We had been planning this trip for what felt like years and maybe it was. But it was finally here-Calleen’s birthday trip to Yosemite!! The crew in Idaho set the date for the 2nd week in September and once I knew this, I realized it would make the most sense to spend extra time out West seeing other friends and family.

So, prepare yourself for a really long blog post about what I like to call the best friends tour of 2019!!

I was so ready to leave town. It been a rather stressful week getting ready to leave for the trip and for the 4th time in 5 months, my website went down causing me to spend hours (literally) trying to find a solution in a technology world that I understand very little about. It was a bit of an overwhelming, week to say the least. So, I was so ready to get on that plane and enter a 2-week vacation.

I left Boston Friday afternoon. My flight left on time and I was one my way…until I arrived in Denver. As soon as I landed, I received alerts that my flight that was supposed to leave at 6:30 pm was not leaving until 10:30. I ended up hanging out in the Denver airport for over 5 hours. Obviously, I was bit annoyed, but I knew it could be worst and gratefully I had some work trainings to catch up on and this helped pass the time.

I finally arrived at the first stop of my trip. It was going to be a FIFs reunion (friendship is forever…we got this title while watching a hallmark movie together on a road trip). The FIFs include me, Ashlee, and Kalli. Ashlee and Kalli used to live in Boston and gratefully we have remained…well friends forever!!

I got into SLC around midnight and I was SO excited to see Kalli! It felt so normal to see her, but I also couldn’t believe I was here. We have all been anticipating this trip for so long.

The next day started out with chatting and going for a walk. We then got pedicures and picked up lunch at Even Stevens. We had no time to eat it there as we needed to get home and prepped for the photo session.
Ashlee arrived from Boise shortly after 5pm. She got ready so quickly (she is amazing), we were out the door at 5:45, and headed towards Big Cottonwood Canyon. This was my first time there and shooting in the mountains. I was not sure about sunlight and best locations. We stopped a by a lake, it the area was crowded, and we had to stay on the boardwalk. It was a pretty location but due the conditions not an ideal place to stay. I started to become worried about sunlight and thought we had to rush to another spot. But as we were headed out, we saw this gorgeous water fall and found an area we could stay in. It was a perfect location and I am so happy we stayed there!

We had so much fun during the session. I just loved the time we had together. The location was absolutely beautiful and Ashlee and Kalli were total superstars.

The following morning was Sunday. We went to see the Music and Spoken word at the LDS Conference Center and then went on to meet my parents for brunch at the Little America Hotel. My parents were kind enough to drive up from St. George to come visit with me. We had a lovely time at brunch, and I am so happy we got to catch up.

After brunch we went back to Kalli’s house. We spent the afternoon purchasing a ticket for Ashlee’s trip to Ireland. And yes, I meant afternoon. Let’s just say, flying to Europe from Boise is not inexpensive or easy to find good flight schedules!!

We then decided to head to Park City with a real plan of what we would do. But as we drove up, we noticed Olympic Park and knew that is where we were headed. If you know me, then you know I am obsessed with the Olympics. So, we cued up the Olympic Fanfare and drove up to the park. I was so excited!!

We first, toured the museum. We then went outside and arrived just in time to watch ski jumpers’ practice. They would ski down and land in the water. It was pretty cool to watch. Afterward we walked over the actual bobsled course used during the Olympic games. We were the only ones out there and just walked around trying to wrap our minds around this intense sport.

We thought we were leaving the park when we noticed the official ski jump area from the Olympics. We drove over. We weren’t really supposed to, but we wanted to see it. I am so happy we did. Again, we were amazed by what we saw and tried to figure out how this sport works.

