Disclaimer: There will be numerous blog posts and videos about my trip, once i have sufficient computer memory to complete them, my laptop is currently full to bursting with all the amazing photos I took this summer. Keep checking back, they will get finished!
pps. This will be a short and sweet review, the individual blog posts will go into much more detail



After our quiet evening the night before, me and one of my roommates decided to get up fairly early and explore some more of San Francisco before we would meet the rest of the group for our planned activities for the day.
We got ready and headed down to the breakfast room in the basement of the hostel. It was already buzzing with activity, with people cooking up their own eggs and pancakes, it was a great atmosphere. We grabbed our free breakfast, fruit and a bagel and made our plans for the day ahead. We headed back to the room to grab our bags, leaving our other roommates to sleep and we made our way out of the hostel and onto the streets of...

San Francisco, California:
Yesterday on our ventures out of the hostel we always turned right and headed to Union Square so today we turned left.
Our walk started out fine and there was some incredible street art along the way but after not long of walking we started to notice quite a few homeless people roaming the streets.

We kept walking but came across more dishevelled homeless people and saw some drug taking on the street in front of us. It was really sad to see the other side of San Francisco, its not all bright lights and picture postcard views.
We were a bit spooked and uneasy, so hot footed it away from the area to...

As we made our way back to the Union Square area we saw some more incredible street art, so many of the images were huge as well, taking up whole sides of buildings. This was one of my favourite things about the city, being an artist and seeing spontaneous art everywhere was amazing!
We headed into the shopping mall at the end of the Union Square area and spent just over an hour looking round the shops and buying a few little pieces. Inspired by the art we both bought ourselves a small piece of art!
We didn't have too much time left after this before we needed to meet up with the group so we walked back to the hostel. We saw some of the others who had just been out for breakfast so headed back to our room, put our shopping away and reorganised our bags to head out for the rest of the day. We went to wait in the lobby for everyone and while a few people showed up on time, due to the big night out the night before there were a lot of the group who were late. We wouldn't have minded if it were 10-15 minutes late but we're talking 30-45 minutes after we said we'd meet! This was a definite downside to group travel, we'd got up early to fit in what we wanted to do and meet in time but as some others had disregarded it it felt pretty frustrating as we could have seen other areas of the city, and didn't make for a good start to the rest of the day.
They came through the lobby as they had gone out for breakfast late and still had to head to their rooms and get ready.
The reason we all had to meet at a certain time was because we were going to Alcatraz, which was included in the trip and we had a specific departure time for the ferry and if you missed it you wouldn't be able to go.

After we were all gathered we walked back into Union Square to wait for a cable car to head to the piers. As it was a Saturday and the sun was shining and we were running late there was a huge queue. After waiting for a while we decided we had to get taxis to make it in time for our Alcatraz departure so we all headed off and jumped in lots of different taxis.

We made it in time and started queuing on the jetty for our ferry. We got an incredible view of the city across the water as we got nearer Alcatraz and we pulled up feeling pretty happy to actually be here.

We all wandered off in different directions, me trek buddy and I went into an area where you could view some videos about past Alcatraz inhabitants and then we wandered round a few areas of the island.

Even though it was full of tourists and very busy there was an eerie calm about the place, incredible and haunting all at the same time. The views of the city were incredible and made you realise that all the prisoners would have been watching regular life passing them by daily.

Then we wandered round to where you can take the audio tour, saw where the prisoners had to shower in a really open large room at a trough like area and followed the tour to the cells.
These felt pretty spooky to me and I only went into one whilst taking in the surroundings. There was a tiny window in the cell block where you could see the city in the distance again, really driving it home to the prisoners that they were not part of life and completely separated.

We carried on looking through the offices and outside into the yard where they would have had a chance to be outside. This was definitely such a harsh environment for anyone.
We spent longer taking it all in and then headed back to the queue for the boats back to San Fran.

Another point when you realised how isolating it would have been if you couldn't just leave like us.
This visit had been my favourite part of San Fran so far.

PIER 39:
After the boat back we all wandered towards Pier 39 and got a glimpse of all the sea lions here. The sounds were amazing, they were so loud and I really felt like i was seeing what San Fran life was like.

Most of the group headed to Bubba Gump's for dinner but the queue was huge and me and another went to another Italian restaurant to get some food. It was kinda nice spending time in the city in a smaller group as being in a large group navigating a city made everything take a long time!

