Want to take a break from the bustle of the city? America's national parks are a huge part of our treks, and for good reason – our Trekkers love them! August 25th marks the centennial of the National Park Service, and over here at TrekAmerica HQ we're all getting nature-crazy, sharing our favourite national park experiences.
My very first adventure with TrekAmerica on the Western BLT involved plenty of park time – at both Grand Canyon and Yosemite. I could probably chatter on for ages about both, but Yosemite was a particularly awesome experience – reminding this city gal how amazing nature is.
Fresh from the buzz and bustle of Vegas, rolling up in the van at Yosemite National Park's Bug Lodge was a completely different experience. Nestled on a hill in the depths of the forest, it's definitely got more of an American summer camp vibe than a traditional hostel.
We inhaled a hearty homemade dinner in the Lodge, then headed to our dorm for the next two nights. Sharing with all the girls from my Trek group, it was basically a girly sleepover. Without the chick flicks, but with plenty of travel tales. The next day, we all hopped into the van and made the short drive to Yosemite Valley for a day exploring the incredible parkland.
And embarking on my first ever real hike. Eek.
Sure, I like going for a casual stroll through beautiful scenery (you won't be Pokémon-catching with views like these), but full-on hiking has always scared me a little. Also, I forgot to pack proper hiking shoes, and all I had was a pair of battered and slightly hole-y skate trainers. Oops.
But TrekAmerica makes you a little bit brave. So I joined the group in hiking up the Mist Trail, Yosemite's signature hike. Starting off, we had a pretty easy walk through stunning woodlands. About a third of the way in, the terrain got a little tougher – ending up with a rocky staircase to the top.
The cooling spray from the mist refreshed our faces, and our Trek squad cheered each other on when the going got a little tough. Despite my lack of hiking experience and not being the fittest in the gang – I actually had a blast on the hike.
When I finally made it to the top of Vernal Fall, I didn't just feel breathless from the exercise – the view was just something else. We sat by the water's edge and had a picnic, watching out that the cheeky squirrels didn't steal our sarnies.
Some of the group continued on to the very top of the trail to Nevada Fall, but I decided to just bask in my pride a little. Plus, I really wanted to check out Mirror Lake – the perfect chance to dip tired feet into the cool lake waters!
Being a seasonal lake, it doesn't always have water in, but I managed to catch the picture-perfect reflections of the rocks surrounding it. We didn't manage to spot any of Yosemite's elusive bears, but our walking was interrupted by a herd of deer crossing our path just a few steps ahead.
In Yosemite, I challenged myself, relied on my new friends and took in incredible sights that make your average UK forest basically seem like a roundabout with some trees on. National parks are such an important part of experiencing authentic America, and Yosemite is a definite must-visit.
(P.S I'm definitely buying some hiking boots for my next trip!)