chasingkm, National Parks, nature, travel, USA

Two days in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

With just a few weeks left in California before we start our road trip back east, we decided to squeeze in a quick trip to America’s most popular national park – Yosemite! We realize only a few days is not enough to explore Yosemite to its full potential. But, you can fill your days with enough to make you feel satisfied, tired, thrilled and awed by this grand valley!

yosemite

Day 1

We left Tahoe at 4am and took a slow and scenic route through Mariposa and entered the park via Arch Rock entrance.  You are very soon in Yosemite valley and surrounded by granite cliffs, gorgeous meadows and waterfalls. We couldn’t help but stop right away to gawk at El Capitan – a massive granite cliff face that people have actually scaled – one guy with no ropes in 2015!!

el capitan, yosemite

Since we were staying in Housekeeping Camp in the valley, we went straight there to park the car and utilize the free shuttle. We took the shuttle to stop #7 (or E2 if you’re on the El Capitan shuttle that only runs in the summer months) and walked across the Swinging Bridge (to avoid taking the bus all the way around the valley to E7) to the start of the Four Mile Trail – our chosen hiking trail for the day.

hike, glacier point, yosemite

Four Mile Trail to Glacier Point

Despite this trails name, the one way distance to Glacier Point is in fact, 4.9miles (7,8km). Many people choose to take the shuttle up to the point and walk the trail back down. But, at 25$ per person for the bus this was not an option for us. We began the hike around 11am, not the most ideal time for a 17km hike. The trail begins with some steep switchbacks, straightens out and continues with quite a few more switchbacks. Most of the beginning of the trail is under tree cover which provide some welcome shade. The views become even more spectacular as you ascend. With the inviting Merced River, powerful Yosemite Falls and eventually Half Dome, you get to experience so much of the Yosemite valleys beauty in one hike. We took it slow, stopping for pictures, water breaks and snacks along the route. We arrived at the top of Glacier Point in just over 3 hours.

yosemite falls, tosemite yosemite valley

Our celebratory cool drink atop the peak was soon interrupted by a thunder storm rolling in so we started our descent pretty quickly just to get off the top of the mountain. By the time we got down to the valley again our knees and lower backs could feel each of those 17km! Thankfully, we could catch the El Capitan  shuttle back to E1 and then just walked the rest of the way back to Housekeeping Camp.

half dome, yosemite

Housekeeping Camp

After staying outside the park when we visited Yellowstone, and having to travel over 60kms each day into and out of the park we really wanted to stay inside the park this time. But – we had read and heard that bookings for campsites were rarely available. Bookings open up five months in advance and are fully booked during summer months often within the first few minutes of reservations opening up!! We really thought we had no chance seeing that our trip was such a last minute decision. Two days before our trip I was frantically searching for accommodation nearby, cheap enough and nice enough when I found myself on Yosemite’s website. I had just about given up hope and was checking every lodge and campsite within the park for our dates and was so surprised when housekeeping camp came up as available. I hadn’t even heard of Housekeeping Camp before!!

Turns out, housekeeping camp is a “campsite” that consists of three walled structures with a canvas roof and one canvas side. Each unit has a double bed, one set of bunk beds, a shelf and a mirror inside. Outside each unit is a little verandah area with a picnic table and a fire ring just outside out it. Exactly what we needed for just one night in the park (although I could have happily stayed there much longer). There are showers available at Housekeeping Camp. You get vouchers for these when you check in. (Keep them safe for the duration of your stay -they’re also valid for the hotel swimming pool!). Showing your shower pass gets you a free towel and the showers are supplied with shampoo and body wash!

Campfire Meals

After feeling clean and refreshed we were starving for dinner. We bought some charcoal for 10$ at the general store at the campsite and a lighter for 1$. We set a picnic blanket next to our fire pit and started a fire – of course we were going to braai for dinner! On went our pork steak and down went a couple of beers! Some roasted marshmallows were enjoyed and off to bed we went. After our 3:30am start, we were both so ready for sleep!

Quiet time is from 10pm and though the campsite was lively and full of families it was a super pleasant environment. We slept well, the beds were comfy and the bathrooms nearby. If we came back to Yosemite we would totally stay here again.

