We will pick the story back up after we made it to California at the end of summer. We were ready to settle down for a Bay Area fall and winter after a summer of fun and travel. Then we got another bright idea. Well, “we” means Wes got a bright idea.
We had also spent the summer of 2016 in the Bay Area. In San Francisco, so many people talk about “Half Dome this” and “Half Dome that”: “Last summer when we did Half Dome…” or “We are getting into shape for Half Dome,” was overheard at many nearby lunch and dinner tables. We knew it was a mountain in Yosemite, but naturally our interest was peaked after all these people dropped the name as a badge of honor. Well, we were glad we spent this year’s summer getting into hiking shape, because we would need it.
To be able to summit Half Dome you have to have a permit. You are able to reserve a permit if you plan ahead and apply before March. If you have read any other post of ours you would know that is not our style. If you are like us and just want to show up when you have the time, you have to enter a lottery two days before your hike and pray for the best. So, we got the “Vacation Home” van ready and headed to Yosemite hoping our luck would hold with the permit gods. The morning we left for Yosemite we had found out we did not get a permit for the first day. We would have to drive there and see if we would get a permit for the next day, which was the last day we had to hike the mountain. It was not a total loss as we were able to check out some of Yosemite Valley’s other wonders. By the next day we woke up right outside Yosemite, and we got an email telling us we won permits for the following day. I have to say I was excited and scared all at the same time. The next day would be the hardest and longest day hike Laura or I have ever attempted. So we had a lazy day of short hikes and vistas as we saved our legs for Half Dome.
Driving and taking small hikes around the valley floor was amazing, but the summits towering over us reminded me of what lay ahead for us the next day. We played in the valley floor and return early to the Vacation Home for a good night’s rest before the hike.
We woke up at 4am to start out on our 16+ mile around trip with 5,457 feet of elevation gain hike. We stayed outside of the park, so we had an hour drive to get to the trail head in the morning. By a little before 6 am, we were on our way. At first light we were climbing next to Vernal Falls on Mist Trail. As you climb the stairs, you understand where it got it’s name. The mist from the waterfall makes the stairs and you very wet all the way up. And let me tell you, there is a lot of up. Being wet in the morning with stone steps that seem to never end can make one second guess this adventure, as Laura did. At one point she reminded me that this was my idea and it was not her idea of fun. That feeling soon would pass for both of us.
We pushed on to the next climb and waterfall, Nevada Falls. Boy is that worth the climb. The sun was up in the sky by the time we got there, and the views were taking some of the burn out of our legs.
At this point in the trip our legs, heart, and lungs had stopped most of the protesting they had done earlier in the morning and settled into a day of climbing. There are a lot of people that conquer Half Dome every year, but don’t let that fool you…It’s one hell of a workout.
We kept climbing and hoping with every turn of the trail to get our first peek of Half Dome. That was a ways off, but soon we got a different payoff. We had climbed to a point to see the Yosemite Valley from above.
We hiked a few miles with these views, then there it was. What we came here for, Half Dome
It was nice to see the end in sight, but now is when the real fun begins. We arrived at the bottom of Sub-Dome (the mountain peak next to Half Dome), where there was a ranger checking permits. He told me he hikes this trail every week to check permits. This took some air out of my sails: this young man just does this hike like it’s nothing, just a part of his work week.
I couldn’t worry about the young ranger making me feel old for long, because we had to worry about climbing Sub-Dome. Most people know of the Cables (that comes next), but I had not heard anything about the climb up Sub-Dome. It has hand carved steps here and there with other parts that you have to trust your boot’s grip and just run up. It was hard for me, but I’m sure it was harder for Laura. Can you believe she did all this with a fear of heights? One tough Lady. We saw a few people turn away at this point. It was just too much.
Then you summit Sub-Dome to see the Cables of Half Dome. The last 400 feet of elevation is up the side of Half Dome using cables to climb what feels like straight up at some points. This is what we came for. The hike up was tiresome, but my heart was pumping pretty fast at the sight of the Cables.
The posts are about 10 feet part, and there are 2x4s resting on the topside of each post set, so you can stand and rest in-between. One step at a time and before you know it, you’re on top of the world.
We spent our time on top of Half Dome just trying to understand where we were. It’s hard to take in the view of the surrounding mountains and the valleys below. John Muir said of Yosemite, “It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter.” I could not agree more, Mr. Muir.
While on top of Half Dome my phone rang. I was shocked to see it even had a signal. My 94 year old grandmother was on the other end. It was pretty special to be able to share that moment with her.
We soon saw some clouds a ways off that looked like trouble, so we started down. I walked with a limp for a week after the hike down. It almost destroyed my knees. I was dumb not to bring trekking poles, and I will never make that mistake again. My knees slowed us up so much that going down took as long as going up. We got down to the valley floor, where it rained for last mile of our hike back to the car. Those clouds held off for as long as they could, and I thanked them. This day will be with me for the rest of my life.
So we are so close to being caught up. Just another post of Bay Area winter and family visits, which were pretty cool, too.
Until next time…