August 16, 2016

Yosemite National Park in California will always have a special place in my heart. Nick grew up hiking and camping in Yosemite with his family and to this day, despite all his travels and deployments and port calls, he still says it is one of the most beautiful places he’s ever been.

The first time I went to Yosemite with Nick, I had never been hiking before. I laced up my brand new hiking boots that I bought specifically for the occasion and stepped onto the  Panorama Trail. It’s an 8.5 mile, one-way trail that begins on top of Glacier Point. You take an hour bus ride up to the top of Glacier Point:

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And that’s where you get the trailhead. If you don’t want to hike, you can still the the bus up to Glacier Point for these incredible views, and then just get right back on the bus and go back down the way you came.

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You walk down all throughout Yosemite Valley. You get views like this the entire time, hence the name, the Panorama Trail!

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8 years ago, that hike challenged me in ways that I had never been challenged before. I didn’t check the weather and it was so cold on the top of the mountain that it was snowing as we began our hike. Nick was kind enough to loan me his jacket and bought himself a long sleeve shirt. We were totally unprepared for the weather, but as we started hiking we warmed up and the snow stopped. I had never been hiking before and I probably had never even walked 8.5 miles all at once, but the views kept me going and I distinctly remember that my legs and feet didn’t hurt until we finished the trail and I took my boots off.

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Not many people start off hiking with an 8.5 mile trail, but Nick knew what he was doing. He knew that this would be the trail that would get me hooked.

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8 years ago, this trail was life-changing for me. It’s the trail that made me fall in love with hiking. Ever since, I would plan my vacations around the hikes I wanted to do, around the mountains I wanted to climb, around the waterfalls I wanted to swim in, and around the views I knew I needed to see for myself.

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Sometimes I think that the point of travel is to see as many places as you can. But travel is more than just crossing off places on your bucket list, it’s about finding places you love and enjoying them as much as you can. So instead of going somewhere new, we went back to Yosemite last month when we went to California. And instead of trying a new trail, we did that exact same hike. Just because we love it so much. How could I pass up these waterfalls, these views?

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This is what it looks like to stand on top of a waterfall. Probably one of the best views you can ever get.

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Nick’s look of pure joy is one of the things I love most about hiking and just getting outside with him.

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This is the waterfall we were standing on top of! As you keep going on the trail you get a view from further away.

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Going back for the second time, the trail was even more beautiful than I remember. It was also harder than I remembered. It’s funny how after you finish something hard, you don’t remember it as being so hard! The Panoramic Trail is mostly downhill, since you start up at the top of Glaicer Point and end up down in the valley. The hardest part is about a 2 mile stretch going uphill, and toward the end there are bunch of stairs that you have to go down.  But we had a great day and loved every minute of it.

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Just for fun, here’s a picture of us on the trail 8 years ago:

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Oh yeah, and this was all on the Fourth of July! What better way to celebrate America than in one of its most beautiful National Parks?

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The third waterfall of the trail. I love this trail because you get to see so much.

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And we finished.

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8 years ago, after we finished the trail, we went straight to a restaurant right inside the park.  In our muddy hiking boots, with dirt on our legs and our hair plastered to our faces with sweat, we fit in with everyone else.

I had just turned 21 a few weeks before, and I ordered my first glass of wine. I felt like I definitely deserved it after accomplishing such a feat. We were starving so we went all out, ordering much-needed appetizers, meals, and dessert. Were completely shocked when our waiter brought us a blank bill. He told us that another guest of the restaurant had paid for our meal.

I was completely shocked and confused. At first I thought that maybe one of our moms had called and paid, but no one in our family knew where we were – it was a random, spontaneous dinner. Nick and I think that we remember seeing an older couple sitting next to us and we like to think that it was them, maybe seeing a little bit of themselves in us. Nothing like this ever happened to us before or since, and I think it will always be one of our favorite stories, one mystery that we are okay never solving.

Last month, we went to the same restaurant right in Yosemite. We paid our own meal this time. One of these days I will pay it forward and pay for another hiker’s meal. Nick said it was the best food he has ever eaten because he was so hungry.

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Has a trip/hike/excursion ever changed your life?

What kind of vacations do you like the most?

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30 responses to “Hiking in Yosemite”

  1. Jenn says:

    Yosemite looks gorgeous! We were planning on doing some of the National Parks out west for vacation next year but that was before Josh joined the Army. Really hoping to make it there one day! Also, that’s so amazing that someone took care of your whole bill!

    • Carolann says:

      I hope you get to go! I’ve been to a few parks out west and it’s so different from anything we have back east. Maybe one day in between duty stations or during one of those leave periods you will get there. One day I really want to do a cross country trip, maybe on our way back from Hawaii, depending on where we go next. A friend of mine just did one on her way back east from Hawaii and it looked like so much fun.

  2. Rachel G says:

    Wow–what a cool story about another couple who paid for your meal that time 8 years ago! Definitely something you’ll always remember! I love hiking–when we visited Hawaii, most of what we did was hiking. haha! I’ve never been to Yosemite, but Angel has, and he remembers it as the best family vacation he ever took growing up. Hopefully we’ll make it someday!

    • Carolann says:

      It still blows my mind when I think about that meal. I keep saying I am going to do it for someone else, but I never have. I think I will need to find an excuse to go back to Yosemite so I can do it there. Nick says the same thing about his vacations to Yosemite. He says Yosemite hands down was the best time he ever had growing up, even better than Disneyland!

      I love a lot of things about Hawaii and the hiking is one of them. I lived here for 2 years and now that I am back again, I am already discovering new hikes to try out. I am so grateful for Nick for introducing me to what is now one of my favorite hobbies.