Day 2

We set our alarms for 8am and got some coffee from the general store. We were able to have breakfast and pack up at a leisurely pace before 9:30am to start our second day. Our second day included three smaller hikes around the valley. We planned to use the shuttle again on the second day and leave our car parked at Housekeeping Camp. From stop #12 the shuttle can often be pretty busy as it picks up all the visitors from the day parking area just before it. A few buses passed us by before we were finally able to catch one and head to our first hike of the day – Mirror Lake.

Mirror Lake

A popular little hike only 3 miles (4,6km) round trip up to a lake. You can walk along a trail or along a paved road. The lake changes seasonally as it is all snow melt run off but is still a popular place to swim and hang out. We took off our shoes and waded through the water before going back. We hopped back on the bus only an hour or so after we started and headed to our next little “hike” for the day.

yosemite, mirror lake

Lower Yosemite Falls

At stop #6 you’ll find an entrance to this hike which makes an easy little loop trail. Only a mile long and all paved makes it a very accessible and highly popular trail. Stand on the bridge. Starie up at the lower part of the falls. Feel the spray of it in the breeze. AMAZING!! This is the 4th largest waterfall in the world and often stops running by mid summer to fall. This year however they expect it to run all year through as the snow melt has been so huge!

yosemite falls, yosemite

At this, we took the shuttle back to pick up our car. We headed off to our third and final trail of the day. This one was outside of the valley area toward an exit. It made sense to do it on our route out of the park.

Merced Grove

This one is another 3 miler – a quick drop down to a sequoia grove and a slower climb up. The information board suggests it takes 3 to 4 hours but I think that’s a large over estimation. We went down, gawked at the size of them and took a few pictures. We were back up at the car in an hour and 10 minutes. At the bottom there is a 1 mile loop to Twin Bridges if you want to extend your hike.

sequoia, yosemite

The trail starts on Big Oak Flat road at the B7 marker. There is a parking lot and a turn out space for a few more cars. There is a restroom at the start of the trail too! This was helpful as we were heading out the park from here and back to Tahoe.

Yosemite Fees

Yosemite entrance fees: $30 per non commercial vehicle

Interagency annual pass: $80 (this gets you into all national parks in the US for 12 months)

Housekeeping Camp: $98 per night (for up to four people)

 

Yosemite brings our total National Park tally to four in the USA so far.

Have you explored any and which has been your favourite? 

bass, chasingkm, Fishing, fly fishing, travel, trout, USA

Alternative Fishing Spots in South Lake Tahoe

Fishing is somewhat of an obsession of mine. Few things beat the thrill of feeling a fish on the end of your line, or the satisfaction of figuring out how to catch one. Coupled with this is the spectacular scenery you often find yourself in. Whenever we reach a new destination I always spend ages looking at Google Maps, searching for any body of water that may hold fish. Then there is the exploring to find a way to get to the water and, of course, trying to figure out if said body of water actually has any fish.

Fishing in South Lake Tahoe

Spending a summer in South Lake Tahoe, on the shore of Lake Tahoe has been a very exciting as well as frustrating “fishploration” for me. Lake Tahoe itself is, of course, a very popular fishing destination and can produce some record catches. It is, however, highly unlikely that you would catch anything fishing from the shore. You need to head out on a boat to improve your chances. (Here are the top fishing charters in the area according to tripadvisor). Not owning a boat nor wanting to spend too much money on a fishing charter (#travellerbudget), I had to search around a bit more.
Just a stones throw from the house we’re staying in is a small creek, aptly named Trout Creek. The river/creek fishing season on the Tahoe basin opens on July 1st. This meant I had to wait around for over a week before I could even attempt to fish this creek.

Naturally I had to find an alternative fishing spot.

The Tahoe Keys

A bit of Google searching and reading random fishing forums, I found out that ‘The Tahoe Keys‘, being shallower and warmer than the lake itself, had become home to bass, bluegill and even crappie. A small boat or kayak would open up all of this water to fish in quite easily. Not having these I had to hunt around for a few access points where you could get to the water (check the map below for these). Fishing in the Keys is not amazing. You can easily catch the bluegill and small crappie if they’re around. The bass are a lot more finicky but not impossible.

tahoe keys, fishing, south lake tahoe

Tahoe Keys Overflow

Situated behind the Keys is another body of water that seems to be a spillover for the Key’s canals. Here, there were also a large amount of bluegill – fun on fly tackle, as well as some cruising bass.

tahoe keys, fishing, south lake tahoe, bluegill

HINT: If you park at the end of the road near the water treatment plant there is a little pathway that will take you down to the water. I didn’t see any no fishing or private property signs etc. The path was well used. 

