Northern California Trip: Yosemite Valley

Sunday, September 4, 2011

From lazing about a beach, crocheting doilies and playing fetch with the Pacific Ocean, we went right to the MOST INTENSE PHYSICAL CHALLENGE OF OUR ENTIRE LIVES (caps lock necessary).

Tent Site, with Half Dome

We stayed at the backpacker campground in Yosemite Valley Tuesday night, and the next day J and I put on our 25-35 lb backpacks to hike 9 miles with a ~3,500 ft ascent. We began with our trailhead at Happy Isles, then we took the populous Mist Trail to Vernal and Nevada Fall. A tiny piece of the switchback-ridden, virtually deserted John Muir Trail took us to the Panorama Trail with outstanding views of the back of Half Dome and the waterfalls. Once we reached Illilouette Creek, and saw Illilouette Fall from 1,000 ft higher, we pitched our tent with an unbelievable view of Half Dome.

The next day, we awoke to an additional 2.5 mile hike with a 500 ft incline. BUT. We arrived at Glacier Point feeling exhausted, but okay. We ate lunch and enjoyed the amazing views for awhile. There was the ever so slight possibility of waving $50 cash at a bus driver to take take us down the 3,000 ft decline to Yosemite Valley, if there was space, but that's expensive and kinda risky. So we decided to finish our entire hike as planned. Four-mile trail was one of the most grueling experiences of my life. Most people think the knees would be most affected by going downhill, but in this case my shoulders and the balls of my feet were in excruciating quantities of pain. By some previously unknown force of will, I narrowly avoided collapsing in the middle of the trail and bawling my eyes out. I decided that surrendering to my self pity would be too embarrassing.

The elevation plot from our GPS, so even if you can't feel our pain, you can see it.
...That's right, I'm entirely motivated by a fear of embarrassment. Whatever gets you to the bottom of the hill.

Yosemite Valley from Glacier Point
You can sort of see where we started our hike near the Ahwanee Hotel in the middle of the photo (close to the cliffside, just above where the Merced River is obstructed by trees). This photo was taken from Glacier Point, our highest peak.

We did indeed make it to the bottom of the mountain. The entire hike was an approximate 17 miles horizontal with a 4,000 ft vertical incline.

While climbing the rocky stairs alongside the Vernal and Nevada Falls, people regularly mumbled "I could never do that" as we trudged past. This is funny to me, because up until a few months ago, I really could not do what I just did. Training. That's the way to go.

Yosemite Valley from the Panorama Trail

Some highlights from the hike:
  • Everything was so damn pretty.
  • We were not attacked by bears.
  • The foot-numbing waters of Illilouette Creek.
  • Finally being able to fit all the food and scented toiletries into the bear vault on the second day.
  • Discovering that I am allergic to California wilderness.
  • Victory ice cream atop Glacier Point.
  • Total disbelief that we had made it up to Glacier Point.

Ready and Rarin' to Go

We spent the third night back in the Yosemite Valley Backpacker campground, and the next half-day was spent doing short park-and-hike walks to the foot of Yosemite Fall and Bridalveil Fall. Our bodies were too sore to do anything that required going either up or downhill.

Backpacker's Campground at Night Yosemite Valley View from "Tunnel View" Point
Mule Deer Yosemite Valley
Looking Up at El Capitan Yosemite Fall Heading Up Towards Nevada Fall
Lupins ont he Panorama Trail Sunset View Over Half Dome
Half Dome View from Glacier Point Vernal Fall

As usual, there's more photos up on my 'California: Yosemite Valley' flickr set.


Rosie said...

Wow. That is a very impressive hike! Sounds like a truly amazing experience.

Unknown said...

Nice work! I have empathy for you for sure, that was quite a few miles you conquered! Also, congrats on not meeting bears (I am always so worried about bears) and how in the world do you keep your backpack so light? Glad you had a successful trip.

Anonymous said...

wow, impressive! Good job! The view is incredible, for sure.

nancy said...

this looks absolutely incredible! I'd love to do this while we're in Yosemite next year!
me and my partner really need to start training ourselves... we'll be hiking Machu Picchu next May! I'll definitely be checking out your training tips :)

aki! said...

That looks so beautiful and at the same time, so challenging. I have issues with going up and down little foothills where I am and so I can't even comprehend the challenge in this.

Congrats on beating it!

Stephanie said...

I've always wanted to visit Yosemite! We live in Washington, so it's really not that far. Maybe one day!

A Lost Feather said...

sooooo amazing! i know i've already said this to you but ahhhh i want to go back haha

i'm totally motivated by embarrassment also.. for some reason i always get realllllly nervous at the beginning of every climb.. when i was in yosemite rock climbing with a group i was too embarrassed to be a baby about it- that and i paid the big $$ for a guide.. so i was ok hehe

SJ said...

whoa, nice work! i would love to go back to yosemite, it's so beautiful and while i'm not much of a bushwalker, i would probably have to do something like this if i went back.

Unknown said...

damn. i'm jealous.

h said...

Ajax- A 25-30lb backpack is about a medium weight. My boyfriend carried a pack that was about ~10lbs heavier, so they really weren't particularly light. If you'd like to see the packing list of stuff we brought backpacking, the list is up, here.

Nancy- the training is stairs. Lots and lots and lots of stairs. You might want to go down the stairs a bit, as well as up. That was something we hadn't prepared at all for. Oh, and to go backpacking in Yosemite you need some wilderness permits that get sold out really quickly, so be prepared!

Aki!- All it takes is training, lots and lots of training :)

Stephanie- You should so totally go to Yosemite. I think it'd probably be a pretty good place for kids, too. There's beaches and the like.

Suzzie Vehrs said...

wow this sounds so intense!!! I am a little bit jealous. We might be trying a backpacking overnight trip, but it wouldn't be near as cool as yours!

Elle said...

Such inspiring photos! That was such a cool post - thanks for sharing!

The Many Colours of Happiness said...

Oh wow, that is crazy!!! I admire your dedication, I am much too unfit to undertake a hike like that. Gorgeous photos though, it really does look like it was amazing.

Ingunn said...

Very cool, I haven't seen Half Dome from that angle before. Congratulations on making it through an excellent, epic adventure!

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