Yesterday we went to Yosemite National Park. Alyssa was recovering from food poisoning and Lisa from lung congestion, I wanted to do a long hike so it seemed best that I should do it alone. I chose to hike Upper Yosemite Falls.
It is described as follows in the Yosemite literature:
Distance: 7.6 miles (12 km) round trip from the Lower Yosemite Falls trailhead.
Elevation gain: 2,600 feet (790 meters) to the top of Yosemite Falls;
Hiking Time: 6 – 10 hours. Don’t double-book hikes on days when you’ve got this one on your schedule.
Difficulty: High. It’s a long, steep climb from the valley floor to the valley rim, and easily rates an 8 out of 10. Consider this question: would you climb the stairs all the way to the top of the Empire State Building? Well, in the course of your hike to Upper Yosemite Falls, you’ll climb the equivalent of just over two Empire State Buildings.
Lisa and Alyssa decided they would start the same hike and turn back when they were tired.
We got to the trailhead at 1:20, the sunset was 4:46. If I wanted to get it done in the daylight I was going to have to get up and down in less then 4 hrs. Lisa and Alyssa got a bit of a head start while I checked out the men’s room. I hurried to catch up and was already breathing hard when I met them about a 1/2 mile up the trail. I motored past them, motored being a relative term, none of us were going that fast.
When I go for a run I never like to stop because it’s hard to get going again. I applied the same theory to my hiking. I ate and drank while walking. I learned something, even I have to slow down my eating while trying to gulp down food and oxygen at the same time. On the trail, there were a lot of school-age kids hiking down in groups. Must have been some kind of field trip. They said things like “you’re almost there” – they were lying. An older couple (my age) said they were turning back at 2:30 to make sure they were down before dark. They had hiking poles and looked experienced – ahh, what do they know.
Onward I plodded. Fortunately, the trail left very few places where you had choices. It was mostly switch-backs going up and then up some more. There were some views on the way:
At one point, I started hiking down and got concerned I had messed up, however, fellow hikers assured me I was going in the right direction and soon enough the downward reprieve ended and I started grinding my way back up the mountain. Finally, I was .2 miles from the top.
At this point for some reason, the trail was not clearly marked. I’m sure for anyone else the trail would be obvious but I have an almost unfailable ability to pick the wrong direction if given a choice. Luckily, I only wandered for a minute or two before getting to the overlook. I have to say, I was underwhelmed – not that it wasn’t beautiful – but I just walked two-plus empire state buildings and you couldn’t really see the falls and from where I was, you could hardly see the river. I started heading down and realized there was a way down to the water and more satisfying views.
I got to the top in about 2 hours, I spent 10 or 15 minutes there, so it was a little after 3:30, I figured I should be able to make it down almost entirely in the daylight. I decided to do a little walk-jogging on the way down. I like running on trails and find my balance is sometimes better while jogging than it is walking. My left knee is arthritic so I made sure I landed on my right leg whenever I dropped a distance off a rock, this turns out to be a mistake.
About 1/2 a mile down, I saw Alyssa still trudging up. She was red-faced and looking tired but determined. There was no way she could make it to the top and get back in daylight, but she really wanted to get to the top. This is the time when you think about those tragic hiking stories where people didn’t turn back when they should have, but we headed to the top. We arrived at 4:20 and enjoyed the view quickly:
We had a 3.5-mile walk down and sunset was in less than 30 minutes. We had our iPhones and their wonderful little flashlight. As soon as we started down again my arthritic knee was aching and my “good” knee was aching worse, apparently walk-jogging down on my first descent was not a good idea. We hiked for about forty-five minutes in the twilight, after that, we relied on our iPhone lights. The stars were beautiful but I didn’t really enjoy them as my knees were not cooperating. Every step was uncomfortable and I was concentrating hard on reducing the impact on my knees and staying upright.
We got to the bottom at about 6:30. Sitting down in the car never felt so good. Plus, Lisa had some water and Gatorade and I hadn’t had anything to drink for a couple of hours. We stopped at the Market in Yosemite Village for more Gatorade and some aspirin. I downed a couple of aspirin and we headed for dinner in Mariposa at the Happy Burger Diner. I could barely make it from the parking lot into the diner. On this trip, I’ve been doing a lot of hiking, running, and biking, and I’ve been feeling younger than I’ve felt in a decade or more, but walking into the diner, I walked like my dad used to when he was about 90 and having a bad day.
Going down in the dark was an adventure and I’m really happy Alyssa made it to the top and Lisa enjoyed a shorter hike. It’s now two days later and for the second morning in a row, I had to limp into the kitchen to make coffee. Lisa and Alyssa are both feeling better.