 

Trout Creek

The creek season finally started and I had my first attempt at Trout Creek early on a Saturday morning. I caught nothing! One flash at a dry fly and that was it. My next outing was late afternoon and also produced nothing. Tahoe had just been through a record winter and snow melt meant the rivers and creeks were all very full and very fast, bursting their banks in a lot of places, not ideal for fishing.
A week later Trout Creek finally paid off for me at about 7pm. I finally landed a brook trout on a dry fly. I’ve fished the creek few times since and found a few decent spots. I even found  bluegill in some of the slower bends. A lot of the bank is accessible from Railroad Trail. You can park in the cul-de-sac on Columbine Road. It is also accessible from Golden Bear Trail.
tahoe, fishing, fly fishing, south lake tahoe, brook trout, trout creek, dry fly

Upper Truckee River

A few days later I headed up Luther Pass, just outside the town of Meyer. The Upper Truckee river is accessible from here by taking the Upper Truckee Road South turnoff and traveling down into the river valley. There is parking near the bridge and quite a lot of the river is accessible from here. Hiking through the area is also very scenic and if you’re feeling adventurous enough you can hike up to it’s source to fish as well. The water was still very high and my morning out did not produce any fish. A few days later I tried the Upper Truckee again and landed two trout. One was very small, the second about  30cm. Both came as the sun was almost down on a dry fly. This spot produced another small trout for me a week later and every time I’ve tried it I’ve had at least one hit on the dry. There is quite a bit of river bank to fish there and ample parking at the corner of Elks Club Dr and Emerald Bay Rd. Check the map at the end of the post.
fishing, fly fishing, trout, upper truckee, south lake tahoe

Carson River

At the top of Luther Pass you will also come upon the West Fork of the Carson river. Quite a lot of the river is accessible. You can park near the bridge just before the t-junction. I’ve fished the area once just as the sun was setting. Lots of rises all over and hits on the dry fly. I didn’t land anything though.
An adventuring spirit and willingness to look around for fishing spots will eventually lead to results. The Tahoe area abounds with creeks and rivers and mountain lakes begging to be explored. Even if you don’t catch anything you’re bound to see some spectacular scenery or a breathtaking sunset.
sunset, caples lake, south lake tahoe

 Here’s a short recap of my alternative fishing spots:

Tahoe Keys – between the houses, lots of bluegill, some crappie and bass if you’re lucky.
Tahoe Keys Overflow – bigger and more aggressive bluegill, very fussy bass.
Trout Creek – small brook trout in most areas, dry fly and early evening has been good for me.
Upper Truckee River – bigger trout, also all on dry fly.
West Fork of the Carson – chances of Rainbow and Brown trout.

Don’t forget to get the right fishing license for the area. On Lake Tahoe itself you can have either a Nevada or California license. I bought a California license from Tahoe Fly Fishing Outfitters. The staff were very friendly and readily gave advice about the area and fly choices. Licenses are also available online or at most sports/tackle shops in the area.

I often prefer this search and all the frustrations that come with it to guided trips or charter boats. Call me crazy or call it therapy. Some days I do wish they would put up a big neon sign that says, FISH HERE, use this bait. But those days quickly fade from memory when I do find that perfect spot.

I’ll be posting on more fishing spots soon. Follow me on Instagram @thelazyfisherman for up to date catches.

What is your favorite way to fish? Guided, popular spots or out of the way and quiet?

backpacking, chasingkm, Europe, Germany, travel

Eurotrip Part Four – Berlin

Berlin, a city steeped in history, a city that has suffered so much, yet a city that is a pleasure to explore. Amongst the hustle and bustle of people getting on with their everyday lives, 5 star hotels, shopping malls and parks – you wouldn’t say this city had been nearly destroyed by the end of World War two.

Continue reading “Eurotrip Part Four – Berlin”

backpacking, chasingkm, Europe, Germany, travel

Eurotrip Part Four – Cologne and Dusseldorf

We stopped through Dusseldorf on our European adventure as our friend, Jade (from Durban whom we met in Korea) is currently living there. She offered us her futon in her gorgeous apartment as well as local beer and wine on arrival (now that’s a friend)! The few days we were with her were well spent, exploring both Dusseldorf and Cologne.