Then we wandered round taking in more sights and sounds of the piers before the sun started setting.
We slowly made our way back tot the cable car stop and there wasn't much of a queue so this time we made it on one. We rode the hilly streets as the sun was setting and seeing the city turn from day to night on the cable car was pretty special. We got some incredible views on the way and it made you realise how steep the streets are here.

This had changed my mind a little from the day before, finding more things I loved about San Francisco but I think I prefer to explore cities not in a big group, and this was when I realised it was the National Parks that had been the favourite parts of my trip and that I already wanted to plan another trip to visit them again for longer. I wish I had had a little more time to explore different areas of San Fran, the timing of our Alcatraz visit in the middle of the day had meant we couldn't venture too far in the morning or evening so I would like to come back to see other areas.

We hopped off at Union Square again and made our way back to the hostel. We saw some of the others who were headed down to the common room to play cards and have drinks. After a long day we chilled in our room, got our suitcases organised and got prepared for the last few days of our trip...

ITINERARY (LISTED):                           Free Day In SanFrancisco - Alcatraz
ACCOMMODATION:                            USA Hostels - San Francisco, California



Today was our last full day on trek. We had a long driving day but knew it would be filled with amazing views along the Pacific Coast Highway.
This was one of the days I had been most looking forward too, even though it was mostly gonna be spent in the van i couldn't wait to see the amazing views.
It was a pretty gloomy day in San Fran, we got some breakfast at the hostel and headed out for a quick walk around for the final time in the city before getting our stuff together. Jake brought the van around near to the front of the hostel and we packed all our luggage in for the penultimate time.
We headed out of the city, and whilst the beginning of the drive wasn't filled with amazing views as we headed nearer our first stop we got some amazing ocean views, seeing people on beaches, it felt like the holiday part of the trek trip. The sun was out giving some incredible views of Monterey Bay before we made a lunch stop in...

Monterey, California:
This was a great place for a lunch stop. Jake dropped us all off and went off to park the van. We split off into groups and wandered around, taking in the views at the marina. The water was incredible, so clear and we spotted starfish from the boardwalk.

Me and my trek buddy who id done most hikes with wandered around some shops and headed into a local sandwich shop for lunch.
After this we spent a bit longer wandering and it really felt like a different pace of life here to anywhere else we had been. Everything was more chilled and I was loving this Cali beach life already.

We went back to the meeting point and Jake brought the van back which we all climbed into to make our way further down the coast.
It was a shame we didn't have a bit longer here as I would have liked to go into the sea life centre as the marine life is what Monterey is known for but there wasn't a lot else to do.

The next part of our drive, whilst long, was amazing and are some of my favourite views of the trip. The roads were very windey and hugged the coastline, very close to the edge but it made for the most amazing views and driving / passenger experience ever.
You could see for miles down the coastline and see and the shapes of the land. As well as seeing far out into the ocean, the ocean went out and faded into the distance. The colours of the sky, sea and coastline were incredible and changed throughout the day from bright blues to dusky pastel blues, pinks and purples.

It made me appreciate nature a lot more and made me wonder why I hadn't travelled like this before, you could not get a more beautiful long drive. You won't regret picking a trek with the cali coast drive included.
About mid afternoon we made a stop at...

Big Sur, California:
We pulled over on the side of the road. You would see small stopping areas all the way along the coast for cars and bigger areas and see people looking out at different points.
We made our way along the road then took a path closer to the coast. This was some of the best views I have ever seen. we were looking down onto a black and waterfall out to sea, the pacific ocean.
It was a really sunny day and the clouds of the sky into the distance were incredible. The colours of the water were green and blue and so clear.

It was a very peaceful stop where you felt very tranquil.
After spending time enjoying the scenery and taking some peaceful time out we headed back to the van and carried on down the coast.
We made another stop further along for a bathroom break and to get a drink. There was some more great scenery here. We then headed back on the road to...

San Simeon, California:
This was another impressive nature / wildlife stop today. We pulled into a parking area and took a short walk to the nearby beach and Piedras Blancas Rookery.
The weather had turned cloudy but the view was still impressive, although this visit was more about the sights and sounds of the animals. It was a spectacular sight of Elephant seals for as far as you could see along the huge stretch of sandy beach. They were rolling around on the sand, hopping into the sea and playing around. They were so loud, calling to each other but despite this it was a pretty tranquil chilled experience just watching seals in their natural habitat. The most impressive thing about this stop was the amount of seals, there were hundreds for miles and made you appreciate nature again on a day filled with some amazing views.