The next day was my last in Utah. I couldn’t believe I was almost done with my first stop on my trip. I woke up earlier than Kalli and Ashlee and decided to go on a walk. Kalli heard me on her front porch, got up and decided to come. Then Ashlee woke up. So, we all decided to go for a walk, and it was a great decision. We ended up walking through Kalli’s beautiful neighborhood towards memorial park, up the State Capital, and down through parts of Temple square. We took our time chatting it up, ended up at a delicious French Bakery and having a delicious breakfast. We sat in Temple Square for a while and finally walked home. It was an unexpected morning, but one of pure delight.

Sadly, we knew our time was coming to an end. It was time to head to Boise. We made one last stop to NPS-Kalli’s favorite store!! Tin Tin (another friend from Boston) came as well. It was wonderful to see her. It was so hard to say good bye. We had an amazing few days together and the time just flew by.

Ashlee and I hit the road and made it to Boise around 8 pm. We had a wonderful drive filled with podcasts, singing, and chatting.

The next stop was Hannah’s house Oh, it was so wonderful to see Hannah and spend time with her family. I was also able to see her parents as Hannah was staying with her parents while their house is being built.

I woke up early Tuesday morning before anyone else. I am pretty sure I was still on East coast time. And sunrise is not until 7:15 am. So, I got up and went for a walk to catch sunrise. It was beautiful and quiet. BUT-I am pretty sure that is where I got attacked by a bug or spider. Many in the house already had and it they werea BAD bites.

I made into the house in time to prepare for Hannah’s kids back to school breakfast. Her children are home schooled, but it was still the official first day of the school year!! During the morning I went on another walk as Hannah helped out with the kids’ school. While on the walk, I enjoyed the Idaho countryside and sang along to the Moulin Rouge Musical soundtrack. I had been waiting for a year for the soundtrack-so I was ready to sing!!

In the afternoon Hannah and I went back to our old ways-shopping! We used to go shopping all the time together. So, it felt fitting that we needed to go shopping to get outfits ready for their family pictures that were going to be that night. We had so much fun finding a color scheme and picking out outfits for everyone.

Back home we ironed and let everyone know what they were wearing. It was so fun to see Hannah’s oldest (twin girls) be so excited about their outfits and oh man, they were so cute in them!!

I felt so prepared for this photo shoot until I realized the sun stayed so bright until so close to sunset and there was nothing blocking the sun. Wide open spaces with no trees in sight!! Everyone was so ready for their pictures too!! They were so patient with me as I realized the sun was a bigger factor than I am used to. But the troops rallied, and we pulled out family portraits in about 20 minutes!!

The next day Hannah and I ran earrings as well as spending time with another Reno friend-Beth. It was such a delight to have lunch together and catch up!! That night we had a hot dog roast around the fire and just chatted over dinner with Hannah, Jeff, and her parents. It was in moments like those, I tried to savor what was happening. Knowing on a Wednesday I am not normally roasting a hot dog over a fire but resting after work. I already starting to feel the vacation starting to go by fast and I wanted to truly feel and remember the moments I was having. I just felt lucky for the friends and opportunity of just being with them.

Thursday morning Hannah drove to the Boise airport, so I could take the shuttle to Twin Falls. It was so sad to leave Hannah, but it was on to the next stage of the trip.

VerRoncia picked me up in Twin Falls. We met her parents and sister in law/kids for lunch. I am so grateful for my friend’s parents. They have definitely been a huge part of my life and I love that they took time out of their day to spend time with me!

It was finally onto Pocatello!! We stopped over at Vanessa’s house. We chatted and began to prep for family pictures and taking pictures for Vannessa’s baking business. We had a fun time experimenting taking pictures of delicious and I mean delicious bake goods.

We then went and took family pictures in a park in Pocatello. The kids did great and I loved how their pictures turned out.

Afterwards, we went back to VerRonica’s house for a little BBQ and chatted. Jocelyn and Calleen came over. It was so wonderful to be surrounded by some many wonderful friends.