Continue reading “Eurotrip Part Four – Cologne and Dusseldorf”

Amsterdam, backpacking, chasingkm, Europe, spring, thelazyfisherman, travel

Eurotrip Part Three – Amsterdam, The Netherlands

We are finally on the adventure of our life time (up ’till now)! After resigning from our jobs teaching English in South Korea in February, we are traveling through Europe, visiting Paris, BelgiumThe Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland and Austria. We spent almost a year planning our two month trip to Europe which eventually evolved into a ten month journey that will see us crisscrossing Europe, Ireland and the USA for a few months. Central America may (hopefully) make its way onto our itinerary.

The way we travel is a combination of hostels, couchsurfing, workaway and friends. This means we get to experience regular life and meet locals in the places we visit as opposed to just being main stream tourists. It also means we can stretch our budget further and travel for longer!

Amsterdam

The first things that come to mind are Red Light districts, “coffee shops” and liberality. You will find these in abundance all over the city center. Amsterdam has much more to offer than just this though. We started our first full day in the city with a “free” walking tour with Sandemans NewEurope. These tours are not actually free as you have to tip the tour guide afterwards. It does mean you can pay what you feel they deserve or you can afford, though. They are usually quite good and are a nice way to find your bearings in a new city, and pick up bit of history along the way.

Things to see/do:

The Red Light District. If you wander through it during the daylight hours it is a fairly tame area. Most of the window boxes are empty or have their curtains drawn. Basically each window is privately owned/operated by the lady inside. She will stand in the window to attract clientele. The later it gets, the busier it gets. So more of the windows will be filled and the streets will be teeming with tourists, stag parties, tour groups and curious onlookers. No photos/video are allowed in the area and apparently you will get chased down if you try. We also saw a few of the ladies pull their curtains shut if any youngsters walk past. All of them were clothed in about the same amount of clothing you would see on the average beach on a sunny day.

The Museum Quarter.

Here you can find all the major museums in the city. Our highlights were the Rijksmuseum and The Van Gogh museum. The first has a range of exhibitions from many famous artists though the ages (Rembrandt, Van Gogh etc) and covers more than 800 years of Dutch and world history. When we were there it even had a whole section on Dutch history in South Africa which was very interesting. The Van Gogh museum takes you through his whole life, his influences and his troubled end with displays of his paintings and his peers/mentors and idols. Interesting even for the non-Van Gogh fans. This area is also home to the I Amsterdam sign (in front of the Rijksmuseum). Get there early if you want a photo as it gets super crowded! There is also a nice park/square where you can hang out if the weather is good. The Anne Frank house is not in the Museum Quarter, obviously, as it is still in its original location. If you know exactly when you will be in Amsterdam books these tickets online, way in advance. They sell out quickly! If you don’t do this you have to wait in a queue, possibly for hours. From 9am to 3:30 pm you can get tickets for a certain time slot. After this you join the queue and buy a ticket at the door. If it’s too busy you won’t make it inside. We joined the queue at about 3:50pm and waited 2 hours to get inside. It was so busy you were just bustled through each room and it felt like the museum had no actual impact. Not the recommended way to do it.

Walk the streets.

Amsterdam has something for everybody. From trendy bars and cafes, hipster hangouts, street markets and buildings dating back hundreds of years. Amsterdam was also where the Dutch East India Company (VOC) started up, probably the first stock exchange/market/publicly traded company in the world. The city is, of course, also filled with canals. These are still used for boat transport, cruises, fishing (I tried this one evening from the banks/bridges) and the mooring of houseboats/cafes/bars. We love to walk around the cities making our way from landmark to landmark on foot with breaks in between to people watch and enjoy some local beverages and snacks.

Dam square, right in front of the Royal Palace, is a popular hangout spot in the center of the city. Most of the trams/busses also pass near here. You could easily spend a few hours here in good weather with a few drinks watching the goings on of the tourists and locals (pro tip – the bigger department stores usually have bathrooms if you’re desperate).

The public transport in Amsterdam is well organized and reasonably priced with single ride to 72 hour passes available. The city center is very walkable though so do a bit of research before you invest in a pass. We were in a hostel just outside the center and found that most days a single ride ticket in and out was sufficient. The other way to get around is of course cycling. Most of the roads have dedicated cycling lanes and cars/pedestrians usually give way to the cyclists.