After a while taking it all in we went back to the van to make it to our dinner stop for the evening to have a big group meal with a sea view at...

Pismo Beach, California:
We got out the van for our final evening stop before our motel and headed into a beautiful restaurant the Spyglass Inn in the Pismo Beach area of San Luis Obispo, overlooking the bay. It had an outside dining area and we arrived as the sun was setting. It was right on the water and we had an amazing view out to sea for our final meal together. We ate, drank and chatted for a couple of hours and it was a perfect way to spend our final night on trek.
It felt really blissful, relaxing and was one of the best dining views I've ever had. As the sun went down and it got dark, it was very atmospheric with the outside fire lamps keeping us warm as it got cold by the sea. This evening topped off a very chilled out day, perfect Cali memories!

We finished up dinner and headed out onto our motel. We got checked in in our usual pairs and by this point it was pretty late. My roommate headed out to spend some time with a few of the group. I got myself organised, showered, settled into the big comfy room and watched a bit of tv to relax before our final day.

ITINERARY (LISTED):                           Beautiful Drive Day - Live Life SLO
ACCOMMODATION:                            Lexington Inn - SLO County, California



Today we woke up to another amazingly sunny California. We all headed down to the restaurant at the Yosemite Bug Hostel to get some breakfast and made our way back to the room to get packed up.
As I and a few others were ready quite early we headed outside and sat amongst the trees while we waited for the others.
We tided up the van a bit while we waited and just chilled out outside. Jake pulled the van around to the front of the hostel and we all loaded our bags into the van.
Then we got on the road, and whilst we didn't have too long a drive, we made our first stop at...

Livermore, California:
We pulled in here around lunchtime, and we all got pretty excited about where we would be having lunch. We were having In N' Out Burger.

I don't think any of us had had this before, although i'd been to the US before i'd never been in an area of the states with In N' Out Burger. I normally have very limited options in fast food burger places as I don't like lots of relish or sauces on my burgers. This place was incredible though, best fast food I've ever had, it was easy to get the type of burger I wanted as a standard option not a special, this was incredibly refreshing for me. Most people went for the special sauce you could have on the burgers and we were all very happy with our lunch, it didn't taste like your usual fast food and was good quality.
After our lovely lunch we got back in the van all refreshed and continued on our way. As we drove across the Bay Bridge we could see the city of...

San Francisco, California:
We drove on a sweeping road into San Francisco, so got an incredible view on our way into the city. Jake drove us around for a while so we could see some of the city sights. We drove through the Lower Pacific Heights area and the style of houses was what I had only ever seen on films before. We saw some cool street art on the sides of buildings made our way to the Golden Gate Bridge.

We all jumped out the van near the bridge as Jake drove across to meet us at the other side. The weather was very cloudy and dull so you couldn't even see the top of the bridge, a well known and common sight in San Fran apparently.

We took our time and it was really special to walk across the bridge and get the incredible views of the city and of Alcatraz as we passed across. After spending some time on the other side of the bridge we all got back in the van and Jake drove us to another area of the city.

We walked across a Alamo Square and saw the painted ladies. These are famous San Francisco houses and was another incredible view. We also saw the Mrs Doubtfire house.

Of all the places we had been to so far I wasn't as impressed with San Francisco as I thought I might have been, which I was surprised at. It didn't really seem like my kinda place but was still incredible to see the sights i'd only ever seen in movies before. I think it was because I had fallen in love with Yosemite so much on the days before that somehow it just didn't seem as impressive!

Jake then drove us across to the hostel we would be staying in for two nights. The hostel was really nice, great quality, with a kitchen and common room downstairs where we could get breakfast. We got into groups of 4 as it was 4 to a room got settled in.
We changed up who we normally shared with this time as the people who wanted to party and be out late shared and I got into a group with people who wanted a more chilled evening. This was good as people would be getting back at roughly the same time as you which meant we could all get the sleep we wanted without being disturbed!
The only downside to the hostel was that as we were on the ground floor the toilets and showers were on the main corridor, so when you were waiting everyone was rushing past, no big deal though as everyone was in the same boat and the facilities were large, modern and clean.

