A light knock from Laura on my bedroom door woke me up, she let me know it was 6:10. We were planning on rolling out around 6:30 and it reminded me of my mum waking me up before going on family holidays as a kid. I did a much better job at getting up than I used to do and finished packing things away before taking them downstairs where I found a cup of coffee waiting. It was just more proof of how amazing a host she is. We had arrived in SF 6 days earlier with the idea of staying for 2 or 3 days but found it difficult to leave. Yes, that was partly caused by some logistical things that I covered in the last blog post, but it was also because at no stage were we really trying to work out our exit strategy. Laura & Sofia had done an absolutely phenomenal way to make us so welcome that we had felt like we were at home.
Sofia, Laura’s 15 year old daughter, was at a friend’s house for a birthday sleepover so we didn’t get to wave her goodbye. She is such a talkative, friendly and well rounded person and is a great reflection on her parents.
After coffee and a quick breakfast, we did a quick check to ensure we had everything and got into the car. Laura had very kindly offered to take us across the Bay bridge to the Amtrak Emeryville station. The bridge is not possible to cross by bicycle and throwing our things on a local bus would have been a hassle that she didn’t want us to go through. Being a Sunday morning, traffic was minimal and we got to the station just after 7am.
I got my laptop out, found no wifi and Laura called the Yosemite National Park to see if there were any permits available for Half Dome. Half Dome is the iconic hike in Yosemite and this year they introduced a permit system to limit traffic on the cables at the top. I couldn’t apply for one in advance as I had no idea until a couple of days ago when we would be there and they were all gone months earlier. 50 permits are released at 7am the day before, but when we called at 7:03 they had all gone. I wasn’t surprised as I had heard that they are snapped up in seconds.
We moved our bikes in to the station, picked up our tickets and then spent the next 20 minutes until the train arrived talking to Laura. We pushed our bikes on to the train and said our farewells. As I mentioned above, she was a superb host. We both feel so grateful to her and her husband Whitney for allowing us to stay with them and so happy that we ended up in such great company.
Having not gone to bed until after 1am the night before, we were both quite sleepy. C used the ride to catch up on her sleep whereas I worked on my email backlog. There had been a few emails in my inbox that had been sitting there waiting to be answered for a couple of months, where I had intended to answer them but never got round to it. For those who have emailed me in the past be it on my email or through the blog, they know how I can be pretty terrible at keeping in touch. It’s one of the reasons I write the blog. It means that people can keep up with my travels and I can refer people to it to see my travel stories!
The train pulled in to Merced and I ran to A&M Mart, the nearby grocery store. that I had found on Google Maps earlier to get some provisions. When I saw it, I wished I had gone to Safeway as it was a small place and ended up being like shopping at a petrol station, expensive and with limited choice. I made the best of it and headed back to the Amtrak station where the bus pulled up shortly later. We threw our bikes and bags in the space under the bus and got on board. C sat next to a lady called Anne-Maria who she spent the next 2 hours talking to. I used the time to nap and before I knew it we were in Yosemite. We said our goodbyes to Anne-Maria and went to the campground reservation area to confirm where we could throw up our tents.
At the reservation area, we confirmed that the hiker biker campground was behind Upper Pines. I also found out about other possible campsites to use on the way out of the park. There were 2 between where we were at 4000ft at the valley and the 9943ft exit of the park at Tioga Pass. Crane Flat was about 20 miles away and up at 6200ft, Porcupine Flats was about 45 miles away and at about 8,000 feet. While it was tempting to head to Porcupine Flats, there were a couple of issues. As it was so late in the season, all the services on Tioga Road would be closed. That would mean that we would be unable to get food or water between Crane Flats and the exit. That wasn’t too appealing, although probably manageable. The bigger issue, at least as far as C was concerned, was that we would be camping on top of 3 feet of snow. I saw that as a fun way to test out my camping gear, C saw it as a great way to get cold and miserable.
We went over to Upper Pines and put up our tents. Just after we had finished setting up, Ross and Chris, a couple more cycle tourists came in. They put up their tents and then we started talking to them. They were both from New Jersey even though they had met in Vermont. Ross had cycled about 8000 miles in the last 5 months, while Chris had joined about a month earlier in Portland. We spent the evening exploring the local area with them. We also discovered that we would be staying with the same warmshowers host a couple of nights later.