Useful information:

We stayed at WOW Amsterdam. It is outside the city center but has some supermarkets and tram/bus stops nearby. Beds were comfortable and the rooms were spacious. Bathrooms were well equipped and close to the rooms, towels were provided. There was no kitchen worth speaking of. Just a small room with a bar fridge, microwave and basin. No cutlery or crockery. The breakfast was sufficient to start the day, buffet style, cold meats, bread/rolls, cereals coffee tea etc. The wifi was patchy most of the time.  Can’t really complain too much as it was only 10 Euros a night for a mixed dorm.

Albert Heijn supermarkets are great. They usually have good food specials, you can get a loyalty card free, most of them also have free wifi.

The Apple store has free charging stations and wifi if you have an iPhone.

The train network is quite extensive and many places are within day trip distance from the city itself. Kayley went to Keukenhof for the morning and we both spent an afternoon in the nearby town of Harlem. Beaches are also within reach.

Google maps worked fine for the public transport. If you don’t have a sim card be sure to download the offline map before you head out and screen shot all your transport options for later in the day.

 
We have found apps that have offline functions to be specifically useful. What has been the most useful app you’ve downloaded for traveling? 
Amsterdam, backpacking, blossoms, chasingkm, Europe, Keukenhof, spring, The Netherlands

Spring Blossoms in Keukenhof Gardens

Ever since I was in grade two I’ve been wanting to visit The Netherlands. I wanted to see tulips and windmills, go to cheese markets and wear clogs and see real delftware and just about everything else we got taught about in our “Around the World'” theme. There really was no doubt that this country would feature on our Eurotrip. Of course, many of these things do not excite Mark as much as they excite me, namely, Keukenhof Gardens – the most beautiful spring garden in the world!

Continue reading “Spring Blossoms in Keukenhof Gardens”

backpacking, chasingkm, Europe, The Netherlands, travel

Eurotrip Part Three – Gouda, The Netherlands

We are finally on the adventure of our life time (up ’till now)! After resigning from our jobs teaching English in South Korea in February, we are traveling through Europe, visiting Paris, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland and Austria. We spent almost a year planning our two month trip to Europe which eventually evolved into a ten month journey that will see us crisscrossing Europe, Ireland and the USA for a few months. Central America may (hopefully) make its way onto our itinerary.

Continue reading “Eurotrip Part Three – Gouda, The Netherlands”

backpacking, chasingkm, Europe, outdoors, The Netherlands, travel

Eurotrip Part Three – The Hague and Delft, The Netherlands

We are finally on the adventure of our life time (up ’till now)! After resigning from our jobs teaching English in South Korea in February, we are traveling through Europe, visiting Paris, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland and Austria. We spent almost a year planning our two month trip to Europe which eventually evolved into a ten month journey that will see us crisscrossing Europe, hopping on over to Ireland and then onto the USA for a few months. Central America may (hopefully) make its way onto our itinerary.

Continue reading “Eurotrip Part Three – The Hague and Delft, The Netherlands”

backpacking, Belgium, Bruges, chasingkm, Europe

Eurotrip Part Two – Bruges, Belgium

We are finally on the adventure of our life time (up ’till now)! After resigning from our jobs teaching English in South Korea in February, we are traveling through Europe, visiting Paris, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland and Austria. We spent almost a year planning our two month trip to Europe which eventually evolved into a ten to twelve month journey that will see us crisscrossing Europe, hopping on over to Ireland and then onto the USA for a few months. Central America may (hopefully) make its way onto our itinerary.

Continue reading “Eurotrip Part Two – Bruges, Belgium”

backpacking, Belgium, chasingkm, Europe, Ghent, Travel

Eurotrip Part Two – Ghent, Belgium

We are finally on the adventure of our life time (up ’till now)! After resigning from our jobs teaching English in South Korea in February, we are traveling through Europe, visiting Paris, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland and Austria. We spent almost a year planning our two month trip to Europe which eventually evolved into a ten to twelve month journey that will see us crisscrossing Europe, hopping on over to Ireland and then onto the USA for a few months. South and/or Central America may also make its way (hopefully) onto our itinerary.

Continue reading “Eurotrip Part Two – Ghent, Belgium”