We sent our Web Developer, Chris, on a trip from San Francisco to Las Vegas through Yosemite National Park and Death Valley. Read about his trip and experiences below.
In February I got the chance to take my first trip, by myself! I would be travelling in a small group on the ISSKG trip, which was a little daunting because I'd never travelled anywhere by myself, I'd always had someone with me. I thought this would be a little out of my comfort zone, I was very wrong. The group were all like-minded, and once you realise that everyone is in the same boat and travelling by themselves, you quickly get friendly with everyone!
Our tour leader, Chad, was incredibly friendly and always helpful. Whenever we had a question about the area he almost always had an answer for us, and if he wasn't sure he'd find out for us. He'd also point out things along the way that we'd almost certainly have missed if we'd have been travelling solo, so having a tour leader that knew the areas we were going to was great and really enriched the tour for us all.
Day 1 - San Francisco
Some of us arrived in San Francisco a few days beforehand to wander around the city, but I arrived in the late afternoon after an 11 hour flight from London Heathrow. On the way we passed over Greenland where we got to see sea ice in the making, and then just hours of ice below us which was pretty cool to see.
After arriving, I met the rest of the group for a run through of the tour. Later that evening we went on an Urban Adventures walking tour through San Francisco and had a meal at an Italian resturant. Then, some much needed sleep.
Day 2 - Sonoma
We started off early in the morning on a short drive to the town of Sonoma, but had a quick stop at the Golden Gate bridge where we were dropped off and met up with the tour bus at the other end. We then headed off to a Vineyard for wine tasting and tour of the vineyard. We also learnt about the history of the spanish missions on the premises.
After the vineyard, we headed to Jack London state park to take a short walk to see some redwood trees, which were huge!
Day 3 - Yosemite National Park
Today was a fairly long drive day to Yosemite National Park, so we started early again. Once we arrived we set off on a hike to see some giant Sequoia trees, and they really were giant! We also managed to fit in a visit to Bridalveil Falls.
Day 4 - Yosemite National Park
Arguably the best day of the trip. Stunning scenery, a semi-long hike, great weather, and waterfalls! We hiked up to the first waterfall, Vernal Fall, and some of us carried on up the trail to the top of Nevada Fall while others headed back down to explore the valley floor.
The group of us that headed up to the top had a very relaxing lunch on the flat rock plateau next to the waterfall, and spent a good hour and a half just appreciating the view.
In the evening we watched the sunset at the famous Tunnel View, being able to see along the length of the Yosemite Valley and getting some incredible photos.
Day 5 - Lake Tahoe
More of a chilled day than some of the previous days, and a short drive to Lake Tahoe. We did a small hike down to the lake's edge, and as it was still winter a small portion of the lake was frozen over which was pretty cool to see. There was also another waterfall, Eagle Falls!
Day 6 - Lone Pine
On the way to Lone Pine (where our hotel for the night was situated), we stopped off at a couple of places.
First off was Mono Lake, which due to excessive consumption has turned into an almost uninhabitable briny puddle, albeit a fairly large briny puddle! The high concentration of salt has however created some pretty impressive salt columns, and has encrusted the few plants that line it's shores.
Next up was Manzanar, a camp where Japanese and Japanese-Americans were unjustly kept after the Pearl Harbour incident.
In the evening we went up into a the Alabama Hills where we watched the sunset.
Day 7 - Death Valley
We had a very early start this morning, but it was to watch the sunrise at the place we watched the sunset the day previously, Alabama Hills. Afterwards we headed off to Death Valley, one of the hottest places on earth!
We did quite a few hikes and sightseeing stops in Death Valley, including the lowest point of Death Valley which is below sea level, Badwater Basin. We hiked through Golden Canyon which is where some parts of the original Star Wars trilogy were filmed, and took a look at the pastel coloured mineral deposits of Artist's Palette.
On the way back to the hotel we were caught in a sandstorm! Instead of being cooped up in our rooms waiting for it to pass, a few of us braved the sand and headed to the only Saloon to pass the time, which as it turned out quite a few people had the same idea!
Day 8 - Las Vegas
The last day of the trip for some of us, me included. The drive to Las Vegas was fairly short, and once we'd checked into the hotel we had free time to explore the city. In the evening the group met up for a buffet dinner, and afterwards a few of us wandered the strip and caught one of the Bellagio fountain shows before heading back to the hotel for some much needed rest.
Day 9 - Home!
Today was a day of travelling home to the UK, via Montreal. One long 11 hour flight later and I was back home, having completed a pretty amazing trip.
If you're interested in doing the same trip I did, check it out below, i'd definitely reccomend it!