“You were wild once. Don’t let them tame you.” – Isadora Duncan
The bustle of Jackson Hole firmly behind us after a long 8 hour drive, we pulled up to our campsite…which was just a desert.
Admittedly, we had been more than spoilt in terms of campsites up to this point; indulging in constant wifi, mini golf, swimming pools and beer available to purchase within 10 yards of our tent. So when we arrived in our Nevada ‘campsite’, there was an undercurrent of panic from the group.When I say the campsite was basic, I have to admit there was a shower block and a little table area with a BBQ – which in England, are typically luxuries within itself. Unfortunately for us, we had become far too used to American camp sites and their indulgent treats. In terms of amenities, there were a few stone tables, the occasional tumble-weed skipping past us, and some not-so-comfy rocks for us to sleep on.
After setting up our tents, our team were on cooking duty and decided everyone needed a little taste of home – so we settled on cooking sausages and mash.
Rumour has it, it was one of the best camp meals we had…
As it began to turn dusk, our campsite transformed into a private sunset-viewing party, with incredible, uninterrupted 360 degree views of the desert that seemed to absorb the pinkish glow of the sun as it set.
As the sun hid further behind the mountains, it ended up being one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen, and in one of the most unique locations too.
Looking back, I am so glad we had the opportunity to stay in such a remote area with nothing and no one to spoil our unique camping experience.
No matter where you are in the world, never take a sunset for granted.
Heading to our tent, myself and Joe had about an hour of sleep before being woken up to the howls of coyotes. This actually turned out to be our only hour of sleep for the entire night.
To put things a little in perspective: on being waken up to terrifying howls, at this point I had absolutely no idea what a coyote actually was, but had the image of a hyena/wolf in my mind. So you can imagine how terrified I was to hear two packs of coyotes howling at each other across the desert, seemingly getting closer and closer to our tent, and became even more terrified when we heard paws padding against the ground just outside our tent.
I genuinely thought I was going to be eaten by a pack of coyotes.
It was at this point when Joe whispered to me “shall I get the hammer from outside to use as a weapon?”, and suggested going out to ‘save’ our tour guide Peter from the coyotes, as he had decided to sleep under the stars by himself.
After a whispered conversation weighing up the pros and cons of venturing outside to get a weapon/save our tour guide, we decided it was far too dangerous to go outside when there was potentially a pack of coyotes outside, so spent the rest of the night trying to fall asleep, and inevitably as soon as we began to drift off, another sharp howl would wake us back into shock, staring at each other with wide eyes.
You cannot imagine the sense of relief I felt as the sun began to rise and the howls started to stop.
I wasn’t going to be coyote food after all.
As it turns out, coyotes are a lot smaller and a lot less dangerous than we thought, so we had no need to be quite as terrified as we were… but I still feel the fear if I ever think back to that night.
The next day consisted of another long drive day, and finally crossing over the state line and into California – something I have been dreaming of doing for as long as I can remember (dreams that are definitely influenced by TV shows like The OC and 90210).
We weaved through gorgeous scenery and arrived in a beautiful campsite set in a forest on the edge of Lake Tahoe.
Eager to experience our first taste of California, we set up the tents in record speed and headed straight for the lake!
With crystal-blue waters and white sandy beaches, Lake Tahoe was everything I had imagined and hoped it would be. It was pretty much a scene out of any American teen movie.
Sail boats could be seen bobbing on the horizon, paddle-boarders and kayakers weaving through the water, with swimmers braving the cool waters.
Having the lake a 5 minute walk from our tents was such an added bonus and gave us the freedom to spend as much time as we wanted at the beach. Most of us spent the afternoon swimming and sunbathing, and generally just relaxing in the sun – which is even more appreciated than usual when you’re on a tour jam-packed with activities!
Our campsite had a really friendly feel to it, as it had just been – Burning Man Festival, so a lot of people were making their way back home, with the festival spirits still very much alive, and despite the constant reminders about fire safety, people were juggling with fire and hula-hooping in between tents, with more activities being held on the beach at sunset.
We actually camped near some people that were travelling to and from the festival in a red London bus which had been refurbished and was kitted out with beds and curtains; such an amazing idea!
Our camping neighbours were super friendly and seemed really keen to hear more about us all and what we were doing – compared to the night before where we were the only campers for miles, this was such a nice change!
After falling asleep to the distant sounds of Lake Tahoe’s waves lapping against the beach, and the trees swaying way above us; we awoke to find that the campsite had been raided by bears in the night. There was a trail of devastation leading from the large bins – that are generally bear-proofed with huge locks in these areas, with food and rubbish smeared across a large chunk of the camp. We passed a ranger in the morning who told us he’d seen a family of black bears rifling through the bins in the early hours of the morning and luckily he had managed to chase them away – not a job I would enjoy!
We had a quick breakfast and packed up our tents once again – this time headed for Yosemite National Park – somewhere I knew was going to be unbelievably amazing.
Despite my excitement to explore more of California, I was sad to be leaving Lake Tahoe so soon and will definitely be back with plans to explore more of the lake, and definitely squeeze some paddle boarding in!
The drive to Yosemite National Park was insanely beautiful; the landscape ever-changing from grassy sand dunes, to thick wooded forests, to lake front views. We entered the park and headed straight for our lunch spot – on the shore of Tenaya Lake.
Tenaya Lake is potentially the most beautiful place I have ever been.
Seriously, it is amazing.
The water is crystal clear, and seemingly untouched by tourists and pollution.
The sand is white, soft, and warm on your toes.
The trees huddle around the lake and hide it from the rest of Yosemite so it feels like you have your own private beach and lake.
The mountains tower over the far edge of the lake, leaving you with the most perfect combination of different landscapes – and the best photo opportunites.
Here is just a sample of the beauty of Tenaya Lake that we managed to capture (and a few of us ‘frolicking’ in the sun.
While we were visiting Yosemite, there were quite a few forest fires burning their way through the park – this is really common in the hotter months, and we could actually see one in the distance while we were at the lake, which to be honest, made the views even more spectacular.
Reluctantly leaving our hidden paradise, we set off to explore more of Yosemite’s hidden gems…
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