Known primarily as a popular summer camping destination, we’ve always been huge fans of Yosemite in winter. So when we heard that one of our favorite recent LA transplants, designer and photographer Alex Rice, was heading to our beloved National Park for a solo winter adventure, we convinced her to let us tag along…by sharing her travel tales with us! We love that Alex was inspired by our same mission to get out and make your life an adventure! So come along for the ride on our first Travel Tales ~ YOSEMITE!
HAPPY ADVENTURING!! xoxo, Sirens & Scoundrels
Instead of wearing a sparkly, uncomfortable party dress and hitting the city streets of LA for the New Year, I decided to immerse myself in nature. Although I was looking forward to the new year, 2016 had some incredible memories—living with my best friend in Washington D.C., working with talented artists and traveling with my mother to Montana. But after moving from Burke, VA (a place that was familiar to me for sixteen years) to my new home in East Hollywood, I felt I needed to celebrate my move by welcoming 2017 in a place I had never been. So I decided to hit the road for a spontaneous solo trip and spend the first day of 2017 in Yosemite National Park.
Honestly, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I just knew I wanted to go. So after a 4 ½ hour car ride armed with my sidekicks—a box of Cheez-Its, a few white chocolate macadamia nut Cliff Bars and a Nikon camera—I ended up in the middle of Yosemite on January 1st. When I got to the entrance, the park ranger handed me a map. My heart started racing—I couldn’t believe I made it to Yosemite! I didn’t even look at the map because I didn’t want to waste any time. Immediately, everything seemed surreal. Giant trees, towering mountains and low-hanging clouds engulfed me. I drove up a curvy road surrounded by sequoias. The forest became denser and the light peeked through the pines. There were patches of snow and ice on the ground, making the deep greens and reds from the trees illuminate the park. I realized I was naive to how massive Yosemite is—it felt endless. While driving up my first mountainside, white clouds covered most of the overlooks and the roads were hidden by dense fog, obscuring my view. But I was on the hunt, determined to see something through the mists. I finally saw a sign to Bridalveil Fall, so I quickly parked and ran out of my car to see this massive, powerful waterfall peeking through the trees. I just stood there staring, thinking how I’ve never felt so small. I hopped in my car again and nothing felt real…I just knew I had to keep exploring.
I tried to explore more of the park that first day, but the clouds covered most of the mountains and it started getting late. So on my second day, I finally got to see my Mac Book Pro screen saver in person. The sky was clear and Yosemite looked exactly how I had pictured it. I stuck my head out the car window and gazed in awe at how high the mountains grew. I stopped my car when I finally got to Half Dome. It was sprinkled with snow and glowing against the blue cloudless sky. The dome was so massive, its shadow turned the tallest pine tree black. I felt as though I was looking at a painting.
Since this was my first solo trip, I learned a lot pretty quickly. I decided camping alone might not be the best idea, so I stayed in a charming town called Oakhurst instead. Located about 20 minutes away from the entrance to Yosemite with plenty of cafes and stores to buy more supplies, it was the perfect spot. If I were to give any tips about going to Yosemite in winter, I would say buy a good pair of hiking boots with lots of traction because there are sheets of ice on the roads. Bring lots of water and snacks since it takes awhile to get out of Yosemite. Also, fill up on gas before entering the park. I made the amateur mistake of thinking half a tank would be enough. Luckily, there was a small gas station near the entrance.
Although there were many sights that I fell in love with, from the waterfalls to Half Dome, my favorite memory was on my last day in the park. The fog crept back into the forest and roads. The whole scene looked like an ominous clip from a film. I remembered that this was the same image I saw when I first entered the park, so I wanted to capture that first memory. I found a small spot to park my car and ran out to the edge of the woods. Even though I was slightly worried because I could barely see what was in front of me, I remember thinking how beautiful and still the woods seemed. This was the exact picture I was looking for: peace.
After I said my goodbyes to my new favorite park and started the long car ride back to Los Angeles, I could not help but think about what Yosemite taught me. It’s okay to take a break from the real world and let your mind wander. If you want to go somewhere, just go. Don’t let any excuse stop you. It’s always worth creating the memories, even if it’s by yourself. Last year, I was so focused on moving out of DC, I completely lost track of myself. I worked endlessly saving money and researching different jobs. I realized I was no longer doing anything that I truly enjoyed. I wasn’t taking photos, I had stopped looking for hiking trails and I didn’t even bother to illustrate anymore. I was just rushing to “get out”. But once I got to Los Angeles, I felt as though I didn’t have a chance to really celebrate my accomplishments. With New Year’s just a few days away, I kept looking at pictures of Yosemite and thinking how I couldn’t wait to go someday. When my sister asked what I was doing to ring in 2017, without any hesitation I said, “I’m going to Yosemite.”
We sat down with Alex to go over all things awesome about discovering California!~
What do you love most about LA so far?
I love the food—there’s such a good variety. You can get Pho, you can get Mexican and everything’s really good. I haven’t experienced that before. And the weather, of course. It’s so beautiful. I can’t believe it’s March and so sunny and warm. And it doesn’t get that cold or humid.
What’s your favorite neighborhood?
I love Larchmont so much! It’s my speed. You can get coffee, you can get dinner or a drink. It’s quiet and it’s cute. And I love Bricks & Scones.
What do you appreciate most about California?
Everything is an hour away from each other. So you can go to the beach, the desert, the mountains. You can go Downtown if you want. You can just kind of see it all and have it all in a day if you really wanted to. You don’t get that anywhere else.
What are you dying to explore next?
Oh man, a lot! In California, Big Sur is up there on my list. I wanna see that really bad. I haven’t been to San Francisco yet. And I want to see the redwoods and even Death Valley. I’m also dying to go to the Grand Canyon. And I want to go back to Yellowstone.
What’s inspiring you these days in life and in art?
Having an excuse to just get out and go somewhere different. And I like creating something super weird—I think the weirder the better. So weirdness is inspiring me right now, I guess!
Alex Rice is a designer and photographer based in Los Angeles. Alex moved to Los Angeles in October 2016 from the Washington DC area and is now ready to explore the West Coast. She is always up for an adventure, especially exploring her new home state. She hopes to share her experiences and inspire others to find their courage to explore. Follow her on Instagram: @alexmrice.
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© 2017 Sirens and Scoundrels // Photos © 2017 Alex M. Rice