It is the third week in Stanford and this foreign campus is starting to feel like home. On Wednesday, we decided to take a little trip out of campus to Palo Alto for dinner. Ramen Nagi caught our eyes on our first trip to Palo Alto because of the really long queue (also because it was conveniently located opposite Sharetea). And long queue means good food right? Try not to get too hungry looking at the photo of the ramen that lived up to its 4.5 star Yelp rating.
What’s special about Ramen Nagi is its soup base options. There is squid ink (black), original (white), spicy (red), and basil (green). The unique flavours were squid ink and basil, and these two were reminiscent of squid ink and pesto pasta respectively. While it may appear weird to have Italian inspired flavours in Japanese cuisine, it worked surprisingly well! No wonder Ramen Nagi had such a long queue.
After having a satisfying meal, we headed over to the nearby Salt and Straw for dessert. Salt and Straw is a famous ice cream chain in America’s West Coast. It originated from Portland but, luckily for us, a new outlet has opened up a mere 15 mins bike ride away from campus (just Stanford things). What makes Salt and Straw so famous, is the sheer variety of funky flavours they offer. There are even monthly specials such as birthday cake, chocolate caramel potato chips cupcake etc. But, old is gold, and we highly recommend classics such as Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons and Honey Lavender!
On Thursday after class, we began our first official road trip. We have planned a few for the summer, and our very first one is to the famed Yosemite! It was a long drive to Yosemite from Stanford, so, to tide us through the journey, our first stop was Walmart to get some road trip snacks. We then continued on our journey to our accommodation. Our accommodation was a very interesting place, with campfires and tunes from a banjo in the background. Also looking up, we were treated to a dazzling sight – a huge array of stars (something you would never see in Singapore). We were able to spot the Big Dipper and the Orion’s Belt amongst other things!
If you haven’t already guessed, our home for the next few days was a rustic log cabin at a cabin and RV resort! These are really common in the areas near national parks. If you’re looking for an affordable yet conveniently located base for your road trips, do consider a cabin, beyond just looking at Airbnbs. Do note however, that toilets are a shared facility, and may not always be the cleanest!
The next day, we started our exploration of Yosemite. Driving in, the sheer vastness of the landforms was truly a sight to behold. Our first stop was Bridalveil Falls which was a short walk in from where we parked. Next, we headed to Mirror Lake, where we did some river crossing to get to where the lake is.
The water was so cold and refreshing! It provided a brief respite from the sweltering heat as we waded across the river. However, upon crossing, we were sorely disappointed to see that most of what used to be the lake was gone. Or so we thought. We decided to walk a bit and chanced upon what we found to be the real mirror lake! What we assumed to be the lake previously turned out to be some other body of water. Nonetheless, the true Mirror Lake, was quite dried up as well, and would hardly suffice as a lake. Whatever water was left still created the illusion of a mirror, as it reflected the scenery perfectly. Thus, while it was not as majestic as we expected, we still felt really accomplished to have found it!
After our Mirror Lake adventure, on our walk back to our car, we chanced upon a family of deer just taking a casual walk along the road. The mother deer confidently led her baby deer to cross the road, and road users all stopped to take pictures of the adorable sight!
Lastly, to end off our day, we headed to Tunnel View to catch the sunset, which was nothing short of spectacular. Tunnel View provided us with an amazing vantage point that showcased several key attractions of Yosemite, these include El Capitan and Half Dome. To be able to capture all of them in one frame with the sunset as a backdrop was nothing short of stunning. That golden hour glow was just wow. Naturally, many other tourists had the same idea as us, and came early to get a good spot to view the sunset. Fortunately, we were still able to get a good spot to catch the sunset.
With a heads up on how crowded it would be in Yosemite Valley on weekends, we headed over to Tuolumne Meadows on Saturday. The landscape in Tuolumne Meadows was rather different from that in Yosemite Valley, with some snow-capped mountains still visible. We first headed to soda springs, a small natural spring with natural carbonated water. The walk in was a very calming one, with amazing scenery of the Tuolumne River. There was even a ranger led program, wherein participants sat by the river with the ranger, and did sketching! It’s hard to believe that this part of Yosemite is in the same area as that of the rock formations and waterfalls we saw the day before. The lush greenery, summer flowers, and reduced traffic lent the area an air of serenity whereas Yosemite was more hectic and crowded.
Another attraction in Tuolumne is Pothole Dome. It is essentially a huge rock near Soda Springs. We could not come to a consensus as to how tall the rock is, but it looks much more intimidating than it really is! You just need to find a path up with a more gradual incline, and within 20 minutes, you can reach the top of the rock. That being said, the walk up isn’t the easiest either but the view from atop was really rewarding. We could also see how the rocks just kept linking to another rock and another, and the vast expanse was awe-inspiring. There was really no end in sight to where it could bring you!
We next headed to Tenaya Lake for an afternoon picnic, and snacks. The setting was right out of a movie, with glistening sand, sparkling waters, and lush greenery surrounding us. Many families surrounded us as they basked in the good weather, and enjoyed quality time with each other.
We also met and befriended a friendly dog named Miles!
After a brief break at Tenaya Lake, we drove around to explore other parts of Yosemite, such as Cathedral Beach which provides a great view of El Capitan in all it’s glory. The waters were also really still, and the rocky beach provided us with the opportunity to skip stones across the water!
By this time, it was 2 hours away from sunset, and we had already planned to go to Glacier Point which is quite some distance away to catch the sunset, and promptly set off. From Glacier point, you overlook Yosemite Valley, including sights such as the Half Dome and Yosemite Falls. Elevation at that point is higher than that of Tunnel View, thus, while they both seem to offer a similar view, the perspective is slightly different. Glacier point showcases more than tunnel view, although both are equally beautiful.
While watching the sunset, we noticed that there were people coming in with huge black boxes and others streaming in with blankets, cushions etc. We then realised that there was going to be an astronomy talk there. As much as that was a nice spot for watching sunsets, it was an even better spot for stargazing. The park rangers in conjunction with an astronomy enthusiast organised the event, and brought in their sophisticated telescope so that we could observe the faraway planets, and stars. It was bustling with activity as children and adults alike were equally excited by the chance to view the moon and stars through a telescope. Enticed by the opportunity to stargaze through a telescope, we joined the line for the telescope and got the chance to look at the moon. The telescope was of such high definition that it even allowed us to see the craters on the surface of the moon!
After it got dark, on our way down, we attempted to take some photos of the night sky, and its numerous stars. It took a few tries, but it was totally worth it, as the scene was truly something one would want to remember.
On our final day, we embarked on a hike through Mist Trail to Vernal Falls. As it was a Sunday, it was rather crowded, and there were people of all ages, including little kids that were so small that each step of the stair was as high up till their thighs. Yet, they were exuberant, and conquered the steps more quickly than the adults, what with their boundless energy and enthusiasm.
Hiking through mist trail, be prepared to get wet, and by wet I mean drenched. As much as you want to focus on the trail, also look out at the scenery because the wettest parts are also the prettiest. There were several points where we managed to catch some double rainbows! While the trail may seem intimidating what with its uneven steps, it was completely worth it, for the experience, and the views. At the top of the falls, you can take a rest, soak in the sun and dry off. The vantage point is also quite something. And with this majestic waterfall, we concluded our trip to Yosemite and Week 3.
written by: jia en