Alessandre – Semester Exchange to Seattle University, USA
Semester 2, 2016
Paradise Valley, Canada
My sister and I spent the first week of our travels hiking through Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada. From the moment we entered the park we were in awe of its’ snow-capped mountains and crystal blue lakes – it is by far the most beautiful place I have ever seen. My sister and I decided to do a 44km hike, camping overnight in Paradise Valley. The day before we drove up to HI Athabasca Falls, a wilderness hostel without running water, and an abundance of bears in the backyard. We were welcomed by a grizzly bear by the fire pit. The next morning, we walked out at 5.30am to be greeted 5 minutes later by a black bear down the trail – so we spent the first 10km in a state of paranoia, clutching at our bear spray, with my sister lecturing me on ‘what to do if you see a bear’. By the time we hit 20km for the day, we were covered in mud and mosquito bites, but thoroughly relieved not to have seen another bear. However, walking into Paradise Valley, we forgot all about the bears – we were camping by a lake, facing a vast mountain range – words and pictures don’t do it justice.
While it seemed we were indeed in paradise, we learned quickly how temperamental the weather could be – in 20 short minutes, we were caught in rain, hail, sleet, snow and finally beautiful sunshine, as we tried to fetch drinking water. It was a moment where I ended up in the tent crying to my sister “why did I decide to do this?!” When the rain continued all night, and we woke up to a flooded tent, my sister and I were keen to get walking again – we walked for 7 hours straight, sopping wet and exhausted, out of the valley.
Those 2 days were come of the most challenging of our trip, both physically and mentally, but the Paradise Valley Hike was by far the most rewarding that we did. The scenery was incomparable, and it was a special feeling to be isolated by a landscape so beautiful.
If we felt isolated in Paradise Valley, Yosemite National Park provided the exact opposite. We woke up at 4.30am in San Francisco to drive to Yosemite early in order to nab a campsite at one of the busy sites within the park. When we arrived at 7.30am, every single site in the park was claimed, and almost every parking site within the park was occupied. We were in disbelief as we had never been in a wilderness area that also doubled as a tourist hotspot – in Australia we are used to hiking trails without seeing another person for hours, in Yosemite there was never a moment where you couldn’t spot another person. We ended up camping just outside the park, in a more peaceful spot by the river. Each day we drove into the park and did a different hike – we saw some incredible views and managed to struggle through the heat. Our week at Yosemite was by far the highlight of our time in California.