Friday morning, I went over to my old supervisor’s house for breakfast. Kathy was my supervisor when I was intern at Bright Tomorrows while in graduate school. She was also a supervisor after I graduated. I will always feel grateful for Kathy. I can’t imagine going through the program/beginning my therapy journey without her. So, it meant a lot to catch up and spend time with her.

I then met Judy for lunch. Judy and I worked together in church calling for a couple of years. I feel blessed and lucky to know her. She is so full of love and you feel seen when around Judy. I loved our short time together and I will always cherish her.

Friday evening, we left for Yosemite!! We made to Elko, NV around midnight. It felt late to us all.

The next morning, we left bright and early for Yosemite. We drove mostly through Nevada (over 5 hours) on The Loneliest Road in America and oh man was it lonely!! There was nothing on the roads. The longer we were on the road, the more overwhelmed we became by the nothingness out there. Wide open spaces were given a whole new meaning. We found it funny that anything out of the normal (meaning besides seeing nothing), the adults in the car made comments on and we got excited about. For example, we got so thrilled about different color of rocks or big tires on a semi driving by!!

We stopped for gas and lunch in Hawthorne, NV. It wasn’t the dreamiest of spots to stop. We ate lunch in a gravel parking lot, and it was hot! We couldn’t wait to get back on the road and get out of Nevada. Gratefully, we crossed the CA boarder soon and we actually arrived in Yosemite sooner than we realized. We all could not believe we were there!! As soon as we go there, I was dying to take pictures. My camera was in the back of the car and I could not wait to get to it!!

Our first stop was the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center. The crew picked up Jr. Ranger packets and I began taking pictures. After we left the visitor center, we stopped by a lake, and then on to Olmsted point. We realized this was the place to take family pictures. We then drove out of the park and onto our airbnb.

We had four full days in Yosemite, and I am so glad we had that much time. We needed it. There is so much to see, one could spend hours (we did at times) at each spot, and it took a LONG time to drive to each location.

Sunday, we spent the morning at Tuolumne Grove. This is one of the sequoia groves in the park. We enjoyed the easy hike (it felt a little hard to me) and see the HUGE sequoias. We then had a long lunch in the picnic area. We then were off to Glacier point. We realized once we were there, it would be short turn around due to needing leave to get family pictures done. But it was worth it!! The grand view of the mountains and valley was stunning!

We then rushed, as much as one should rush in Yosemite back to Olmsted point. I was worried about light. Taking pictures in an area I don’t know, always brings me some anxiety. The shoot itself too was rushed, but also a memorable moment. We parked and all worked to get clothes changed and over to the lookout point. We made it just in time!! We still had enough light. Afterwards, we all realized what a special time this was and did our best to honor it for a moment. But only for a moment, because it was COLD up there!!

The next day we went into the valley. We were all excited to go the visitor’s center, Ansel Adams Gallery, and see a movie about the park. We all love the movies in the visitor’s center. The valley was full of people/cars, but the views as we were driving in were gorgeous. Meadows and mountains higher than you could see the top of. Necks were strained in efforts to see it all. We enjoyed our time in the visitor’s center and gallery, but the movie was SO disappointing. But this should not be a shock-this was not the first time we have not loved a movie in the visitor’s center. But we all had high hopes and we were sad to be let down.

By the time we ate lunch, it was already 1:30. We wanted to find a place to explore. We weren’t quite sure what to do, but we got a shuttle and Calleen picked the perfect spot for us. We found a quiet spot along a river where we had very little human contact. This allowed Isaac, Calleen, and Brent to explore to their hearts content, while VerRonica and I stayed back, enjoyed the scenery and chatted.

The shuttle back did not take as long as we thought, and we were able to make it over the groves to see el capitan and cathedral Rock. We just sat in the meadow looking at the beautiful mountains and climbers on el capitan. It was such a beautiful moment. I feel like we could have stayed there for forever, but an off duty NPS worker told me we could not be the meadow. So we left.

