Ever wonder what it would be like to do your own version of Amy and Roger’s road trip from Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour? Well, welcome to Part One of my epic road trip recap! Some of you were probably following my blog at the time and know that my friends and I did a road trip around the west coast last summer. I am a big fan of road trips and I had been wanting to do one for a while. Two things finally forced me to do it and convince friends to go with me:
1. Reading Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour. Not only was I inspired to take my own road trip by Morgan Matson’s tale of Amy and Roger’s trip, but I was inspired to visit Yosemite and take the ”Loneliest Highway in America” across Nevada.
2. Literally right after I read Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour I was getting water from the water cooler at my job and I noticed a magazine called Wild West sitting next to water cooler (publicists stacked discarded magazines for people to take) so I obviously picked it up and started reading it and noticed an article about hotels of the old west. I read about The Gold Hill Hotel in Nevada where someone named Squeek Steele played piano Friday and Saturday nights and was sold (I realize that seems really random and odd, but if you know me it makes perfect sense.). Especially when I realized that the Gold Hill Hotel was right off of the Loneliest Highway. How perfect was that?!
I suggested the idea to one of my then roommates and she said yeah, let’s do it, and was sold on my suggestion of Yosemite, the Gold Hill Hotel, and “Loneliest Highway in America.” We then told our other roommate, who we wanted to go with, what we were going to do and she said ok, but it was a somewhat less enthusiastic ok. Either that weekend or a few weekends after I suggested the idea, we went out for ice cream on a Saturday afternoon and then came home and planned the road trip. We priced out rental cars and hotels and a few hours later we were set. At that point we could still cancel rental cars and hotels if needed. It was seriously one of the easiest things I’ve ever planned (mostly thanks to great friends).
We started our road trip in Portland, OR, went down the Oregon and California coasts to San Francisco and then cut over across California to Yosemite and then over and across Nevada. Since this is a book blog and supposedly a post about how I did my own version of Amy and Roger’s trip I’m only going to write about our time in Yosemite and Nevada.
Since we were coming from San Francisco we went into Yosemite via the western entrance. Amy and Roger, coming from southern California, probably went through the southern entrance.
The route to Yosemite quickly got rural after leaving the San Francisco area. We stopped for lunch (at In-and-Out) and at Target for supplies (granola bars, bear locker lock, boxed wine, peanut butter…the necessities), but I would say from when we left SF to when we got to Yosemite proper it was probably around 3.5 hours (minus our stops). We also had to climb into the mountains to get to Yosemite, this is a picture of some of the switchbacks I had to drive around (one of my friends was taking pictures).
Yosemite itself is huge, it’s actually about the size of Rhode Island so once we got there we had about a 45-minute- to-hour drive to get to Yosemite Valley and Curry Village, where we were staying, the same place where Amy and Roger stayed! Amy also says that it took her and Roger about an hour to get to Curry Village after entering the park.
This is the front office of Curry Village and the Tour Center. Curry Village is run by an outside hospitality company and I can’t say enough nice things about it. We absolutely loved staying there (more on our accommodations later), but everyone we interacted with from check-in, to booking tours, to ordering food was so lovely and helpful.
These are the garbage cans around Curry Village. Amy mentions how serious they are about bears and they are indeed very serious about bears. They reminded us of them constantly and told us to be “bear-aware.”
I looked up as well, at the scenery that I could still make out. Even though it wasn’t my first time here, Yosemite was still stunning. There were mountains and huge, ancient trees everywhere, making you feel tiny. The air was clearer, and crisper, and had always made me want to take more deep breaths. It had always seemed to me to be a place apart, with none of the normal rules that applied elsewhere. (Page 47)
This goes without saying, but Yosemite is absolutely gorgeous. I took this picture from a bus when we were on our way to our hike. Our original plan was to go horse-back riding, we had booked a half-day ride, but when we were on line to order pizza the night we arrived we started talking to the guy in front of us and he said that we had to the hike the Panorama Trail down from Glacier Point. We had wanted to do a hike but hadn’t really planned one, but this guy had been coming to Yosemite for something like 25 years and told us that this was his favorite hike. One of my friends quickly checked with the front office and they told us that if we wanted to do it we’d need to book a spot on a bus up to Glacier Point ($25 each), but we couldn’t do it until 7:30 the next morning and there might not be space left. (It’s about an hour drive up to Glacier Point and while we could have done that ourselves we’d have no way to get back up to get our car. That’s also why we had to hike down and not up, there are no buses back down.)
We woke up early next morning to check on bus tickets and luckily there were some available! The bus trip up was insane. We were on a giant tour bus climbing a mountain with all these switchbacks on a narrow road. We also had a completely insane bus driver (probably crazier than Amy and Roger’s Ranger Carl). She literally talked non-stop for over an hour about the most minute details (she loved lichen!), had these crazy catchphrases, told us stories about how Brad Pitt and the Queen of England had been on her bus (we highly doubted), and was just generally insane. It was probably the longest hour of my life.
The amazing thing about Glacier Point is the view of Half Dome. There I am standing in front of Half Dome (doesn’t it look fake?). The views were ridiculously amazing.
