Stop 15: Yosemite National Park
Our livers breathed MASSIVE sighs of relief when we set off from Healdsburg for the wholesome destination of Yosemite National Park - surely a few days' respite from alcohol guaranteed there at least?!
We decided to make the most of our new car (LeToya the Toyota) and meandered via the town of Napa and through the Napa Valley, enjoying the view of endless vine-covered hills, where we were tempted to do one more vineyard stop but decided our DUI performances on bikes were enough to scare us into not touching a drop.
En route we somehow managed to veer off our route and ended up heading north instead of south.... Only realising after 90 miles, when we hit the huge city of Sacramento and started to exclaim that we hadn't realised Yosemite was so metropolitan.... IDIOTS. Thus turning our 4 hour journey into a lovely 10 hour marathon. Every cloud has a silver lining though - at least it meant we arrived in the dark and weren't able to see the steep drops either side of the twisting mountain roads as we worked up way up into the mountains....
Our home for the next four nights was a much-nicer-than-average hostel, promising plenty of making-friends-opportunities for Miss Pickerill, who promptly made friends with two Kiwis in reception - quick work! We absolutely loved the hostel manager Donna, who took very good care of us and once finished for the night, was great fun to sit under the stars with and set the world to rights.
We spent the next few days doing a LOT of hiking and being at one with nature! We saw the towering granite Half Dome and El Capitan mountains; climbed the steep Vernal Falls, getting VERY wet in the process along the aptly named Misty Path; meandered round Mirror Lake, hiked to the top of Lower Yosemite Falls; strolled to the base of Bridalveil Falls.... In summary, lots of mountains and waterfalls!
On our final day, our fellow house guest Francisco from our Healdsburg accommodation happened to appear at the hostel with his Swedish friend Joakim, and they kindly offered to escort us to the park on our final day, in their soft top convertible. Go on then... We made our way to Mariposa Grove, home of the giant sequoia trees - which make redwoods look like saplings. We are ashamed to say that we VERY nearly saw a real live bear - it literally crossed the road a mere few feet from where we stood, but unfortunately our attention had been momentarily diverted by opening our lunchtime sandwiches, and naturally Yogi casually strolled across the road at that very moment..... Not even seeing some massive trees with tunnels through them could make up for it!
We took our newfound friends to the local Mexican for an absolute feast, and then to the horror of our livers, adjourned to 'the oldest bar in California' - the Iron Door Saloon - where we proceeded to drink them out of rum. We noticed the thousands of crumpled dollar bills pinned to the high ceilings and were taught the trick by our friendly bartender Hal - a tack through George Washington's nose on a dollar bill, then wrap the note around a quarter, and haphazardly launch the dollar at the ceiling like a dart.... It takes some doing especially when rum-fuelled, but we made it our mission to not leave until we had both completed this lifetime achievement... Cue outstaying our welcoming and having to be evicted by Hal long after last orders - but with our mission complete!
Needless to say we felt far from clever the next day when we awoke, especially given we had failed the night before to finalise where we were heading to next and make accommodation plans..... Our choices were either to head further inland 12 hours to the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park, or to head back 2 hours to the coast to drive the California coastline..... You can guess which option our hangovers preferred....
Next stop - Sunny Santa Cruz and cruising Highway 1 down the California coast!