Our Vie Adventures consists of Cees, Madison, Vladimir the Kitten, and a 1989 Toyota Motorhome named Vie. Cees and Madison are on the road, living the dream of every outdoor-minded couple by visiting each national park in the country over the course of the year. In celebration of our National Parks centennial, we’ve partnered with Cees and Madison to bring you stories and photos of their yearlong quest (and of course, plenty of #vladimirkitten along the way).
Keep scrolling to see Cees, Madison, and Vladimir’s visit to Yosemite National Park, CA. Stay tuned to Downstream for updates on their adventures and follow them on Instagram (@ourvieadventures) for more frequent updates from the road.
Yosemite National Park is a special place for me. It is where I asked the love of my life to be my wife. That’s kind of a big deal. As I thought of a place that was as-big-of-a-deal enough to handle such a moment, Yosemite was the only real option.
The fact that Madison agreed to marry me in this place has logged it away in mind as one of the most important spots on Earth. Sure, our relationship started elsewhere, and life has now taken us all over the world, but there is something to be said about the place of the proposal that started us down this road together. I can’t wait to take our future kids to that very spot above Vernal Falls and say, “Check it out guys, this is where your beautiful mom agreed to marry me.”
We had heard before we got to The Valley that President Obama was going to be there the same weekend. Being incredibly optimistic, I wrote him a letter a week or so in advance to see if he wanted to hang out. I never got a reply. Instead of meeting up, the President brought crazy traffic jams and road closures. We ended up leaving a few days early due to the complications his presence imposed. We decided it would be more fun to hang out with Madison’s family near San Francisco than fight the crowds…game seven between the Warriors and the Cavs may have had something to do with our change in plans as well.
The first morning that we rolled into The Valley we unloaded the kayaks and hit the trail for Mirror Lake (pets are allowed). It was high traffic – and people lost their minds when they saw that we were packing a feline friend. People have a hard time getting over a cat on a leash.
We hung out and ate some snacks before we hit the water. When I saw Mirror Lake on the map, I imagined an actual lake with a creek on both ends. But really, it’s a spot where the creek just slows down and gets wider. It was beautiful for sure, just not what I had pictured in my mind.
We were on the standby list to score a Valley campsite, so we had to be there at 3 pm to see if we were fortunate enough to snag a spot. We weren’t even close. But in the course of waiting around, we made friends with someone who was blessed with a standby site, and they offered to let us split the cost and camp with them.
In a long twisted story of fate and Facebook group sites, we had actually already connected with Zollie and his cousin Wes before we got to The Valley. We had no idea we were both planning on standby sites and it wasn’t until Zollie mentioned that he was here to rig a highline that we connected the dots and realized we had already virtually met up online already.
These friends had plans to set up all kinds of slack lines and space nets in their campsites – I couldn’t have been happier to share a campsite with fellow monkeys!
We slacked, laughed, jammed, hammocked, space-netted, chicken-curried and even banana-breaded! We had the funnest camp the valley had seen in a while. It was great.
It’s always a pleasure when human beings are able to connect so quickly and easily. It was so fun to hang out at camp and rig lines with our new-found friends. I always want to be working towards becoming the type of person that can facilitate these quick connections. Usually we use the term “quick connect” when it comes to internet and power tools – hopefully we can take that and apply the same idea to people.
After slacking ourselves silly, Madison and I decided to ride around The Valley a little bit before we settled down for the evening.
We were able to ride to different parts of the park to get different angles on the setting sun and the granite walls. It was glittery and quiet. Even with all of the traffic and the people going this way and that, there seemed to be a certain quietness. Maybe the rock absorbed the noise and chaos that would have normally existed amidst that many people. Whatever it was, it felt good.
After Obama and his road closures foiled our plans the next day to rig a highline, we left to Madison’s home for the weekend vowing to come back when crowds died down.
We came back a week later not only with conviction to finish what we originally set out to do, but with a few family members to help us do it! Madison’s sisters and cousin came along with us to make sure that we got the most out of the park. And where there is family, there is always good food!
We hit the trailhead for May Lake as soon as we got breakfast cleaned up. I am convinced that all of the mosquitoes in the world decided that they would gather at that very spot to suck us dry. As soon as we got out of the car we were mobbed; we didn’t stand a chance. I don’t know what was pumping blood faster, the thousand mosquitos with their straws in my skin, or my heart as it tried to move the ever-diminishing supply of blood to my lungs as my body moved to get out of there! In fact, as I write this, over a week later, I just scratched a bite that I am pretty sure I got at that trailhead.
