepover at an American camp.
The next day we woke up bright and early ready for a full day of hiking and exploring the National Park. Before we reached the park Shawn took us to the perfect viewing point, which looked so perfect you couldn't believe it wasn't photoshopped.
We then headed into the main park, where we were greeted by a friendly Deer right next to the van. We looked at the towering peaks of El Capitan and Half Dome, and even got to see some free climbers who were scaling them with no ropes! Whilst the majority of the group tackled the Nevada Fall trail, Emma & I opted for a nice, relaxed days exploring, hopping on and off the free shuttle bus and mooching around the different trails. We walked up to Mirror Lake and were shocked to see that there wasn't actually a lake there! The lake had dried up in the drought, and all that was left was a water mark on a huge stone. After a good old gossip and a nosiey round the hotel JFK and Jackie O stayed in, we head back to meet the group for tea.
Nibbling away at Pizza, I felt sick to my stomach. I'd lost my appetite completely and just could not get warm no matter how much walking I did or layers I put on. In the end I sat with a hot chocolate whilst everyone else was in shorts. After we'd finished eating we headed back to the Bug, and had a couple of hours relaxing. At 8pm, we headed down to the fire pit for S'mores and an acoustic sing-song around a camp fire. It was our last official night of the tour and was possibly the most perfect way the end a trip of a lifetime. I got to experience an all-american summer, illness and all. After 2 hours of sitting round the open fire, where I finally got warm (hurrah!), we headed back to our cabins and got ready to leave bright and early the next morning for San Francisco.
I'm planning a Q&A about travelling alone and Trek America. If there any questions you have please leave them below in the comments, on my instagram or twitter.