As a contrast to the lively Las Vegas, we drove on to the Death Valley. The next day we passed the deepest point of the United States and thus were below sea level. The temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius kept us from further exploration in this zone of death, and we drove on. The next big goal was the Yosemite National Park. On the way there we passed the Mammoth-Lakes. Nestled between some still snow-capped mountains, the lakes were set in a fantastic alpine scenery. And it was wonderfully cool, 28 degrees Celsius. Then we went further to the Mono Lake, a saltwater lake with bizarre limestone formations, which were formed by the reaction of sweet spring water with the salt water of the lake and are now exposed due to a major drop in water level.
Then it was high time, we drove up to the 3000 m high Tioga Pass, the eastern entrance of Yosemite National Park. At the visitor center, we immediately informed ourselfs about the possibilities for multi-day hikes, planned our trip and then went to bed in the car. The next morning we quickly got our hiking permit and two bear canisters. These plastic boxes were necessary because black bears like to steal food from the tents, and if necessary take not too much care about the owners. Then we went off and the GPS led us first into a trackless wilderness. This had the advantage that we met our first animals, three roe deer, which were running relaxed for a short distance ahead of us. Arriving back on the track we went on for a while, along the Tuolumne River, which soon turned into a raging thunder with rapids and roaring waterfalls.
The trail stayed always close to the river, going up and down. On our first evening in the wilderness it rained for the first time during our USA trip and we danced with joy. After a very cold bath in the river and a little fire in the rain, we went to bed.
The next day we had to cover quite some kilometers, as we had a 1,100 meter climb in store for the last day. After about an hour walking, we met a group of guys who warned us of rattlesnakes on the track. Rattlesnakes?? At the visitor center we were told everything about bears, but rattlesnakes were not mentioned. Well, what could we do? Go on. Shortly after it happened: our first rattlesnake was lying on the track. Fortunately, they had as much respect of us as we had of it and withdrew under a stone. But after that our heartbeat was a little faster than usual. Professional photographer Franka also got out the camera in time to shoot a movie. No trace of fear!
After a few more hours, the rattlesnake was almost forgotten when suddenly something shot aside beside my foot. I remained rooted to the spot and saw a pissed off rattlesnake hissing at the side of the track. That was close! With a pulse at 180 and enough adrenaline for the next two weeks we went on a little more cautious. Towards the end of the day we left the river and began climbing the first vertical meter. The reward for our efforts was a beautiful camping spot on a plateau with brilliant views of the river and a reservoir. On the last day of the hike, we had only four hours to walk and then hitchhiked back to our car with a super nice Korean family. The final result: 65 km, over 1500 vertical meters, four snakes and enough material for several photo-show evenings. On the same day we marveled at the gigantic, up to 3,000 year-old, sequoias. One could even pass through a particular large (dead) tree with a car. Wow. Oh, and we saw a little bear there as well 😉
No less impressive was the next day, the Yosemite Valley, the jewel of the U.S. national parks. We marveled at the Yosemite Falls, the largest waterfall in North America and the famous1,000-meter wall of El Capitan, attempted by some climbers.