The day I met my friend Connor, I could tell he was a spontaneous and adventurous person. Within a week of meeting we had already taken our first road trip down to Rosarito, Mexico for some cheap adventure and some of the longest car lines of our lives; (I now suggest walking across the Mexican border to save hours of your life stuck in traffic). Based off my first week knowing Connor I knew he'd be down for something bigger and better than a car ride to Mexico, so I pitched an idea. The Grand Canyon. Surprise surprise, Connor agreed! The same day we came up with the idea, we were making it a reality. I ran into work and told my boss I would need yet another week off, next week in fact.
6 days later we had no real plan, just some maps pulled up on our iPhones and some basic ideas. We were scheduled to leave the next day, ready for all that Arizona had to offer, and then we changed our minds. Yosemite! We heard great things about Yosemite National Park, so we pulled up new maps on our iPhones, threw some tshirts into a backpack, and hit the road.
Day 1: Failing to get organized
Day one we hopped in my red convertible punch buggy, late. So late. So so so late. We had planned to leave San Diego around 9am, which would drop us in the national park in 6.5 hours around 3:30pm... We left at three. Whether it was from the party the night before, or the fact that we were just insanely unprepared, we we're running a little behind schedule.
Leaving at 3pm and stopping for sushi on the way, dropped us in Bakersfield by nightfall. We decided to scour for a last second hotel room instead of journeying further and setting up our tents in the blackness. We stayed at the Residents Inn Marriott and it was beautiful, by the way.
Day 2: Glacier Point and stupid groceries
$140 down, only three hours away, and fully energized to try this road trip thing again, we left Bakersfield excited to hit the mountains. Now, I distinctly remember Connor mentioning every time we passed a grocery store that we should "pick up our food for the week", "this might be the last grocery store we see",. But I'm stupid, so incredibly stupid. I assured him that we could get plenty of things to last us while in the park. So we carry on with our day, sitting on cliffsides, getting our last second walk-up camping in Bridal Veil Campground in order, taking some fun photos, when the night hits. And we're hungry. Journeying out of the park takes about an hour, so that night we had to drive all the way out of the park, and back in, just to get food and drinks. -10 points for me.
-Photos from day 2 taken at Glacier Point-
Day 3: They Valley and discovering Taft Point
Day three of this trip includes views and experiences that I will never forget. Waking up on day three started with us failing to cook some of our sausages, giving up, and borrowing a pan from a neighboring camper. After throwing on our clothes we were off to test my so-called "fear of heights".
Taft Point is a beautiful 1 mile "hike" that leads to insane views and 7,500ft high drops, that we decided to sit on the edge of. I always thought I was scared of heights, up until this day I swore by it. Stacking hammocks and looking down at my friends was terrifying, but all of a sudden I'm hanging over the edge of a deadly drop, and it's nothing but beautiful? I will never forget this day, because it is the day that has inspired so many other adventures (including sky diving) in realizing that I am not afraid of heights anymore.
-Photos from our first time at Taft Point-
Continuing on day three, we drove down into the Valley. I keep finding myself tempted to write "this was my favorite part", but then remembering all the other cool moments that were equally amazing. They Valley was a great part of our day. We drove through an insanely long tunnel, and when we came out we were overwhelmed with the view. We drove through trees at the bases of all the giant and famous rocks, it felt like we were ants. In the Valley, there are lots of places to pull off the road so that you can explore. So we did. We saw deer, giant wishy flowers aka Dandelions, skipped rocks, and walked across logs.
-Photos from our day goofing around in the Valley-
Day 4: Back-flips, rainbows, and mist
It's so hard to pick which day was my favorite, but day four was full of some insane views and experiences. We grabbed Connor's Birksun solar backpack, his camera, and some granola bars and drove down to a trail head in the valley called the Mist Trail. The mist trail can lead you to some great places, and today it lead us to Vernal Falls. a 318ft waterfall. To get to the falls we had to hike 2.5 miles on a gorgeous mountain trail, and walk up hundreds of stone steps once we actually reached the falls. Connor did some backflips into the water while I sat on top of a giant rock getting slapped in the face by mist and got to view a perfect full rainbow on the water. We sat here for hours.
-Photos from Vernal Falls-
The rest of day four was very relaxed. We headed back up to Glacier Point with a blanket and snacks to watch the sun go down. My favorite part of this night was hearing people convince their significant others, moms, dads, sisters, brothers, friends, etc., to let them go closer to the edge because "see, those two are doing it". We climbed down past where the lookout railing was holding some other tourists in their comfort zones, and enjoyed the vast view practically to ourselves.
-Photos from our second time at Glacier Point-
Day 5: Wanelo, frog meadows, Taft Point round two, and craving showers
On day five I was asked to do a SnapChat takeover for my favorite company, Wanelo. Wanelo is essentially an online wishlist website where people can shop, as well as post reviews and photos of things they have bought. A SnapChat takeover basically means that I log into their account, and broadcast what I'm doing for the day for thousands of their viewers while promoting the company.
