Hiking in Yosemite

I apologize for the lateness of this post. I lost my Grandma on July 14th, right in the middle of my weekend in Yosemite. So needless to say, I haven’t felt much like blogging or being super social. I have spent the last two weeks in lots of reflection and solitude, remembering my Grandma. Now that the funeral is over and some time has passed I’m ready to resume my blogging adventures.

Yosemite

Yosemite is one of my favorite places on this whole planet. There is something magical about this place that captures my thoughts constantly. Maybe it’s because I spent so many summers there as a kid and teenager with great memories. Or maybe it’s just the calm, solid, challenging but peaceful aura of the place. I can go so many times and never get sick of it. I do although, love it when the falls are more full, fewer people, and the temperatures are cooler.

Ever since I worked at Wawona Summer Camp (inside the park near the southern entrance) I have dreamed of hiking Yosemite Falls. I’ve completed Half Dome a couple of times now, but never made it up Yosemite Falls. Every time I’ve planned to go, something would come up. Either it would rain or we were deadsore from previous killer hikes, read: Half Dome. So it’s been hanging over my head for years, taunting me. Well, no more!

Five of us from our group decided to tackle it Saturday morning. We unfortunately got a late start so it was already pretty warm by the time we caught the bus to the trailhead at Camp 4. Almost immediately the trail starts climbing up and up. The three guys quickly outstripped Becky and I as we slowed down to tackle the steep grade. After a sufficient warm-up we both stopped and stretched our muscles, paying special attention to calves, quads, hamstrings and hip flexors (they are my weak point!).

Now warmed up and stretched out, we continued to hikeclimb higher and higher up the never-ending switchbacks. Just before we pass the 1/4 mark, we met up with Chad (Becky’s fiancé) under a shady tree. He has had several run-in in the past with heat exhaustion and it was just too miserably hot, even for mid morning. After catching our breath for a few minutes, stealing his trekking poles, we passed him by and forged on up. The hiking was steep, but not unbearable at this point. That was still to come.

We continued for a little while longer and came out to an amazing overlook at Columbia Rock viewpoint. This spot is one of the best for getting a good look at Half Dome across the Valley. (Mouse/hover over the pictures for captions.)

Leaving Columbia rock the trail took a break from relentless climbing to a gentle downhill and relatively (at least to all the switchbacks) flat stretch. Unfortunately this relief is rather bittersweet because we know that we’ll have to go back up again soon and again on the return trip. We soon get our first real good view of Upper Falls. Although it didn’t have a lot of water coming down, it was still very beautiful to see. I had a sinking feeling though, in the pit of my stomach as I looked ALL the way up to the top. We still had to hike that monster!

yosemite july 2012-1-7

Then the trail turned from tough, to the trail of melting, exploding flesh originating in the “hot place below.” The sun beating down on us as we climbed the switchbacks on the exposed rock was absolute torture. I kept on using tons of water to splash on my face and ears to ease the sensation that my brain was boiling and about to explode. The trail itself is very steep, rocky switchbacks, but the heat was a killer.

After eons of steps and gallons of sweat later, we FINALLY made it to the top!

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Beautiful, but evil steps. The picture’s scale is rather deceptive; those steps were only about a foot to a foot and a half wide. Not very big at all! Believe me, I hung on to the guard rails at this point. Not only for strength, but so I wouldn’t go off the side to the valley 2,700 feet below.

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The water felt SO good after our brutal hike. We met up with the two other guys and yosemite july 2012-1-5swam and ate our lunches. Since the water was so far down, we were able to safely play in the pools, but the rocks were slicker than glass. I slipped on some of them and crashed down on my butt and hand. I felt like such a doufus, but luckily I was able to put my bruised hand into the cold water to ease the sting a bit.

After spending a couple of hours at the top, we reluctantly put on our shoes, took a quick potty break off the trail (privacy guaranteed with my never-leave-home-without-it tool), and began to make our way back down. The torturous upper switchback section was partly shaded now that it was afternoon, so it wasn’t quite as devilishly hot, and going down was a LOT easier (also thanks to Chad’s trekking poles).

Chad met us on the way down along with the other two of our group so we were able to hike the last fourth of the way together. My knee held up remarkable well, due to the fact that I put KT tape on it, and Chad’s trekking pole (Becky had one, and I had one). It didn’t start achingtalking to me until the last 20 minutes of the hike.

It was one of the hardest hikes of my life (Half Dome was the hardest because it is longer and higher), and that was due mostly to the heat. I think that I might do this hike again someday in the springtime when the falls are fuller, the days are much cooler, and start early in the morning. I also hope to be a bit more in shape by that point too! I’m really glad that I got to conquer this one and strike it from my “bucket list.” I can now say that I hiked the highest waterfalls in North America! All 2,425 feet of it!

It was so amazing to be able to hikeyosemite july 2012-1-9 the Falls. So many people physically can’t and even though it was extremely tough, I’m still thankful that I CAN hike it.

Sunday, we lazed around, went shopping in the Valley stores and sat ouryosemite july 2012-1-11lounge chairs in the river. I was able to score a sweet deal on some clearance t-shirts at the Yosemite Village Store. A “I {heart} camping” shirt for 10 bucks and another cute flower design tee for $1! Not bad at all!

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So peaceful.

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Can’t wait to go back!

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