I have vague memories of hiking and going on travels with my parents since I was a kid. But back then, we never called it that - it was just "getting out of the house".. to see a falls, drive through really winding roads that were called "chicken intestines" (yeah, I know - who would call it that?? - but it was fun), multiple trips to beaches (having grown in a tropical country w/ lots of islands - this was a common thing), checking out to see bats in caves that we'd need the assistance of a local to bushwhack through.
All of it came to a halt though, when I reached my teenage years. Those were the years that the company of family were replaced by friends, trips exploring caves became movie theaters, eating out are no longer picnics but at restaurants with fellow teens. We still had our family trips to my family's ancestral hometowns with occasional explorations but my priorities to keep what kind of memories changed.
Fast forward to my 20's, on our way to yet another night of binging on drinks and jumping on good beats - we found ourselves instead on a spontaneous trip heading north and driving into Yosemite National Park in the late late Friday night with nothing on us but the clothes that we were able to rustle up at someone's house (in exchange of clubbing clothes) and a sense of adventure. We drove into the park in the wee hours, happy to have missed the ranger at the entrance (can you say: free entrance?) and giddy of the unknown in the darkness. It was everyone's first time at Yosemite and one of us was even visiting this country for the first time, we didn't know what to expect. Come to think of it, I don't even think we had any expectations, at all. None of us knew anything about the park, except that it was there.
Travelling with a bunch of girls (and one guy) - bathroom break was inevitable. It was in the wee hours, so when we arrived any establishment we would find were bound to be closed. We never even thought of campground restrooms.. heck, we never even knew about campgrounds! That was how naive we all were that time. I vaguely remember us deciding to just park somewhere and walk around to try to find a place to do our "business", when an off duty ranger or park employee happen to walk by and offered assistance to a group, who look like they don't belong there. She offered to take us to their barracks/housing and use their facilities (the girls & guy got separated for a bit). We were in and out fast, grateful for their kindness but didn't want to overstay the hospitality.
Later that morning, cramped up inside a rav4, I had my first wolf encounter. Couldn't sleep, decided to climb out of the car and light up a smoke (my smoking days are long gone). As soon as I opened the car door, I got into an intense eye to eye contact with this magnificent creature. By the way, that was just a one sided recollection of the event. I highly doubt I looked intense in the wolf's eyes, 10 years later I can still picture her in my mind. Needless to say, I didn't get a chance to do what I intended to do, and back to the car I crawled.
The morning after, we explored around the park as much as we possibly could. Explored a river we came across. Scrambled up some rocks to get some pictures in solitude.
Even hiked halfway to the famous Yosemite falls. We didn't make it all the way to the top. It was a pretty high traffic area and a hiker that passed us cared enough to share with us his little off the trail area to get closer to the falls, half way up. It was the perfect setting for a picnic lunch. I can't even remember where we were able to gather up some food for lunch!
That weekend, that happened 10 years ago, was the weekend I got my first taste of the California wilderness. Albeit, unplanned, we were able to experience a lot of the park, its wildlife, scenery, rivers, falls, huge trees and met some of people that loves this park. Its fangs got me good but like some bites, its venom sat still in me, quietly, bidding its time. It took a few more years before I finally started on the learning curve of maneuvering the ins & outs of our public lands (bless the intarwebs for this!). That, however, is another story.