The rest of the day was free for us to do what we wanted. We all gathered in Jakes room where Jake gave us information about things we could do and see over the next 2 days, along with details of our Alcatraz trip for the next day.
Most of the group had decided to go for Chinese for dinner so they all got together and headed off. I don't like Chinese food so me and one of my roommates who wasn't fussed out eating too far away from the hostel headed out to explore Union Square, which was about a 5 minute walk from the hostel.

We popped into the pharmacy to get some cold and flu remedies and then spent some time around Union Square taking in the atmosphere. We watched the cable cars climbing the hilly streets and were looking forward to hopping on some tomorrow.

We decided to get dinner at a really nice Italian restaurant on that was on the same street as the hostel. When we walked in everyone was dressed up so we felt a little uncomfortable by the surroundings as we were in comfy clothes but the food was amazing and it wasn't too pricey despite the amazing service and good atmosphere.
We slowly walked back to the hostel, getting some drinks and snacks at a corner shop on the way. As it was dark now we also got some views of the city lit up. We both got an early night, chilling in the room, catching up with friends and family back home and relaxing a bit after our busy previous few days of hiking and all the walking around today.
Th other 2 we were sharing with also came back after their Chinese dinner, while everyone else had headed out to explore the San Fran night life.
Our first day in San Fran had flown by in a whirlwind and we were ready for some more beautiful sights tomorrow...

ITINERARY (LISTED):                           Welcome To San Francisco - Flowers In Our Hair
ACCOMMODATION:                            USA Hostels - San Francisco, California



Today we were up early, most of us headed down to the restaurant for breakfast as we were going to need our energy. After brekkie we headed back to the rooms to get organised with our day bags and then met at the van. We had to get going from the hostel to get back into Yosemite NP for a full days hiking and exploring.
It wasn't too bad starting early as it was bright sunshine and on the way Jake stopped at a small shop for some of us to grab snacks for our hikes. We drove on and arrived for our second day in...

Yosemite National Park, California:
We drove through all the winding roads with the sun shining down on the van through the trees. We arrived in a large parking lot which was fairly empty as it was so early.
Jake explained that he wouldn't be hiking with us and then went with us all to one of the Yosemite bus stops (there are free buses around the park to different locations, usually the start of trails and other key points in the park).

All of us got off at Stop 16, to start the Vernal Falls trail. Jake explained that we had 8 hours to explore the park and then a location to meet back up at, for about 5pm where we would all have dinner. 
I loved this, it was one of the first National parks that we really could explore on our own and see whatever we wanted.

About half the group headed off at a fast pace as they were going to do the big hike to the top of Vernal and Nevada Falls and back. The rest of us set off to reach the Vernal Falls Bridge. 

It started getting steep quite early so a few people turned back and decided to go exploring in the rest of the park while our group of 4 continued the steep hike up to the bridge. It was bright sunshine but because it was early it wasn't too hot yet. 
As we hiked we passed some of the camping group on their way back down, they had arrived at 6am! It was fun to catch up with the camping group along the way. We finally made it to the bridge after stopping to take in the views during the hike. It was a very busy trail and very busy at the falls bridge. It was a beautiful location with a lot of the leaves on the trees covering the view up to the falls where you could see the falls poking out, the river the water created flowed under the bridge across the rocks below with an amazing view downstream.

After we filled up our water bottles at the filling station had a rest and took in the views we made our way back down to the start of the trailhead. I was a little bit sad to be heading back down and I would have loved to carry on up to the top of the first waterfall Vernal Falls, but it had been a difficult hike and I really wanted to see as many areas of the park as I could rather than just a couple.
Once back at the trailhead our group of 4 split in two. Me and another got the bus to the beginning of the mirror lake trail whereas the others decided to walk the trail from there to mirror lake.

Once we got off the bus we took a slow walk which was fairly flat and really nice compared to the steep previous hike. 

We walked towards mirror lake spotting sculptures created by putting stones on top of each other and a North Face photoshoot, Yosemite is where the brand started.

We then got to Mirror Lake, it showed its name as we could see the reflections of the surrounding mountains reflected in the clear lake. We spotted the others at another part of the lake but weren't sure how to reach them as we were on other sides of the lake.

After spending some time here we headed back to the trailhead. We caught the bus to Yosemite Valley and spent some time in the visitor centre and gift shops. We sat outside in the sunshine on some benches and had our lunch here.