Luckily the skeeters stayed near the trailhead to wait for the next poor fool to leave the safety of his vehicle. The trail up was itchy, but beautiful. We set up a little base camp on a beach next to some rocks and unpacked the kayaks for some fun.
The ladies had a good time jumping and I had a good time watching them jump. It’s always a treat to see someone take a leap. No matter if the person takes a literal jump off a rock or figuratively leaps into the lake of life, it’s enthralling to watch! It’s the fact that the person had the guts to go for it that gets me. If you can muster a few seconds of bravery you can do anything!
Also, I made up a new sport called downhill snow kayaking – stay tuned for my official debut in the 2018 Olympics. Madison is always pressuring me to do things I’m scared of. “Do it and you’re cool!” she says.
We were pretty wiped out from a day in the sun so we drove out of the park to find a place to camp for free for the night. It was nice getting there before the sun went down to scope things out. It’s funny how when you roll into the dark woods at night, everything is creepy and you feel like you will definitely get murdered– like you’re living a cheesy horror movie. But, when you wake up and the sun is shining and the birds are singing, you feel like you’re in Bambi’s hometown, and you feel lame for being scared at all.
The girls made us all an awesome spaghetti dinner thanks to the prep work of my favorite mother-in-law who packed us with groceries out the wazoo. Thanks Sandy!
As Paige put it, “don’t kid yourselves, this is glamping.” She’s right, we really are living the good life out here!
After such an amazing meal, we had to pause and rest and digest. Nothing like a huge plate of pasta to give you a nice food coma afterwards. It was glorious.
The relaxing times didn’t last long! Olivia has got the human cocoon method down solid.
Good morning, campers! We had breakfast and made lunches for the day since we planned on coming back to the cars late after a full day of Yosemite fun!
The views from Glacier Point are educational. We had mini geology lessons as we took in the path the glacier took through solid rock from above. Then we drove down to the meadows to take in the same story from the floor.
We wanted to show the fam the epic, classic places in Yosemite, but everyone else in the world had the same idea. It was a zoo at the Lower Yosemite Falls. You had to stand in line to take a picture and even still there would be a lot of people in it. We couldn’t bring ourselves to be a part of the selfie madness so we just watched instead.
Madison’s cousin Grant phrased it well, “Yosemite is the Disneyland of National Parks – crowded, but magical.”
After the falls, we parted ways with the family – they went home and we decided to stay another day. We loved having some company in the park! It was a nice to talk to other humans. Normally we just talk at our kitty all day. I’m sure the kitty appreciated the break as well.
The next morning we were up early. We raced the sun to Taft Point to set up a highline! We were determined to rig this line! We were still a little upset from getting blocked out the week before – I wasn’t stopping for anyone this time.
Highlining is an interesting experience. For weeks leading up to a highline all I can do is think about how badly I want to be on it. I picture myself walking without problems and having a great time; it sounds so fun! Then the time comes to tie in.
Once I have secured my self to the line, and slide out into the exposure, all I can think about is how badly I want to get off the line. I hate it. It is always a mental battle – even though I have done it before – I have the hardest time making my body respond to my brain.
I start to make excuses as to why I can’t walk – “The line is too tight!” – “The line is too loose!” – “I need a drink.” – “My pants are too tight!” I say all of these things, but really, it’s all a bunch of bologna – I just need to get over it and walk! So I do.
It was fun to rig with our new friend Kevin who tried highlining for the first time. His mental game was amazing and he was able to stand up and stay extremely steady while he took his first steps into thin air.
I’ve learned a lot from highlining. There is no better feeling than accomplishing that which your body tried to convince you was impossible.
“When you are married to a highlander, you are a dangler by default.” – Madison Hofman
Taft Point is a beautiful place. I would catch myself just staring across The Valley at El Capitan. Its such a a massive piece of rock. It’s captivating.
Yosemite can’t be beat. It’s on a different level. You can’t compare Yosemite to Pinnacles or to Great Basin, although we love those parks too. It sounds mean to verbalize it, but it is true. It is a magical place. Because of that, it has become a major destination. To get the quiet, alone Yosemite experience, you have to go deeper. You have to climb harder. You have to get tougher and venture to the middle of it all. And that is okay! Trust me, there is plenty of park out there for you if you are brave enough to track it down!
At first, I found myself getting upset that all these people were “ruining” my experience. But to them, I was the one ruining theirs! I have no more right to be there than they do. With a little time to regain my composure after being stuck in traffic for over an hour, I honestly can say that I believe it is a positive thing that there was gridlock. People are flocking to partake of the beauty of their country, and that is a good thing. In my mind, Yosemite is King.
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