Flew IND to LAX. Upon arrival to LAX, took a shuttle to rental car, picked up rental car, and drove to Joshua Tree NP arriving ~9PM. My mother met me at Black Rock Canyon Campground after having driven down from Idaho where she was visiting her friend Cheryl. Set up tent in the dark and went to sleep. No photos from this day. :(
We woke up and broke down the tent to go in search of the campground I *really* wanted to be at, Hidden Valley. We had a quick breakfast in town at Carla's Route 62 and then drove to Hidden Valley and secured campsite 10. After setting up camp again, we drove around Joshua Tree to get our bearings, spent some time climbing around on Hall of Horrors, and eventually ended up back at camp. After trying to nap for a while, my mom decided it was too hot to camp and packed up and headed back to Idaho. Once she left, I walked around the campsite (being my normal extroverted self) and met fellow photographers Mark, Charles, and Keri. For dinner, I boiled water on my camp stove and had some ramen. While I was cooking, a couple from Germany pulled up and asked if they could share my campsite (this was a theme for the whole week), and I said yes. They were in a camper van. After dinner I tracked down Mark and Keri and we drove up to Keys View for sunset, and then spent some time photographing stars until about 10:30PM.
On the third day, I woke up at Hidden Valley early and went to meet Keri - she did an early morning sunrise session for me, which was *incredibly* sweet of her. After that, I drove into town to make my check-in calls (my mom, grandmother, and partner all wanted daily confirmation that I was alive, lol), picked up some beef jerky and firewood, and headed back to my campsite to prep for a hike. I hiked the Lost Mine Trail (2 mi out, 2 mi back, rated moderate) and chose to skip out on the loop which would have made it over 6 mi total. On this evening, Pablo and Julia asked to share my campsite, and it turns out they are from right outside Vicenza, Italy where I am going to photograph a wedding in September. For sunset we all climbed up to the rocks overlooking camp and I met yet another photographer, Brandon. After sunset I built a fire, made some hot chocolate, and roasted marshmallows. I woke up at midnight to go out and photograph the Milky Way with Brandon and another photographer we found, Bill. We heard coyotes singing, and I saw one coyote running down the road.
I slept in since I was out so late photographing the Milky Way, and chatted with Pablo and Julia quickly before leaving for 29 Palms for my daily check in, more fire wood, and a gatorade. After town, I headed back to the campsite and rested for a little while before heading out to walk the campsite loop and then hike the Baker Dam Loop (1.1 miles, rated easy). Baker Dam was one of the prettiest parts of the park and I didn't bring my camera with me. When you get around to the dam you're able to just sit and watch the ducks in the water. So pretty. Matt & Andrew (two med students) asked to share camp this evening. That evening I drove over towards the Cholla Cactus Garden, stopping at a large outcropping of rocks just a short while past White Tank Campground. It was there I met Shusha, a sweet girl from China, who was driving around with her mom and nephew. We all hung out, climbed on the rocks, and took photos. For sunset I continued on to Cholla Cactus Garden. Post-sunset, I drove back to camp, built another fire, and headed to bed. I was woken up at about 1:30 AM by coyotes in the camp next to mine (they had left food out).
I was a little creeped out by the closeness of the coyotes the previous evening, and it looked as if the party-camp was going to be staying for a few days, so after a quick run to town and some more photography of the Joshua trees and rock formations, I decided to head out to Yosemite for the remainder of my trip. The majority of this day was spent driving. When I arrived at Yosemite I took a few moments to enjoy Tunnel View (views below on Canon and Sony), and then put my camping karma to the test since I had no campsite reserved. I drove around asking single-tent sites if they were open to sharing. I got about 4 votes of "no" before I found Leland, who let me camp with him for two nights (one at Lower Pines #54 and one at Upper Pines #148). After setting up my tent for the first night at Yosemite, I cooked some ramen and sat by the campfire for a while before heading to sleep. I woke up around 10:30/11:00PM and headed up to Glacier Point for some more Milky Way photography. While at Glacier Point, I met another photographer named Colby (who I kind of already knew from the internet - he's in several of the same Facebook photography groups as me). We stayed up at Glacier Point until about 1AM and then I headed back to camp and crashed hard.
This morning I slept in a little again, and by the time I woke up Leland had packed up his stuff to move to the next site. I lounged for a bit, trying to decide what to do for the day. After a quick morning snack, I also packed up and moved my camp to Upper Pines. I decided if I only had one full day in Yosemite I would go big, and chose to hike the Upper Yosemite Falls trail (7.6 mi round trip, rated very strenuous). The trail was switchbacks the entire way up, with an elevation gain of 2600 feet. I met a girl named Jenna whose husband had taken off at full speed, and we decided to be trail buddies on the way up. There were several awesome views on this hike, and the view down on the valley from above was totally worth it. Once I hit the top I spent some time napping on a rock (true to my regular form), and then took some photos of Derek and Kevin goofing off at the top. They returned the favor and took a picture of me (sitting down, because I don't have a death wish). I made some new trail buddies on the way down (Edmund and ... Michael, I think. I forgot to write their names down, whoops). After that hike, I went back to camp, ate some dinner, and turned in early around 8:30PM.
I woke up and realized there was no way I could tackle another hike after Upper Yosemite Falls the day before, so I packed up camp (after Leland made us a breakfast of pancakes and bacon and strawberries!) and headed to Glendale where I spent the night with a friend before flying home on 5.21.