As I said, we went from Glacier Point to Yosemite Valley. The great thing about this hike is the waterfalls, all three of the waterfalls can’t be seen other than by hiking to them. The hike is eight miles, which isn’t short, but it’s almost all downhill, as you can see in that picture. I was excited to be hiking downhill rather than up, but the downhill was actually havoc on my knees (which get achy from my running days). The hike was gorgeous and I absolutely recommend it, but I was in pain for a lot of it. (Also, we found out afterwards that this hike is actually rated “strenuous” which explained a lot.)
Also terrible? The rocky trail. It was smooth towards the top like in my first picture, but it quickly got very rocky like you can see here. I like to think I’m in pretty good shape, and cardiovascularly I didn’t find this hike challenging, but having to think, with every step, where to put my foot, drove me crazy and was just exhausting mentally and physically.
Here are the amazing waterfalls. On the left is Nevada Fall and on the right is Vernal Fall. Since we were there in August the waterfalls weren’t that powerful, but they were still stunning. Especially the pool at the bottom of Vernal Fall; it was the most amazing shades of blue and green which you can kind of see in this picture.
These are the crazy steps we came down after Vernal Fall. There are a lot of notifications about the “Yosemite Wilderness” and staying safe and it was very clear that we were in the wilderness for the duration of the hike. There were no bathrooms or water fountains or any amenities. There were some signs that directed us different places, but mostly I kind of felt like it was a crap shoot that we found our way down. Especially after the two waterfalls where we had to ask several experienced-looking hikers how to get back to Yosemite Valley. Anyway, these steps were nuts because they were very steep and irregular in shape. In this section there was a railing, but farther down there wasn’t. There were some people hiking up from the Valley who were totally unprepared; we saw people wearing flip flops and even a lady wearing high heels. Vernal Fall is probably under a two mile hike from the Valley, but it’s all uphill and very steep.
When we got towards the end of the hike I was so happy to see a water fountain. And it was cold! I had a CamelBak backpack filled with water that lasted for most of the hike, but it was nice to refill it. The ice cream was a brilliant idea I had somewhere near the beginning of our hike. Also a terrible idea because we were obsessed with the idea of ice cream during the entire hike. It was so good.
This is the dining area at Curry Village. Amy and Roger talk about eating there and Roger practically clearing the place out. On the left is the indoor cafeteria. That’s where we got our ice cream. We also had dinner there the night of the hike. On the right is the outside dining area. There’s a burger/pub place, a pizza place, and maybe something else I’m not remembering. There was also a bar. Overall I was really impressed by the dining options. We had pizza the first night which was very good, the cafeteria food (I had turkey, mashed potatoes, and Brussels sprouts) was delicious, and the burger place (I got a burger with local, grassfed beef and sweet potato fries) was also good. There was a wide variety of food for all different types of dietary needs and my friends and I thought the prices were really reasonable. We also saved money by making our own breakfasts (we packed bread and peanut butter) and snacks.
They also show movies in the evening. Amy and Roger watched something called Yosemite and Its History. On the first night we watched the second half of a movie about free climbing in Yosemite (very interesting but as someone who’s terrified of heights it made me very anxious) and the second night we watched one about fire in Yosemite. They were both really great and it was a fun thing to do.
I soon realized, when the paved path turned to gravel and wood chips, that there was a reason most people coming to Yosemite didn’t bring big rolling suitcases. Mine kept getting caught on the wood chips and flipping over, and refusing to roll. Not to mention that the people walking by–the ones who’d prepared to be at Yosemite, carrying flashlights and wearing fleece vests–probably thought I looked ridiculous. (Page 47)
I lived that exact moment coming and going from our cabin
These are the tent cabins in Curry Village like where Amy and Roger stay. Our tent cabin had two twin beds and a double bed. Amy and Roger’s had one bed and while I don’t know for certain I imagine that might have been a story telling device and not something Curry Village actually has. The tent cabins were really lovely. They came with sheets and towels. The towels were replaced daily. At night it did get chilly, I slept in yoga pants, tee shirt and sweatshirt, and socks. With a sheet and two wool blankets. And I am someone who’s always hot. Quiet time started at 10pm and people were very respectful of that. On the first night one of my friends and I both though we heard a bear, but it turned out to be a guy snoring in a nearby cabin.
The bathrooms were communal, they were always clean and there was only one time I had to wait for a shower (I showered three times in two days) and that was in the later afternoon. They even had shampoo, conditioner, and body wash dispensers in them. Amy mentions how Yosemite is really dark and it is, the cabins have a light in them, but there are no lights along the trails to the cabins. Lots of people packed flashlights, we didn’t, but I think if I went back I’d probably bring one. Also note the bear boxes right in front of the cabins, I agreed with Amy’s assessment of putting “the appetizer right next to the main course.”
If you’re considering going to Yosemite I cannot recommend it enough. I am not an outdoorsy person, but I fell in love with everything about the park. It’s such a peaceful place, most cell phones don’t work, and it was just like being in another world. Amy and Roger paid $40/night for their tent cabin, we paid about $140/night in early August which I think was a great deal. A week’s pass to drive into Yosemite is $20 and other than our ride up to Glacier Point ($25 each as I mentioned) all we had to pay for was food (and the ridiculous amount of money we spent in the gift shop), which as I said, was really reasonable (but we were also coming from super expensive NYC).
Remember to come back tomorrow when I’ll talk about surviving “the loneliest highway in America!”
One Year Ago: Waiting on Wednesday: This is What Happy Looks Like