Dylan is the all-in-one owner, tour guide, driver, and grill-master of his company Orange Sky Adventures. When I met him his company was in its first few months and he was going around San Francisco spreading his Yosemite camping trip packages through word-of-mouth. He invited me to join him on one of his first trips at the beginning of summer. I could not have expected a better experience with a better group in one of the most beautiful places on the planet.
Early one summer morning, we set out from San Francisco aboard ‘Buddy,’ Dylan’s humble tour van. At full capacity, our tour consisted of Dylan and I with four other travelers. As we crossed the Bay Bridge into Oakland, Dylan handed me his iPod to put on some tunes. One by one, each passenger was gently lulled back to catch up on some sleep to the country twangs of Johnny Cash as golden-brown hills passed us on the highway.
On the way, we made two stops for supplies. One stop at a Raley’s supermarket for fresh steaks for dinner and another stop at a small roadside residence to pick up wood for the evening’s campfire. Nobody was around to pay for the firewood, but a big friendly dog greeted us beside a honor-system payment box.
Winding our way around the narrow roads hugging the Sierra Nevada Mountains, we finally passed the entrance of Yosemite National Park. Our first stop would be the Sequoia groves were we hike around massive Sequoia trees. Some were downed by gravity, others toasted by past fires, and others still standing after a couple thousand years on this earth. They were so big that cameras could not effectively capture their size within the frames of a photograph.
Upon our return to the van, we found Dylan with a table prepared with a whole range of food: bread, lunchmeat, veggies, hummus, chips, and beer (bought independently at the supermarket). It was the makings of a classic American picnic. With appetites fully satisfied, we were ready to make our way into the Yosemite Valley itself. Now, I’m not sure if its such a big point of interest for most visitors, but there’s a turn in the road that offers the first view of the Yosemite Valley that, to me, is an unbelievably striking spot because it marks the departure from ordinary, everyday scenery to a sight that evokes the divine.
You see pictures and footage of Yosemite at home, but at first sight, it becomes apparent that you should run a reality check. “This is real?” I asked myself. If you remember the reactions when the visitors of Jurassic Park saw their first dinosaurs you can place my feelings in the same ballpark. As we gazed at the landscape, perfectly lit by the afternoon sun, Dylan assured us that the best was yet to come as we continued down the mountain road down to the heart of the Yosemite Valley.
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