A few weeks ago, I had the best sleep of my life.
Because in partnership with Delta Air Lines, I spent an entire weekend in nature, with friends and lots of unexpected adventure.
As a frequent flyer, one tip that I have for all travelers is taking advantage of Delta’s SkyMiles Program. If you don’t already have an account, make sure to set one up so you can start accruing miles to experience your favorite destinations - click here. Once you book any Delta Air Lines flights, you’ll earn miles for future flights.
Or, you can also apply for a SkyMiles Credit Card to rack up the miles through everyday spending - and you earn even more miles when you use your card to purchase Delta flights! You earn miles on the SkyMiles Credit Card but also earn miles directly with Delta (no card required) when you book with Delta partners like AirBnb, Lyft, Hertz, hotels etc.
So once you’ve enrolled in the Delta SkyMiles program, start planning your trip! This time around, I decided I wanted to explore some place I’ve never been: Yosemite National Park.
I always thought Yosemite was “for the pros”. You know, the folks who are avid rock climbers and seasoned campers. But after a bit more research, I decided it was totally doable and I should just go for it.
So I posted on Instagram Stories and posed a question, “who wants to explore Yosemite?!” I received quite a few responses and two of my girlfriends ended up booking flights that night.
We ended up booking our flight to San Jose (closest airport to Yosemite) but last minute we decided we want to road trip to San Fran for a few hours. You can also fly into the SFO airport, as it’s pretty much the same distance if you fly into San Jose and drive to Yosemite.
It was awesome to travel with two of my girlfriends, especially since I usually travel solo. My friend Esti and I met at a Women’s Circle and we immediately connected due to our parents being immigrants in the U.S. (and we shared a similar upbringing). My friend Olivia also joined the trip – we originally met at my sorority but since then we’ve moved many times but we were finally back in the same city.
CHECK OUT MY INCREDIBLE RE-CAP VIDEO ON YOUTUBE! Created by Cris Valhalla
And at this point in our lives, we all felt like we needed to disconnect to reconnect, hence why exploring Yosemite would be our perfect escape.
Just to caution – staying inside Yosemite National Park is pretty expensive and the cabins sell out quickly so you should either book in advance or stay outside of the park.
We stayed in an Airbnb outside of Yosemite National Park; which was about 45 minutes from the park entrance. But I highly recommend that you arrive early because in the summer days, everyone is exploring the park, so parking is very limited.
In fact, on our first day, we parked about 1.5 miles away from our initial hike. Along the way, we were faced with some floods so we had to reroute but hey – that’s what makes the journey so unique. You really don’t know what you’ll come across! Tip: Make sure you don’t miss Tunnel View as it’s one of the most beautiful stops on your way to the trails.
Our first day consisted of hiking up Vernal Falls – it was strenuous because you get completely soaked and the stairs are steep. I probably stopped about 5 times on my way up but everyone is on their own pace so don’t pressure yourself into completing within a certain time.
My friend Olivia and I got to the top (I was heavy breathing). But I was quickly mesmerized by the view. It was completely breathtaking to say the least. I found a spot on a major rock and allowed the sun to shine on my face while I soaked it all in; the flowing water, the birds chirping and most importantly, stillness.
As we explored a bit more, we ran into three other travelers from Utah. We connected with them so we ended up finding a spot to chill out for a bit and exchange stories. It was great to hear about their hikes in Utah and it definitely made me want to check out the various National Parks there (here goes my endless travel bug). Let’s just say, my bucket list keeps growing. However, they decided to further their hike on the trail and we decided we had to get back down to catch the next trail. We all departed and said, “Well, hopefully the Universe brings us together again one day”. And we left it at that.
We hiked back down Vernal Falls, which in my opinion, was a lot more difficult than going up. Once we got back to our car, we decided that it’d be best to grab dinner and rest up for the following day which included many more hikes/sights.
Since we were eating snacks all day, we decided to eat a hearty dinner. We ate at a nearby resort and after dinner I hung out by the outdoor firepit. I was immediately greeted by a friendly kid, who offered to make me s’mores. He was so sweet and excited that I couldn’t say no! The kind gesture was then followed by a long conversation with him and his family and he kept asking me questions about what travel bloggers do (very inquisitive, yet smart kid). Quite honestly, it was so enlightening to see how excited he was because as adults, sometimes we lose that spark. Nonetheless, it was a great end to our first day at Yosemite.