  3. Jen says:

    I would love to visit Yosemite someday, it seems absolutely amazing!

    • Carolann says:

      I’ve only been to a few national parks, but this one is my favorite for sure. There is this awesome atmosphere, this energy that you feel there. I mean, what can be better than hiking all day eating s’mores all night? I hope you get to go one day!

  4. Isabel says:

    Such a wonderful surprise for your first time in Yosemite years before. It is always beautiful to come back to a place filled with memories like this. I also struggled to live hiking, my first hike ever was for over 3 hours with an altitude of 2,500 meter. It was certainly not fun but now I am slowly getting better at it.

    • Carolann says:

      I honestly had no idea what to expect. I don’t think I had ever been to any national park before and I was just blown away. There is so much to do and see that it might have been silly for us to do the same hike again, but I didn’t care! I think that for a first hike you and I maybe should have done something a bit easier, but immersing yourself completely in something might be the best way to go! When a hike is too hard it does get a little miserable for me. But then I get to the top of the mountain and I forget about all that misery.

  5. Yosemite is the perfect place to fall in love with hiking! I’ve only been through on a quick trip but I’m dying to get back and do this and other hikes!

    • Carolann says:

      You could spend weeks there and not even see everything! This trip was super quick, but we managed to see a lot. One day I want to spend a week there and just camp, hike around, and explore. If you go back I highly recommend the Panorama Trail. It was incredible. My husband definitely knew what he was doing when he took me there – I have been addicted ever since.

  6. Audrey says:

    Those are incredible views. I’ve only been out west once and never to Yosemite 🙁 I loved Yellowstone, though. I think your pictures are incredible. Mountains are my favorite. We did a few when we went out west, then I backpacked for a weekend in college, and I’ve been up a few in Ireland and Switzerland. I just love being on a mountain 🙂 The experience with the free meal is so, so sweet, too. What a great adventure!

    • Carolann says:

      I’ve never been to Yellowstone but that’s high on my list. I always kick myself for not driving out there when my husband was stationed in Washington. I love the mountains, too! Living in Hawaii I am so spoiled because there are so many hikes to do and mountains to climb. I haven’t done any hiking in Europe – that would be amazing!

  7. Sarah Bence says:

    I love hiking – I’m not sure I had a discovery moment like you as my grandfather introduced me to it when I was so little. So that’s really special that you have that!! I would love to get to Yosemite someday and hike there 🙂

    • Carolann says:

      I hope to be able to pass my love for hiking down to my kids! As we were hiking Nick and I were talking about how much fun it will be to show our kids different trails and teach them how to camp. I hope to make it our family tradition….. when the time comes! If you love to hike then you have to go to Yosemite! It’s heaven.

  8. When we visited Northern California a couple of years ago I really wanted to take a trip to Yosemite, but the timing for everything else that we wanted to do just didn’t work out. All of your pictures make me want to hop on a plane right now and hike the Panoramic Trail! Everything is just beautiful, and I don’t think that I’ll ever get enough of all of those waterfalls!

    • Carolann says:

      I’m obsessed with waterfalls! I don’t know why but whenever we go on a trip I need to go out of our way to find them. If you do get a chance to get to Yosemite one day I think you would love it Ashley! I know that your calendar for 2016 is all booked up but maybe next year — and then come on over to Hawaii while you’re out west 🙂

  9. Van says:

    I would love to visit Yosemite one day! I mean I’m pretty spoiled with mountain views in Norway but Yosemite seems to be even more beautiful and stunning than anything I’ve ever seen here!

    • Carolann says:

      I’ve been lucky enough to have visited Yosemite 3 times in the past 8 years because my husband’s family lives so close, and every single time, the mountains take my breath away. I grew up in a place with no mountains and the first time I saw them, I was just amazed. I had never seen anything like it! Now I am addicted, which works out well since I live in Hawaii now and am surrounded by mountains just calling me to climb them. I would love to visit Norway and see the mountains and fjords

  10. Those VIEWS! Seriously stunning.

  11. What an amazing place! I would love to do this trail. I like a mix of city breaks, relaxation and active hiking trips like this one! What a cool story about your meal too… definitely do the same there one day!

    • Carolann says:

      I agree! Variety is the spice of life, or something like that. I never was one for pure beach vacations until I felt like Nick and I really needed one last December. We spent 5 days on the beach and it was just what we needed. Now I like to mix it up.

      I definitely need to go back and pay for someone else’s meal. I feel like I should have done it on our most recent trip, but now I have another reason to go back to Yosemite.

  12. Amber says:

    Wow, this is amazing! I’d love to go. Someday.

  13. Lauren says:

    This seems like such a special hike for you two! I agree that if you find a really special place, you shouldn’t avoid going back just because you’ve been there before! If it makes you happy, it’s worth multiple returns! I absolutely love hiking, but I can’t remember exactly when I got hooked. The hiking around Santiago really has made me quite obsessed though. I think I’ll probably start planning some trips around hikes as well 😀

    • Carolann says:

      It took me a while to realize that it’s actually a good idea to go back to a place that you love, that is special to you! I always thought it was more important to see new places but now I think that you should just go wherever you want, even if that means taking the same tips every year. I hope that you get to enjoy every second of Santiago!

  14. Ahila says:

    Hi Carolann, I have nominated your lovely blog for the Sunshine blogger award (https://perspectivesquilt.wordpress.com/2016/08/26/sunshine-blogger-award/). If you choose to pass forward the award, I have included five questions for you to respond to 🙂

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  16. When I go to California, I wouldn’t hesitate to visit the Yosemite National Park.

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