We started off perfectly on time and were in high spirits despite the early hour (it was only 8am, but for some in the party *cough, Hong Kong P and Churches, cough cough* this was horribly early for holiday hours). We drove with ease through Gilroy and down towards Yosemite, our first stop.
Unfortunately within about an hour or two we figured out that the configuration for using my American iPhone4S as our navigator wouldn't work - the device was lame enough to where charging it while having the navigation on and music playing through Pandora, wasn't enough to keep the battery afloat. If I continued on this configuration the battery on my phone would be dead after about 2.5 hours everyday. Not enough time to safely navigate us toward our next destinations.
Luckily at the last minute I, with my dad's help, decided to bring my portable GPS system with us. It does require a cigarette lighter adapter to power, but only until the battery is fully charged. Then it's fancy free and untethered.
The only bad thing about the GPS system is it doesn't have online capabilities - so traffic wouldn't be taken into account when routing and maps were not automatically updated. This could make a huge different in the routes we would take, but there wasn't anything we could do about it other than reaffirm with Google Maps beforehand on our phones to check route similarity and then go from there, hoping it never changed as we traveled.
That last part we ended up not being able to do, either. As it turns out, a lot of the areas in and around the national parks are complete network deadzones. I guess it only makes sense that national forests wouldn't bother putting up hotspots. You're not going there for that reason. But it was very sobering for us to remember that sometimes, you need to be utterly well-prepared. Because help isn't just a call away. Even a car full of 5 smartphones won't save you.
We ended up stopping in Mariposa along the way as it was just too cute to pass up. Plus everyone didn't mind stretching their legs and getting some much-needed coffee:
It's an adorable tourist town. Filled with antique shops, craft shops, little coffee cafes and one or two snug boutique hotels. We enjoyed walking around in the wonderful sunshine before getting back in.
We got to Yosemite after that with little problem. It has been unseasonably warm in California as well (as with the rest of the world, more or less) for the winter, so we were a little surprised to find snow here, of all places.
It is still funny for me to think that Finland and the UK had been bereft of snow this year, but California was still packing!
We drove around the park and eventually hopped onto the free shuttle that circles the valley floor. From there we got a sort of whirlwind tour of what Yosemite had to offer. I pointed out Half Dome as we were driving past and whenever we were stopped outside.
One of the most hilarious anecdotes from our time there - we wanted to see waterfalls that were mentioned on the park map, so we took a short hike out to lower Yosemite Falls. It's supposed to be spectacular, if what I remembered from last time I was there was any judge.
Apparently I was slightly wrong...
As we approached it we could barely see the trickle of water coming down. My only explanation was that the drought has been so severe in California, all water is pretty minimal. My hometown got 15% of their normal rainfall by the end of 2013. Devastatingly low.
It was still nice to walk around and take in the sights, either way. We were approached by two male deer on the trail back to the shuttle. We froze, not knowing what to do (would it charge us? does it find us threatening?). We stood like dorks until the deer all silently moved past us. It was magical, but also slightly terrifying (who knew vegetarians were so scary?).
Ah, Yosemite. Beautiful from all angles.
We even saw our patron mascot in the rocky configurations - an outline of a fish on one of the boulders below us (so strange...not sure how this came about).
We left Yosemite after having a small meal at one of the food lodges. It was starting to get pretty cold, unfortunately too cold to do more trails with our clothing. It was alright - everyone was pretty tired from the first journey and we were anxious to get to our hotel for some warm room excellence and maybe open one of the three bottles of wine we'd brought with us (obtained through a White Christmas wine exchange with Rhinda and friends).
So we got back to the hotel, brought all the snacks in, and proceeded to drink through one and a half bottles of wine together. Fun times. We even watched some movies on the TV before passing out completely.
And thus the roadtrip began.