We trekked back to Taft Point first, because it was beautiful and we wanted everyone to see it. I wore my striped Wanelo dress.
-Photos from our second time at Taft Point-
In order to post these SnapChats, we had to constantly drive back to Glacier Point [the only place in the whole park that I had cell service]. So we headed back there, posted some stories, and went on to a meadow. A meadow that terrified me. We we're walking through the grass when I saw something jump, and I ignored it. But then I saw something else jump, and then more things jumping. We were surrounded by frogs. They were everywhere.. We got one or two photos before I ran for my life out of that meadow.
-Photos before I ran from frogs-
After the frog meadows were behind us, we went on one more trail to another meadow. We didn't take photos because we didn't want to carry our backpacks this time. Then we went to Sentinal Dome. I personally didn't think the view was as great as the ones we had been seeing, so we didn't take photos here either. After these other trails we headed back up to Glacier Point to post some stories, and complain.
So this is day 5, the last time we showered was the morning of day 2 in our last second hotel room. While we had planned to stay in Yosemite for even longer, and it was the greatest road trip I personally had ever taken, we thought of a new game plan. One more last second hotel room, showers, and we would stop by Six Flags Magic Mountain (the theme park with the crazy roller coasters,) on the way home.
We headed back to the campsite that night, took the food out of the bear proof metal cage that Yosemite provided us, packed up, and started driving out. It was so sad to leave.
We struggled finding a hotel room near Six Flags, we almost contemplated sleeping in the car if it weren't for the fact that my legs were caked in dirt from days of hiking. Hours went by and we eventually found a hotel that had little spiders on the ceiling, but we didn't care. We had 15 more minutes until the clock struck 2am, which means no more liquor can be sold. So we rushed over to the gas station and got a few tall cans, kicked back, and got stoked for our next day.
Day 6: Six Flags and new plans
Waking up clean and in a bed felt nice, and so did riding roller coasters! After messing around in the park until closing (6pm,) we planned one more day on our way home. One of my best friends from a couple years back just started school at USC, so we rented one more hotel and made plans to visit her on day 7 of our trip.
Day 7: USC, traffic, and Mexico
We drove down to USC in a shit ton of traffic. It took us a long ass time to find parking, (good thing I didn't go to a university, I wouldn't be able to survive that on a daily basis). When we finally did park, we were greeted by campus hippies asking us to join their Eco-friendly clubs, but I literally ran away. I saw Sheridan from across the quad and was way more excited about seeing her than about talking to a dude with a clipboard. After introducing Connor and Sheridan, we got lunch together, saw her dorm, and then headed down into the fashion district of LA to go to Urban Outfitters.
Urbans clothes are okay, but the real fun is their book section. Did you know that as a Sagittarius I have a high chance of ending up in a mental clinic or even an insane asylum? Did you know that Taurus have higher chances of gaining weight and getting arthritis? According to Urban's book section anyways.
While in LA, my friends from home keep blowing up our phones with a group chat full of people heading across the border for some clubbing in TJ. Of course we wanted to go, so we tried rushing from LA to meet them at the Mexican border. We were told to meet them at the border at 10pm, and we were so nervous we would be late. We made it just in time though! We spent the night dancing and club hopping. One of my closest friends speaks perfect Spanish and knows his way around the area, so we felt super safe by his side. We had a ball until the clubs closed at four am, and we headed back to America.
From Yosemite, to Six Flags, to LA, straight to Mexico. Gotta love road trips with spontaneous people!
Day 8: Heading home
Waking up in North Park was cool, but still wearing the same clothes from the clubs the night before wasn't. Connor and I headed back up to his house in Carlsbad to drop his camping gear and himself off as his house, and then I headed home to North County.
Now that I'm home, and ventured on that amazing trip, all I want is more. I want more experiences like that, without a dull moment, full of beauty and adventure and good people. I'm stoked to plan more.
If there is actually anybody reading this, do you have any suggestions for my next random trip? I'd love to hear some of your stories or ideas.
All of these photos were taken by the amazing photographer Connor Kollenda.
To see more, find him on Instagram : @connorkollenda www.instagram.com/connorkollenda
To see more, find him on Instagram : @connorkollenda www.instagram.com/connorkollenda
I had so much fun! Side note:
I can't remember which day this happened, but on one of our days in Yosemite my tire pressure was getting low. I was super nervous about it so I made us drive an hour down the mountain to a gas station to fill them up. After Connor filled my tires with air, we were looking through my emergency car kit that I have, and guess what I already had with us the entire time? A mini air compressor that plugs into my car and can fill my tires with air. Awesome waste of time that that was!
One more side note, make sure your car is full of gas when heading into a national park, because we thought we were going to run out on the side of the road at least twice! Good times! We honestly laughed the whole time. -10 points for me, for never stopping for gas!