A Water-Lover’s Guide to Yosemite

Adventure |

How the founder of Salt Surf apparel spent a weekend exploring iconic waterfalls, swimming holes and rivers in Yosemite National Park. Words and Photos by Nabil Samadani

I grew up in Northern California, and as a kid our family would go on a lot of outdoor adventures. I remember my family (including uncles, aunts and cousins) driving in a caravan of cars on the way to Yosemite National Park during the summer. This was long before the days of cell phones—so we would hold up paper signs to the other cars in our group to communicate if we wanted to stop for bathroom or food breaks.

Made for the elements: Hurricane XLT2 in Honey Mustard.

Made for the elements: Hurricane XLT2 in Honey Mustard.

I’ve walked up the Vernal Falls trails with my cousins complaining the whole way that we wanted it to be over. I’ve fallen into a stream while crossing over a log by Mirror Lake, mortified that my eight older cousins and family saw my missteps. (I was one of the youngest, so all I wanted was for my older cousins to think I was cool.) Truthfully, as kids we complained a lot even though we loved it and were unaware that we were making some of the best memories. Through our rolling eyes and grumpy attitudes, I developed a love for the beauty of nature. 

Founder of Salt Surf, Nabil Samadani.

Founder of Salt Surf, Nabil Samadani in his own designs.

Hurricane Verge in Pine Needle

Nabil wears the Hurricane Verge in Pine Needle.

As the owner of the LA-based surf brand, SALT SURF, the ocean is my go-to when I’m looking for nature in the city. I gain a certain kind of connection with the earth and my inner self through surfing, which is also a form of expression. When I’m in the mountains, I can’t help but also gravitate to water, too. It feels healing and cleansing, while giving me time to pause and reflect internally. 

During my last trip to Yosemite, I introduced my friends to my family traditions and we added new traditions of our own—while seeking out different bodies of water. These are friends that I often surf with and much of our relationships are literally built upon the shared love for the ocean. So it was meaningful to develop a shared appreciation, with these same people, as we explored the national park’s waterfalls and rivers.

Curry Village in Yosemite National Park

Sleep and Chill: Curry Village

There’s a range of different types of places to stay inside Yosemite Valley, whether you want to sleep in a tent or chill at the luxurious Ahwahnee Hotel that has hosted many former US presidents and celebrities since it was built in 1927. 

Curry Village—a cluster of tent cabins in an incredibly scenic part of Yosemite Valley—falls somewhere in the middle. The village location has a perfect view of iconic Yosemite landmarks like Half Dome and Glacier Point from the footsteps of your tent. A short walk leads to a beautiful meadow where I like to go stargazing and on some lucky, clear nights, I’ve caught a shooting star sighting. We stayed in wood-frame structures, wrapped in heavy canvas that had a Millennial “glamping” vibe. Little did I know, my family had been glamping in Yosemite before glamping was a thing! 

Hurricane XLT2 in Honey Mustard
Vernal Falls in Yosemite

Hike: Vernal Falls

Of the 25+ waterfalls in Yosemite, one of my favorites is hiking to Vernal Falls. This 4-mile trek has it all: a scenic hike, water falls, swimming, and insane top-of-the-falls views. Often called “the mist trail,” Vernal Falls is a hike that partially climbs along the base of the waterfall, spraying you with mist as you summit the staircase hike to the top of the falls. 

We did not get the full mist effect (which relies on heavier waterfall flow) at this dry time of the year, but the scenic hike didn’t disappoint. We followed the trail along the winding Merced River, the main river that flows down Vernal Falls and through Yosemite Valley, to the top of the falls. At the peak, there is a clearing full of swimming holes nestled amongst boulders of granite. My Teva sandals came in handy here to scramble and climb around the wet boulders to find the perfect swimming spot. 

Lounging in Yosemite.
Exploring swimming holes in Yosemite

This is one of my favorite parts of the hike, providing a break to relax and cool down with a swim, or even have a picnic before heading back down. Did my legs hurt the next day? Did I want to give up halfway? The answer to all of these is a maybe/yes. But was it worth it? That’s a yes!

Hurricane XLT2

Cruise & Swim: Yosemite Valley

Biking through the valley is a new tradition I’ve added as an adult and provides a new way to explore Yosemite. Faster than walking, but slower than driving in a car, it’s become my ideal pace to tour around. We rented bikes from a vendor right inside Curry Village, grabbed a map, packed a small backpack with snacks and hit the road. I wore a swimsuit and other versatile, quick drying clothing to make a ton of stops along the river. We jumped in and went for a quick swim, and then got back on our bikes to check out the next spot: the Ahwahnee for coffee, ice cream and walking through historic parts of the hotel open to the public. 

Biking in Yosemite

Fish: Tenaya Lake And Tuolumne Meadow

After all that hiking (my quarantine body isn’t quite as fit as I’d like it to be), we were looking for a place to relax. Enter: Tenaya Lake and Tuolumne Meadow. About an hour drive outside of Yosemite Valley, this side trip is also a break from the crowds during the busy summer season. Tenaya Lake is conveniently located just a few short steps from the side of the road—no hiking necessary—which makes it a great place to bring all your accessories for hanging out. We set up the stove and made grilled cheese sandwiches, hung our hammock, took a nap, swam in the lake and laid on the hot granite slabs to warm up. The perfect lakeside chill day.

Lounging in the Hurricane Verge
Friends in Hurricane Verge

After feeling recharged, we made our way to Tuolumne Meadow where my friends Lucy and Asato taught us how to fly fish. This was literally my first time touching a fishing rod since I was a child. Prior to this experience, I always categorized fishing the same way I do golf: boring and not for me (sorry to all the fisherman and golfers I’ve offended). I’m here to eat my words: fishing is NOT boring.

Surfing the lake in Yosemite.
Water-friendly Hurricane Verge

Made for the elements so you can be in your element: Hurricane Verge in Wet Weather. 

Being guided by experienced fly-fishing friends, I was able to see fly fishing through their eyes, like a nuanced art form. It was fascinating to learn about the methods of how to cast your line, where to cast and what the fish are looking for. The whole experience felt like it was much more about the process and less to do with actually catching a fish. Or, maybe that’s just my way of making myself feel better for not catching anything. But Taylor caught a fish on his first try! A beautiful, semi-rare Brook Trout.  

Hurricane Verge

As nature does, we were surprised with a roar of approaching thunder. Lucy quickly reminded us that we were holding metal fishing rods (the perfect conductor for a lightning rod), so we packed up all our metal goods in the cars. But we couldn’t help sitting out a little bit longer in the meadow to watch the weather and the pink skies take over, in awe of nature’s unexpected turns and majesty.

Yosemite National Park

We headed back to camp to settle in for the night. A new tradition I added this year, with the guidance of my friend Lucy, was to cook as many of our own meals as possible. It was an overwhelming task at first, but I learned that planning ahead (every meal, every condiment and every possible detail you can think of) makes it easier and cooking together makes it so fun.  

We spent our days hiking, swimming, fishing—sometimes all together, sometimes broken up into different groups—but at night we all came together. We cooked, we laughed, we shared stories of the day and we talked about how scary it would be if a bear walked out of the woods. It was the perfect end to the days, being together under the stars and moonlight, creating new memories.

The perfect camp shoe: ReEmber

The perfect camp shoe: ReEmber in Dark Shadow.

Hurricane Verge

Shop the latest Hurricane sandals at Teva.com.

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