The following day, we woke up much earlier since we didn’t want to experience the lack of parking again.
Our agenda was packed and included:
- Mariposa Grove to see the Sequoia trees
- Glacier Point
- Mirror Lake
- Sunset at Taft Point
Mariposa Grove was very accessible, and I recommend it as a starting point to any of your hikes because it’s at the entrance of the park (and we had parking!) From there, we drove about an hour to get to Glacier Point.
Once we arrived, we ran straight to the loo (Tip: Yosemite National Park DOES have bathrooms lol). As I was waiting in line, I noticed a familiar face….
“HEYYY! OMG, UNIVERSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Low and behold. We ran into the three travelers from Utah that we met the day before.
All of us were shocked that one hour away from where we initially met (opposite side of the park) we were reconnected within 24 hours. It was absolutely wild that considering how huge the park is, we all ran into each other again. At that point, we all took a photo to commemorate the odds. Here’s a photo:
After our awesome encounter, we explored Glacier Point – it’s definitely an area I recommend stopping by because the views are stunning (you get a full shot of Half Dome).
From there, we ended up driving to Mirror Lake trail. On Day 2, we had much better luck with parking. The trail to Mirror Lake was not bad at all, so I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a more leisurely paced trail. It was so beautiful because there are parts of the lake that are perfectly still and others that are roaring falls. It made me realize that everyone should be like water; still and calm yet can be a force of power for change.
Once we arrived at Mirror Lake, I heard a familiar sound; a hiker and his family speaking Polish! It was awesome to exchange familial roots and hear what part of Poland he was from. This moment immediately took me back to my grandmother’s house in Poland, where the surroundings are also woods and unbeaten paths. Needless to say, it was a delightful encounter that brought me back to some of the fondest moments of my life.
After our hike to Mirror Lake, we rapidly headed back to our car to ensure we’d make it to Taft Point for the highly anticipated sunset. After driving 55 minutes, we arrived.
There were warning signs as soon as we arrived, “Yosemite Authorities do not recommend Taft Point hike due to dangerous weather conditions”. I immediately thought, “Oh no, we’ll be totally fine”.
So as we proceeded down the trail, there were huge mounds of ice along with huge puddles that tested my ability to leap. We walked as far as we could, until we reached a river. It required us to go through the river to continue down the trail. After deliberation, we decided it wasn’t the best idea, especially since we’d be hiking back in the dark and uhh….snakes, bears, etc etc…No, I’m good.
Initially, I was bummed because I was looking forward to that sunset at Taft Point because it looked so beautiful on Instagram. But, I quickly realized that the sunset was just as beautiful from where we were standing. I was still able to enjoy the warm tones of the sun set as it reflected on the trees. I still felt a sense of peace and stillness watching the sunset. I didn’t have to be in a ‘certain area’ to ‘feel something profound’. Which really made me look at a macro level of life. You can still be happy if you haven’t ‘gotten to that place’. You can still enjoy those moments in between, while getting to your end goal. Perhaps those little moments will reveal that your end goal isn’t what you even wanted. And maybe there’s a reason you haven’t gotten there, because you’re being re-routed to something else. Whatever the case may be, you’re exactly where you should be.
I find it very rewarding to have these moments of reflection on my travels; especially in nature. Everything seems so much more clear and simple. Being with friends, enjoying your surroundings and finding moments of gratitude is when I feel most connected. I hope you all have this sense of feeling wherever your travels may take you.
And if you’re considering Yosemite National Park – 100% recommend it and can now give you a few pieces of solid advice:
1.) Book your flight on Delta.com and be sure to book well in advance because things like cabins/hotels fill up quickly
2.) Don’t stress on getting to all your hikes; sometimes the detours make for the best stories
3.) Recommend staying inside of Yosemite National Park so you can avoid the long line of cars at the entrance
4.) Get acquainted with the bus stops inside the Valley
5.) Don’t worry; there are restaurants inside the Valley (even a Starbucks)
6.) Wear wool socks & hydrate
7.) Think twice before you hike Half Dome (it’s not for the faint of hearts)
8.) Take your time on your hike, it’s not a race
9.) Take long deep breaths
10.) Talk to strangers
CHECK OUT MY INCREDIBLE RE-CAP VIDEO ON YOUTUBE! Created by Cris Valhalla
There you have it! My full experience of Yosemite’s highs and lows (no pun intended) as well as some of my reflections and tips; as always, feel free to reach out with any questions.