Yosemite 2010 Trip
- Top elevation: ~8,600ft
- Trailhead elevation: 3,966ft
- Elevation gain: 4,634ft
- Hike Length: 14.8 miles
- 2 days
- 1 night (Merced Lake)
- Incredible view of Half Dome from multiple vantage points
- Secluded – virtually no trail traffic
- Got to hike with a guy from Israel
- Had my first experience snow hiking
At the last minute the week before my California trip to SugarCON 2010, a change in conference schedule forced me to change my flight. Immediately. I took this opportunity to rebook my departure date to be the Friday before the conference, giving me a full 2 days to explore Yosemite, a place I’ve heard so much about.
One of the things I’ve heard about Yosemite is how crowded it is. But luck was with me: April is very early for Yosemite, and snow dominates the area this time of year. This meant that I was not going to be bothered by crowds on the trails.
My intent was to fly out in the morning, drive to Yosemite in the afternoon, and hit the trail by evening. However, delays in getting my car rental, the remainder of my equipment, and a long road trip prevented this, so I camped in one of the Yosemite campgrounds the first night.
First thing the next morning I was on the trail with a fully loaded backpack. About 20 minutes into the hike I encountered a fork in the path, and on the uppper part of that fork was a guy who looked about my age. I asked him which direction he figured out, and he told me. He seemed cool, so I asked him to hike with me for awhile. It ended up that we hiked together the entire first day. He is from Israel (and because of that I just can’t remember his name), but he spoke exellent English. He’s in grad school for medical stuff, and was a very interesting conversationalist. When we weren’t huffing and puffing up steep inclines, conversation flowed easily.
The first portion of the hike is out of Yosemite Valley and up to a number of waterfalls. If you flip through the slideshow you’ll see some of these majestic falls. It was truly amazing to watch vast quantities of water rush into the gorged valley. When we got close to the waterfalls, the trail got pretty steep and the incline was consistently switchbacks. I started to really lose my cardio at this point (I wasn’t very in shape going into this trip) and had to stop a few times.
Once we made it up the waterfall, we were presented with a shallow valley with low-topped mountains surrounding it. Another feature loomed – Half Dome. This is an amazing rock that really defies good description. It’s just huge. And it’s very smooth and rounded on most sides. I’ve never seen such a large hunk of granite that wasn’t sharded. This piece of granite was fully intact, and rises up over 4,000 feet above the valley. It’s quite a sight when standing close to the bottom.
Once we jumped over the ridge and walked in the new valley, we established where the ‘Half Dome’ trail forked. I dropped my full pack for later retrieval and we began hiking up toward Half Dome. Not far into this trail we met a couple who had just hiked down from that area. They were fully stocked with serious mountaineering gear, and looked ready for about anything the wilderness could throw at them. They had just seen a couple guys come down from Half Dome after failing to scale even the foot of the mountain. Evidently snow was packed and deep, making Half Dome impassable. I quickly realized that if these experienced mountaineers decided not to go up Half Dome, I wouldn’t either.
We decided to hike instead to a higher mountain behind Half Dome. This proved to be a much longer hike than either of us expected. We hiked on for what seemed to be hours, and after climbing past 4,000 feet of vertical gain for the day, we both got pretty tired. When we seemed close to needing extended breaks, we cruised out of the trees and were presented with an amazing view of the entire Yosemite Valley region. The valley, which had seemed so large when we were in it, now seemed a small gorge in the distance. What a view!
After taking in the view for awhile, and getting cold while doing it (we were on pure snow at this point), we began heading down. After a couple more hours of soaking our feet in the snow, we arrived back at the mini-valley we started in. My Israeli friend didn’t have overnight gear, so he turned to go back.
While I repacked to make my way to a camping area, I met a ranger. He was a quirky sort of guy, and found out I didn’t have a wilderness permit because of my arrival time to Yosemite. Instead of fining me, he wrote up a pass and gave me some great tips for camping. It’s great to see that not everyone has turned into rigid jerks…
I spent the rest of the afternoon setting up camp and making water. After I got done making water, I disassembled the water unit I have. The spicket broke off, making filtering more water impossible. This meant that I would have to hike out the next day regardless of what I wanted to do. I had considered staying an extra night in Yosemite and waiting to return to set up the conference materials till the afternoon. Breaking my water pump killed that plan, sadly.
After I had set up camp and eaten, I was faced with a few hours of ‘dead’ time. I hate dead time. It means I have to deal with my own thoughts, and there’s nothing to busy my mind and keep it off of what I know I need to think about. It’s not that I have anything to hide, but for some reason thinking about life as it is just gives me the willies. It always does more so when I’m way out in the wilderness on my own. Once I finally got to laying down and thinking, it wasn’t so bad. The sounds of the forrest were comforting, and I really enjoyed the quietness I felt. I’m not sure when I drifted off to sleep, but when I did the peace of the forrest lulled me through the night.
The next morning. I woke up early, maybe 6am or so, ate breakfast, and packed camp out. The remaining 4 miles home were mostly uneventful, and included a lot more people. Each mile I hiked included an increasing number of people, many of which where painfully unfit for the steep hike up the valley. I really admired some – they were hiking terrain that was far beyond their obvious physical condition. I was reminded how far I am right now from real mountaineering condition – getting there is going to take some real time and commitment.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Yosemite. It was a trip full of solitude, a trip full of majestic peaks, and a trip I really needed to look at myself. When I got home I found this mountaineering quote:
“If you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you” – Friedrich Nietzsche
At Yosemite, the abyss did gaze at me, the Lord did work in my heart, and I’m a better person for it.