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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