Continued from …Left foot first…
“They” say that the first step in a difficult journey is the hardest one. I would like to go on record and say that I can positively attest to the fact that “They” are living – and smoking something – in Colorado (or maybe Washington State), because they are hallucinating.
It may be just my rigorous Navy Boot Camp “how to start walking” training, but the first step was definitely not the hardest on this particular trip. In fact, with the exception of the last step, which was not actually taken by me, but by the people who carried me to my tent and poured me into my sleeping bag, it was, by far, the easiest.
But enough about that. I’m running out of commas and I don’t want to get caught short later in my story.
Walking in the last position in the single file formation, head lamp in the “off” position, Man of Action made it to the trail head at Happy Isles without incident. And, after a quick final equipment and “Chicken*” check, we proceeded.
*Chicken Check: A last ditch effort to separate the wheat from the chaff – one final chance for a coward to say “Oh wait! I just remembered! I have an appointment with Madame Lulu for a pedicure in the morning and I’ve already rescheduled four times and I can’t reschedule again because if I do they will just cancel me forever so I can’t do this hike with you guys. Sorry for the inconvenience. Have a nice day.”
This is where the actual ascent begins. The first major segment of the the trek is about 1.5 miles to the top of Vernal Falls, with a footbridge about 8/10 of a mile into the hike. It’s about 1000 feet of elevation gain.
We started upward. We continued upward. We kept going upward. We briefly stopped going upward after about a quarter mile to get some night shots of the moon, and take in the view of the Merced River, roaring along a hundred feet, or so, below us.
I took a couple of shots with my Android…
View of the full moon
View looking down at the river
It must have been spectacular. It certainly sounded spectacular. I really couldn’t tell because, it was one O’Clock in the morning and it was dark out. And the moon was hidden behind a thick layer of clouds. And trees. And giant rocks.
We continued on and, after about another half mile, came to the foot bridge below Vernal Falls, the water screaming below beneath our feet as we gazed up at the falls reflected in the moonlight.
We pushed forward, soon coming to the first relatively tough part of the journey – The Steps…
I took a picture…
The Mist Trail and Vernal Falls are famous for many things, three of which stand out…
One: There are a lot of granite steps involved – that’s steps as in ‘stairs’ – around 400 of them, in fact. They are not in the least bit even. Some are a foot tall, some are nearly three feet tall. Not easy on the knees.
*I once ran up these steps – 25 years ago. In the day time. Alone. When I got to the top, I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I promised myself that I would never do that again.
So far, I have kept that promise.
Two: Mist. That’s why they call it the Mist Trail. If the falls are running well, it’s really, really wet. Not “umbrella” wet. Not “light rain” wet. Think “I’m standing in the middle of a storm cloud” wet. Bring a rain poncho. And be prepared for slippery footing.
Three: Death. A lot of people die in Yosemite. Most of them die by not being careful on the Mist Trail or by being carried over the top of Vernal Falls because they ignored the warning signs and got into the water above the falls.
Fortunately, all of us on the hike are well experienced in the art of getting to the top of Vernal Falls and not getting into the water. We arrived there without incident.
I took a group shot…
Donna, Brian, Megan, Lauren, Shawn, Nicole (standing next to the tree) (I’m not in this one – I’m taking the picture)
Once at the top of the falls, we regrouped, which is my way of saying that they waited for me to catch up (Once again, I was my own group for a few minutes). We discussed our progress so far, carefully reviewed the next segment, took our bearings and, resuming our walk, headed out.
In the wrong direction…
Click here to go back and start at the beginning of the series… That would be Part .5…