Trains, Planes and Woodland Hikes: San Francisco and Yosemite

After several bonkers days of hopping along the West Coast, I am finally sitting comfortably in a hostel in Monterey, stomach full of scrummy fish tacos and ready to stuff a new post full of updates! We arrived here this afternoon following four days in San Francisco and two in Yosemite National Park – and not a dull moment to speak of! I should mention that this post will feature Miss Emily Kennewell as my guest blogger, who will no doubt be offering an alternative angle on the occurrences of the past week…

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The nuts and bolts of this week’s journey. I arrived in San Francisco around 18 hours after jumping aboard the Coast Starlight train back in Portland. I managed a few hours of sleep despite my neighbour Spencer’s seismic snoring (lovely bloke, terrible blocked-up nose), and then made my way by bus then BART (metro) to the airport in time for Emily’s arrival. We headed back to SF airport four days later to pick up the car (a Kia Soul that we’ve named Patty), and set off on a 5-hour drive in-land to Yosemite, stopping to raid Wallmart for cheap camping equipment on the way. Two days of glorious hiking, making campfires and not washing later, we were back in the car and on the road to Monterey… which just about brings us up to date! As usual, I’ll try to divide the post up logically for maximum digestibility..

The Kemps. I run the risk of repeating myself, but I cannot stress enough the extent to which warm, wonderful people have shaped my experiences during this trip. Emily and I spent our first two Californian nights with Leslie and Drew, Emma’s parents (Emma whom I was lucky enough to befriend in Portland), followed by two nights with her sister Kyle, in SF’s Mission District. The Kemp family are truly among the best people I have met: every adjective I choose to describe them doesn’t seem quite right somehow… seriously, I’ve rewritten this sentence about 50 times now. It’s getting silly. Leslie, Drew, Kyle: THANK YOU. Not just for the spectacular margaritas, Vietnamese dinner and comfy beds on which to rest our heads, but for being so thoughtful and open and kind. Love you guys 🙂

Emily says: What she said. Kemps you da bomb. Thanks for the ‘nosh’, Leslie.

PILOT SELFIE

PILOT SELFIE

WE FLEW A PLANE OVER THE BAY. One of the most unexpected and exhilarating experiences that either of us has had. Not long after arriving at Leslie and Drew’s Drew casually mentioned that he was a flying instructor, and asked if we’d liked to go up the following day! Obviously we bit his hand off. Drew was unfailingly patient and encouraging with both of us, and before long we were taking it in turns to steer the plane over the Bay Area. I am thinking back on it now and still not quite believing it; too much to take in almost. We are two lucky sods basically.

Emily says: IT WAS INCREDIBLE. Having to stop at the fuel station to fill up your plane before touching down for lunch at the golf course #firstworldproblems. I always used to say ‘flying a plane’ in answer to those awkward ‘tell us something you’ve always wanted to do’ questions at work networking events. Now I’m going to have to think of something else. Eff’s sake.

Alcatraz. As chilling and intriguing as I remember it. We caught the evening ferry over to the Rock and spend an eery evening learning about the convicts who spent their confinement staring out to sea, at San Francisco and pining for their lost freedom..

Emily says: No witty comment for this one – KB hit the nail on the noggin.

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Biking Golden Gate Park and the Presidio. This was SO. MUCH. FUN. Except for hills, of which SF has many, we discovered. The bike ride took us from the eastern tip of Golden Gate Park through to Ocean Beach, then up into the Presidio and past the unmissable Golden Gate Bridge, and finally right along the water’s edge to finish a Pier 39, where we gratefully slurped clam chowder and felt righteous and athletic.

Emily says: Hated every second of the cycling. Especially when I thought I was having a heart attack. Still got saddle sores. But despite bitching and moaning the whole way, the view was SO worth it.

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Yosemite. I feel this merits more than one paragraph somehow… but anyway. We arrived in the woodland idyll that is Yosemite and went about setting up camp. This was successful thanks in large part to Emily’s cave-womanly instincts: even cooked edible food on the camp fire! After a not entirely restful night in camp, I dragged Emily on a 6-mile hike towards Upper Yosemite Falls. The views of towering pines, sheer rock faces and intense blue sky left me quite speechless. Emily seemed similarly speechless, though perhaps for different reasons… Our second and final night in Yosemite consisted mostly of being taught how to make the perfect Smore (a toasted marshmallow and slab of chocolate sandwiched between two biscuits – quite the American education!) by three hilariously precocious kids from the neighbouring camp. Once they’d been shoo’d away to bed, Em and I sat by the fire playing cards and watching the millions of stars make their appearances above our heads. You know that bit in Pocahontas, when she is singing ‘Colours of the Wind’ and says that line about asking the wild cat why he grins? IT WAS EXACTLY LIKE THAT. 🙂

Emily says: Truly the most painful, torturous and greatest physical achievement of my life. Who knew that I could possibly hike a mountain in the sweltering heat? Thank God for Katrina “Slave-driver” Barnes for getting my arse up that lump of rock. P.s. The view was the same from the ground as it was from the top. #justsaying

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Unexpected highlight: Leslie and Drew teaching us a classic Californian expression to be used when someone is stressing you out: “Dude, you are totally harshing my mellow”. I fully intend to make this take off in the UK. It is excellent.

Coming up in the next few days: The Sky-dive (Oh Christ alive), San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and LA! And more SF/Yosemite photos 🙂 Stay tuned.

Oodles and boodles of love 🙂 x x x

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