Oh, my dear friends, if you haven't visited Yosemite National Park, you need to do so. I was there for 4 days and it was dreamy.
This year, instead of having the big hike on the day before we left, we did it our second day out, and I think that worked well. Everyone but one injured person wanted to do Cloud's Rest, so we all set out at the crack of dawn to climb 10,000 feet. (Injured friend rode her bike around the valley all day.)
My dear, sweet, 14 year old goddaughter could barely stand to be so pokey with me on the stairs & steep climbs, so we were hardly together. In a nice turn of events, though, the groups did not all tear off into the mountains and leave each other in the dust, but everyone waited for the others at a few different meeting spots. Also lovely was the fact that I wasn't in the back!! For most of the time, there were 4 or 5 people behind me. Awesome. I could really tell the difference in being in better shape and being better prepared.
Nevertheless, I did not go all the way to the top of Cloud's Rest. Around 2.5 or 3 miles from the top (according to the signs that LIE all along the trail), I was starting to get blisters on the backs of my feet, it was freaking hot, and all I saw before me was unrelenting steepness. I turned to my friend, Tim, who was the only one around for miles & said, "You know, Tim. I am totally over this and fine with turning around!" This being his first gigantic hike up a mountain, he concurred and suggested that we find a shady spot to eat our lunch before heading down the mountain. Splendid.
The Cloud's Rest hike, once it splits off from the trail to Half Dome, is nowhere near as popular, so it was nice to have absolutely no one around sometimes. We ate our lunch, I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders, and refused to be guilted by those behind us who said, "We've made it this far, we might as well go on." Go on, then! Have at you!
Full of optimism and naivete, Tim and I slowly wandered our way down the mountain, stopping often to rest, drink, and enjoy. I stuck my feet in the water at Nevada Falls, and we proclaimed the excellence of the John Muir Trail and chided Thomas for not having us go up that trail more often. It was a happy time when we were more innocent. In the end, the trail was still quite hard. Not as painful as the Mist Trail would have been on the knees, but not the Dream Trail we had initially dubbed it. And it ended up on the same, dreaded, hateful asphalt steepness that we had on the way up. (See Yosemite post from 2 yrs ago for a pic.)
Due to our turning back, Tim & I had about 3 hours to kill before everyone else was done, especially because the Lunatic Thomas took our friend Andrew and my goddaughter up both Cloud's Rest and to the top of Half Dome. Better him than me. So Tim & I sat, staring into space, with our feet in the freezing river for about an hour. I spent about 8 hours with Tim that day, and we had both good conversation and good silence. I liked it.
We finally headed over to the parking lot (putting our shoes back on! Ugh.) with the hopes that our 2 other friends who weren't on the mountain would be around. (Tim's sister had turned back fairly early on in the hike, so she was wandering the valley with a walkie talkie, as well.) We sat in the back of a friend's truck, and I made a little pillow out of my backpack and elevated my feet on her tool box. It was lovely. Eventually the bike riding friend came back to us, and we all chatted and looked at the pictures of the bears that she saw on her travels.
The three of us heard from Tim's sister, Valarie, and headed over to the pizza place to save tables for everyone for dinner. It was a fabulous day, I tell you, and I loved the fact that I wasn't completely beat down because I took at least 5 miles off my hike. What I missed, though, was the proposal on top of Cloud's Rest. I really wish I would have been there, but I'm so happy for my friends.
The next day we limped our way around the valley, looking at waterfalls and the Ahwahnee Hotel. Some people biked, which I would really love to do, but I wasn't in the mood that day and let a friend use my bike. I was quite proud of us for getting in at least 4 miles or so on our sore legs. Of course, I walked in the river again for a bit when we all stopped for lunch, which was heaven for my calves.
Oh, and we saw 2 bears, no big whoop. There was a large male in a meadow, and I almost had to resort to bodily violence to stop my girl from getting as close as possible to get a good picture. Then there was a tiny cub across the road in a picnic area. Yes, he was very cute and huggable, were one to go in for that "maimed by momma bear" sort of thing. Which, apparently, many tourists do! Two different women were inching their ways closer and closer to the cub in order to...I don't know. Hold it? Eventually, the baby bear was surrounded by idiots. The mom must have abandoned it, though, because The Darwin Awards got no new nominees and a ranger eventually came out with a small cage and was working on wrangling the cub when we left. I tell you- you see many stupid people at the park. "Let's Get Rabies!" seems to be a close second to the game of "Maiming is the Best!" only to be followed by "I Don't Need Water for this Hike, Do I?"
That evening, we swam in the hotel pool next to our campground and had a lovely dinner together. Different circles of conversation formed, and I had a great theology discussion with 2-5 people until the wee hours, when our neighbors started shushing us.
Thanks to days of little sleep and lots of activity, there was also plenty of laughter, wheezing, and near-pants-peeing. Laughing until tears is so rare and so wonderful when it happens. Thanks to exhaustion, it happened a few times last weekend, and I almost felt like I had an ab workout. Good times. I love my friends and I love California.
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