Yosemite – The Hiking Edition

Yosemite – The Hiking Edition

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The Pacific Northwest on Granite

The drive nearing Yosemite is littered with the same craggy rocks and oak trees I remember from the days I spent on my grandmother’s farm as a child in southern Washington.

 Yosemite itself makes you feel like you’ve stepped into a piece of history, back when there was nothing but nature for as far as the eye could see in any direction. There’s something very unreal about being in the Yosemite valley. We spend so much time wrapped in modern conveniences and crammed into our overstuffed cities, with our piped water supply and our domesticated pets that being so close to nature—where bears are doing bear things, and deer are doing deer things—feels a little bit like magic.
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Lessons I’ve learned:
        * When it comes to surfing and horseback riding,
          don’t look down.
        * When it comes to hiking steep climb-y things,
          don’t look up.
Vernal –> Nevada Falls

The hike up to Vernal falls is a moderately strenuous incline. Thankfully, at 0.8 miles it’s a pretty short hike to the footbridge, and many people manage it. In the last weekend of July, temps were 100+ mid-day, so we started our adventure at 6 am.  Yosemite is popular, and in light of recent National Parks campaigns, it’s set to become even more so. An early start to any hike allows you serenity and isolation that’s otherwise lost by mid-morning. On our way back down at 10 am, the trail up to Vernal falls was bustling with hikers just embarking on their journey.
To see both trails you can take a loop up the Mist trail and down the Muir trail for a total of 7-ish miles. If you are a weak and wobbly fawn like me, the addition of a couple trekking poles are a godsend. Or even if you’re full of brute strength and just want to tear up some 600 stairs faster, them’s some good sticks to have on deck. The Mist trail can get…misty.  And the steps can be slippery, so consider that when choosing your paths for the climb and descent.
  • 0.8 miles to the Vernal Fall footbridge
  • 0.7 miles to the top of Vernal Fall via the Mist trail (which includes over 600 granite-blasted steps)
  • 1.2 more miles to the top of Nevada Falls
  • 4 miles back down the John Muir trail
 During our trip the water was still falling at Vernal and Nevada falls, but Upper Yosemite and Bridalveil were not much more than wisps at the end of July. But don’t let this fool you, these falls are no joke.
Take it from the book Off The Wall: Death in Yosemite, a book which we read cover to cover. A great many unfortunate souls have taken a dip in Emerald Pool, slid down the silver apron, or just barely breached the water’s edge and lost their lives. Just because we’re allowed to visit these places doesn’t mean they have been rendered benign. Take the Mist trail in early June, for example.
Panorama Trail –> Mist Trail
We popped out of the bus ($25/person) that ran us from the valley floor up to Glacier Point, just as it began to rain. The Panorama trail is a long, 8.5 mile trek back down, over the Illilouette falls to Nevada falls, and down. We opted for the Mist trail to get us back to Happy Isles. The Panorama Trail has beautiful, panoramic views (go figure) along its length, and fairly low traffic. In the June morning, wisps of clouds hung in the humid air, resting lightly on treetops and creating a natural ambiance stripped of its harsh edges.
The Mist trail was something different altogether. About halfway down it went from “wow this is wet and slippery” to “holy crap I am blinded by water, might die” and “I can’t believe this trail is open”. The waterfall was, I’m sure, impressive. But I was too busy wiping the waterfall out of my eyeballs so I could see my next step, landing in the waterfall gushing down the Mist’s many steps. In fact just a couple days after we blindingly crabwalked down the water-drowned steps, the Mist trail claimed a man who slipped and fell into the unforgiving Merced river. I wish we’d had a GoPro recording our descent. It was unreal.
Sentinel Dome
If you can, take the time to also hike the Sentinel dome. The Sentinel dome has arguably the best view of the valley. It’s a gentle incline to a dome up which you can scramble easily enough, but the path is not well shaded so start early and bring water! The heat of midday can make this easy ramble feel much more challenging than it should be.
 Glacier point is a drive-up spot with another fantastic view. It has the added bonus of a small store if you’re looking for a midday snack.

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