Part Two: Our 6-hour Hike to the Falls
The loose plan we made for Thursday (July 4th) was to do “some hiking”. We definitely didn’t want to do the intimidating Half Dome, but we found a route that would include one waterfall for sure and two if we were feeling ambitious after reaching the first. The first was called Vernal Falls and was ~1.5 miles to the top.
I must admit, hiking in Yosemite wasn’t at all what I thought! The very little hiking I’d done previously never included paved paths. But the pavement quickly gave way to dirt paths and eventually to rocky terrain. Not only was it rocky, but it was steep! More than once, I breathlessly thanked the gods that I my body is in decent enough shape to allow me to do these things! Thank you, CrossFit!! It must also be said that it was unseasonably hot that day, with temps up past 100 degrees. We made sure to stay super-hydrated, but the heat was a definite factor with the level of exertion.
Soon, the steep terrain morphed into huge granite steps that were damp from the mist coming off the waterfall just ahead of us. We pushed our legs to go up and up and up and reveled in the cool mist that glittered our arms and faces. At the summit of Vernal Falls, there was a huge flat stone area to
collapse recover and have a snack. It was fairly crowded thanks to the holiday, but after we were hydrated and fed again we felt well enough to continue to the top of Nevada Falls. It was another 1.3 miles and we’d been warned that this leg boasted over 600 stone steps. (No, we didn’t count. We were trying not to fall off the mountain.)
We found that the crowds thinned considerably on the way to Nevada Falls and the terrain increased in difficulty by quite a bit. There were passages narrow enough for only one person with a sheer rock face on one side and only a small railing with fencing preventing falls off the ledge on the other. Other sections were severe granite “stairs” that varied in height from a few inches to a few feet. Yet other parts felt more like bouldering than hiking, but the smile never really left my face. Okay, maybe it did for the last 10 minutes at the top when my legs were screaming, but for the most part I was overjoyed at the sheer beauty surrounding us and the incredulity that we were actually doing this. I soaked up every second!!
When we reached the top of Nevada Falls, E found us the perfect resting spot right on the side edge of the falls. There was a tree offering shade, our shoes were mere feet from the ledge and the water tumbling over the edge offered tranquil recovery background music. We lounged there, refueled, took pictures and grinned stupidly for a good 45 minutes. You’ll see why in the pictures. I am not talented enough of a writer, nor is my camera awesome enough to fully capture the scene.
Take my word for it that I never wanted to leave.
The hike back down was equally treacherous (if not more), but I felt it went pretty quickly. We stumbled on our trembling legs back to the shuttle stop where we joined many other very smelly hikers for the short trip back to camp. After we showered up and took a dip in the pool, we treated ourselves to a dinner of pizza and beer and ice cream. Because hello, a six hour hike? Hell YES, we earned that!
Here’s where you have to promise not to laugh. We. Were. TIRED. So tired that E may have fallen asleep at dinner and twice at the lodge afterward – on the couch and on a bench outside of it. We asked each other multiple times if it would be horrible to go to bed at 8pm but managed to hold out till 10pm. Unfortunately, it was still so hot that sleep was impossible. We just laid there in our tent-cabin, annoyed at the amount of sweating going on in the still, oppressive darkness. It took forever to cool off enough to pass out, but when it did we slept like the dead until the next morning.