Our second to last stop was tunnel view. It was crowded but you could see el capitan, half dome, and Yosemite falls in the view. Amazing!! Our final stop was valley view, back in the meadow looking at the opposite view of what when we were told to leave.

The next day, the crew split up. Calleen and Brent went on a day long hike and VerRonica, Isaac, and I stayed back at the house. VerRonica and I spent most our time reading a book out loud to one another. This is one of my favorite things to do with VerRonica and Calleen-reading a cheesy book out loud together. During the afternoon we walked to the marina. We weren’t quite sure about walking to the beach, but we were so glad we did. We had a lovely afternoon by the water. Isaac loved spending time in the water, and we read more of the book while Isaac played. It felt like a perfect afternoon. It was nice to have a relaxing day with no agenda.

Wednesday was our last day in the park. We were all sad our time was almost done; the time flew by!! We started the day of in the mariposa grove. This is the largest sequoias grove in the park. The Jr. Rangers needed to go on a ranger led talk to get their badges, so we choose one in the grove. Honestly, I can get board during ranger talks, but this one was AMAZING, and it lasted over 2 hours. Ranger Lindsay was great.!! The coolest thing about this grove was this was the beginning of what National Parks would be in our country.

Afterward we had lunch back in Valley. Calleen choose an amazing spot. We ate on beach/river looking right up at el capitan. It was a gorgeous spot. I could have stayed there all day.

The rest of the afternoon was spent getting the crews Jr. Ranger badges and in the visitor center area. It was then time to say good bye to Yosemite. We were all sad, but we had to head home and get ready to leave early the next morning.

The plan for Thursday was to make to make it Lake Tahoe. But before we got there, we had many stops. We decided to first stop at the Jelly Belly Factory. I told them about going when I was younger, and they were sold. We were all excited to go!! I had also told the crew about a place I wanted to eat while in CA-Jimboy’s Tacos. They were open for it and luckily there was a location Fairfield where the Jelly Belly Factory was. Well, Jimboys and the factory were both successes. We all loved the factory tour-especially Isaac.

Then it was off for my ‘hometown’ visit (like on the bachelor). I was able to show the crew where grew up in Penryn and I also showed them the cemetery where family members are buried. It was very kind of them to allow me to show them some of my history. It always feels so natural to be CA and visiting the places that were a part of my childhood.

Our last full day of vacation was spent all day in Lake Tahoe. We went and visited the Donor Pass. Calleen and VerRonica had been there before and were very excited to go again. And the crazy thing is, I have never been but have driven by it so many times as I grew up driving on Donner pass. Well, it lived up to all the hype. I actually learned a lot about the Donner party and the development of the highway system. We had what we thought would be our last picnic together. We realized we had such great meals together on our trip-specially lunch picnics.

The rest of the day we spent on King’s Beach. We had an amazing and perfect day. We stayed there for hours. Calleen and Brent paddle boarded. VerRonica, Isaac, and I played on the beach. It really felt like a little piece of heaven. I could only feel gratitude for the moment and the amazing week I had with these dear friends who are more like family to me. We ended up having one more picnic together…pizza on the beach.

It turns out my dad was in Reno, for the air races, the same exact time we were in Tahoe!! So, we met him and Bonnie for breakfast at a casino before my flight back to Boston!! It was a surprise and wonderful to see them again!

Best friend’s tour of 2019 was a smashing success!! Over 15 days I got to see 20 people who are near and dear to my heart, sleep in 6 different locations (I was ready for my own bed), spend time in 5 different states, and see my parents 2 times in 2 different states (one time by total surprise). I can’t fully express the gratitude I have for the amazing people in my life. I truly feel so thankful for all those who made an effort to see me while I was on the west coast and that the relationships are still so strong after moving away to 9 years ago. My heart is truly full and changed by what I experienced over those couple of weeks!! And this epic trip revolved around the celebration of this amazing lady above…so thank you Calleen for being born and for your
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Yosemite National Park | Travels