Then we got the bus from here to take the shorter trail to Bridal Veil Falls. By this time the weather had turned a bit, it was colder and much more cloudy, with no sunshine. We started the short hike and when we got to the falls we were a little disappointed as it was a small viewing area which was very busy and difficult to get a good view with many tourists rushing to get photos, and climbing the rocks to get closer to the falls despite all the written warnings not to. These falls were not as impressive as everything else we had seen and because it had turned windy and cloudy the small amount of water flowing was being blown about in the wind. I imagine in gull flow you get a much better view but there wasn't much water flowing, although because you could see the wind blowing the misty fall it was still a good view.
After spending a little while here we walked back to the trailhead. These trails were in Yosemite Valley and we were also across the road from the base of El Capitan, so we got another great view of El Capitan from a different angle to yesterday. It looked much more imposing looking up from the base.

We couldn't stay here long though as due to the times of the bus we had to get back on the next one to make the meeting point on time. We got the bus back to the visitor centre and then changed to another bus after a short wait to get to our meeting point.

We found everyone sat at tables outside some restaurants and caught up with their big hike, turns out they did it in 5 hours and then had been chilling and having drinks. We also met up with the camping group, Jake had ordered a load of large pizzas and a few people went in to get them. They were put out on the tables and we all tucked in. It was great dinner, even if there were lots of squirrels trying to nab the pizza.

We also found out Jake had spent the day sorting out our Alcatraz visit which was included in the trip as it had been booked for an early morning visit the next day at a time when we wouldn't have arrived in San Francisco. Jake had sorted it all out and it had been changed.

After speaking to the camping group, they were all planning on going swimming in an indoor pool and having a chilled evening but one of their group wanted to join us as Jake was going to drive us up to Glacier Point to get a view of the sunset over Yosemite. So we agreed to a tight squeeze in the van so that the person from their group could get the experience. It was great that you could do this with trek, if theres another group around doing something else you would rather do thees a chance you can hop in with them.

So we all piled into the van as there was always one spare seat, so our extra trekker filled in and although it was a squeeze it wasn't too long a drive. 
There was a third trekking group we had met up with at the pizza party and the tour leader of that trek was going to follow Jake up to the viewpoint as she hadn't been there before.
We started the drive and it was like a ? going round and up a mountain, the drive was very steep, the steepest I've seen. The views were hidden by trees around the edge but as we got near the top we started to see the amazing views. We were very high up. We got parked up, with the other group behind us parking up as well.

We all got out and took the 5 minute walk over to Glacier Point. 
This was the most stunning view I had ever seen! 
It was bright sunshine again now and the view was incredible, it looked like a painting, you could see the shadows slowly rising up the rocks and all the detail and different greys colours across the mountains. We took some photos in the picture perfect location then all sat down to watch the sunset. You could see so far in the distance and it made me feel like I was standing on top of the world.
This was my favourite part of trek!

As the shadows rose up the mountains looked pink and were covered in a pinky orange glow, it is the most beautiful natural thing I've ever seen. It made you realise how small we are in the world.

As darkness covered the area we headed back to the van, the other group had already headed off. That was the best way to end a day in Yosemite.

We drove down the mountain in the dark and as we got back to the valley Jake stopped for us to take a short walk in the dark to a waterfall to see if we could see another natural phenomenon, called a moon bow - a lunar rainbow from the mist of the waterfall. It only happens at that time of year, and although we got to the waterfall after stumbling in the dark and saw the moon it wasn't creating the effect as it was too cloudy.
We walked back to the van scaring each other on the way and we could see twinning lights across El Capitan, these were all the climbers that were on the face of the mountain for the night on their sleeping ledges. They looked so tiny against the rock, it looked like little stars up the mountain.

We got back on the road and dropped off our extra trekker back to the place where their group was staying and then headed out of the park for the final time and back to the hostel. I got showered as there would be too many of us trying to shower in the morning otherwise and we all got to sleep, tired from the long days hiking.

This had been the best day on trek so far, I really felt that I had seen so many areas of Yosemite and that the long hike could wait till next time. I knew I already wanted to come back to Yosemite...

ITINERARY (LISTED):                           Free Day Yosemite - Fantastic Hikes
ACCOMMODATION:                            Yosemite Bug Hostel - Midpines, California


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