California Tripping: Yosemite National Park

“You should ask for her Facebook account now,” Joseph tells me as the bus hisses and slows down at our first stop in the Yosemite National Park nearly 200 miles east of San Francisco. It has been around four hours since we left the City by the Bay at dawn and the bus is set to depart for Los Angeles, where the 12-day bus tour concludes.

But we have other plans. Instead of going with the bus to L.A., our group will stay behind somewhere between Yosemite and Fresno and wait for Tito Boy, Tita Fenny and Paolo (who stayed behind L.A. to rent a van) and pick us up going to Tita Fenny’s sister Tita Liz and her husband Tito Danny in Lathrop. Which is why Joseph is pressuring me to get the Singaporean girl’s contact number – time is quickly running out and we’re working against a very vague schedule.

Yet I can’t. At least not now. “It’s awkward just walking right up to her and suddenly ask for her email, don’t you think?” I tell Joseph. He just shrugs and reminds me of a popular Mark Twain quote: you’ll regret more the things you didn’t do.

Straddling three counties in central eastern California, the Yosemite National Park is one of the largest parks in the U.S., with around 95% of the parks designated as wilderness. Tony, our tour guide since leaving Los Angeles two days ago, is all praise about the park’s granite cliffs and waterfalls, though I can’t understand much of what he says, mostly due to his tendency to talk too fast in a heavy Chinese accent.

We first stop for the obligatory photo op of the El Capitan, which towers about 3,000 feet above the ground near the park’s western end. The current solid granite face of the mountain, beloved by thousands of rock climbers in the area, was a result of millions of years’ worth of glacial action. But just as with the rest of our stops, we don’t linger much.

After a couple of shots and a few minutes to just take in the view we move on to the Upper Yosemite Fall, which, at 2,425 feet, is North America’s highest measured waterfall. With an hour on to spare, the two Singaporeans and I are able to stroll around the area more. We walk away from the bus and cross a road that leads to a forest trail. We spot a man trying to paint the view with the falls from afar framed by the tall trees. The roaring of the water soon becomes audible. The trail to the bottom of the waterfall is short but a pleasant stroll. From the road, it’s just half a mile passing through gorgeous old-growth conifers. A group of nature photographers converge on a bridge nearby. On the rocks by the edge of the river, a father and daughter are caught in a warm embrace, enjoying the view in the midst their own little world.

A few minutes later I’m with probably dozens of other people looking at the Yosemite Valley from the Tunnel View. But this time I don’t mind the crowd. Somehow, the imminent end of the tour keeps me focused on the view – beds of treetops laid on a surface that cover the bottom part of the El Capitan, the Half Dome and the Yosemite Falls. I’m not quite yet ready to leave all these behind, I think to myself.

The two Singaporeans approach me and ask about the best angle to capture the valley. Nearby, a photographer with a medium format camera is studying the scene. “Let’s follow the lead of the true professional,” I joke. But we position ourselves near the photographer nonetheless and take pictures of the valley.

It turns out that it’s our last conversation. After a mix-up on the schedule and a miscommunication on where Tito Boy will pick us up, the bus ends up dropping us at a Target in Fresno. The two Singaporeans and the rest of the bus passengers are in a restaurant a few miles away, having their lunch.

As we stand in the shade of Target, I turn to Joseph, who’s eating a ham sandwich. “Joseph, now’s the time to say ‘I told you so.’”

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