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How to get kicked out of Yosemite | CALI COLLECTION

Our Cali trip last summer has kept my mind dreaming.

I had the privilege of being a bridesmaid in a dear friend's wedding. Destination? Yosemite, California.

Now this was my furthest trip out West, and my first time in the Golden Coast state. Ian and I wanted to arrive a few days prior to the wedding festivities, to have an adventure of our own. So we started the trip as separate time travel wizards (he driving solo across the country with a car full of our camping gear) and me, flying to Reno, NV where Ian would pick me up at midnight in the airport.

We were exhausted but crazy excited to get the adventure rolling. From Reno, we drove through the night to get to Yosemite National Park by about 4:30am (I know, I know, we were young wild kids!). We set up tents and Ian went to register, only to find out the process had changed. We were told to wait for the ranger to be on site (at 8am) before setting up camp, and that instead of paying for a camp site in person, campers were instructed to register online in a new system called "the lottery," only giving you a chance of actually scoring a spot. The catch? There was no cell service in the valley.

We were nearly collapsing over each other from sleep deprivation, yet we decided to wait up to speak with the ranger in person.

By the time she got there, we found out the online "lottery" was closed, and they were now only accepting submissions for the next night. We also were told sleeping in our car was forbidden.

As two 20-somethings in dire need of sleep, merely 4 months into our relationship at the time and who had just spent 40+ hours traveling across the country, we decided to do what any upstanding citizens would do.

We snuck into camp.

At this point it was life or death—er—sleep or no sleep, rather. We walked to the furthest end of the designated camping area, set up swiftly, and passed out. "Just to rest for an hour or two would do the trick" we thought aloud. Then, only minutes into our nap of life, came the knock.

Clad head-to-toe in beige and a thick scowl came a park employee we fondly named "Ranger Rhonda." She asked for our names, questioned our lack of registration and the like. Explaining our scenario (and that Ian had camped in Yos previously when policies were different) she firmly scribbled on her notepad, demanded we pack up immediately, and went on her way.

Our sleepy bodies were discouraged, but the adventure had to continue! We were HERE, weren't we?! We had made it to the dreamland of waterfalls and tectonic plates. The time to explore was now. And nothing was going to stop us.

As we stuffed everything back into the car, we filled up on water, pb&j's, and began our day in the park.

We started with a small hike to a thick waterfall. Only 2 miles in length and the trail was mostly in the shade. But what a stunning place we found.

To simply be here—to take it all in—what a pure honor. I firmly believe that the God of the Universe designed every piece of creation. So to sit in the middle of it?! Taking note of every painted rock, bustling leaf, slow motion bead of water...soaking in some of the untouched and purest pieces of His very handiwork, is one of the greatest joys to me.

As the evening drew near, we realized we were now blacklisted from staying in the Valley. We ended up driving an hour outside of the YNP to set up a tent on the side of the road and called it a day. But the adventures didn't end there.

Camping in Yosemite captured my heart.

Spacious mountains and thick waterfalls, endless starry skies and rich forested trails—the place is Heavenly. If you haven’t been, you must. And since we can’t travel there again just yet (thanks so much, covid-19), I invite you to take a piece of Yos home with you.

I invite you to checkout my California collection of photographs. If you'd like to make a purchase, use the code "JULY" to take $10 OFF your order of $20+.

When you soak in these images, know that there is a precious moment, a memory of mine behind each and every one ("Ranger Rhonda", Ian's nose bleed-turned-near-bear-encounter, sneaking in to the showers, nearly passing out on a mountainside, camping on the side of the road....) but these are stories for another day—stories I'll carry for a lifetime.

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