Linda and I started our drive in Thursday morning after getting all of our gear ready. We had a very long drive to Curry Village, the place we were staying, and traffic in LA did not help one bit. After a few pit stops for snacks along the way, we arrived in Yosemite only about 10 minutes before Lexi and Hailey. Linda and I took a little stroll across the street while we were waiting for the other girls to arrive and took our first GoPro photo of the trip. Once the other girls got there, we quickly checked in and found our tent. I can't believe how awesome it was to have our tent cabin all ready for us when we got there and how much more convenient it is to not bring your own tent. We unpacked all our food into the bear box and took off to explore the area. We browsed through the shops that Curry Village has and went over to the pizza shop so we could get some serious calories in before our big hike the next day. We hung out in our camping chairs outside the tents for a bit before packing for the next day and going to sleep.
We were so lucky to have gotten permits to hike Half Dome after being denied the first time, months in advance. We began our hike at 5 a.m. and watched the sun rise as we began our trek. We started off with probably a half mile walk to the trailhead where we saw a sign with all the distances to important landmarks. There it was: Half Dome just 8.2 miles away. The hike is broken up into parts and it helped me to think of it in sections instead of one giant hike. Our first stop was the top of Vernal Falls. We began our hike at the bottom of the waterfall and took some very steep stairs to reach the top. This was a piece of cake. It was pretty surreal to know we had just been at the bottom of the falls and now we were looking out from the top.
Then, onwards and upwards. Our next destination was the top of Nevada Falls. We walked along the Misty Trail, which wasn't so misty this time because of the drought we are having in California, and eventually reached the top of our second waterfall. This also wasn't too bad and we still had plenty of energy at this point. After we took some photos at the top of Nevada Falls, we continued on through some large rocks and past some mules and many backpackers and boyscouts. We walked for what seemed like a long time along flat ground with trees surrounding us, where we heard a very large, scary growl that had me worried through the whole rest of the forest. We were asking hikers coming the other way how the rest of the hike was, ms they all warned us that the subdome and cables were going to be pretty rough.
We made it to the subdome and the rest of the girls were getting quite tired at that point. I, for some reason, still had some energy even though we had already gone 6 miles pretty much all uphill. We took a rest and had some lunch just below the subdome as we fought off hungry squirrels. I tried not to look at Half Dome from where we were because you could see the people climbing the cables and it looked terrifying. I knew I would chicken out if I kept looking at it. This is probably what got me through the hike so quickly...terror. Lexi and I felt like we needed to go very quickly to get it over with and not linger on how scary and crazy what we were doing was. Hailey and Linda took their time climbing the crazy, steep rock stairs that made up subdome. Lexi and I blazed ahead on these steep stairs that turned into just a rock face. Once we all regrouped at the top of the subdome, we got mentally prepared to climb the cables. I put my gloves on, questioned my sanity for a few moments, and then rushed towards the cables. It was a now or never thing and I knew if I was not first, I would not get on the cables. All the other girls were still at the bottom trying on gloves when I had gotten a good ways up. The metal cables are held onto the practically vertical rock with metal stakes which sometimes had a piece of wood stretched between them to stand on. You would have to pull yourself up to each wooden plank and take a short break if you needed it. The hardest part was that there were people going up and coming down at the same time, so it was a little complicated trying to pass each other. For a moment on the way up it hit me that I could actually die doing this if I made even the slightest mistake or even if someone else made a mistake. Definitely not a good feeling. I guess you kind of thing you're invincible when you're young and it takes something really huge like that to make you realize you're only human - just a bag of flesh and bones. Anyways, existential crisis moment aside, we had to take a lot of breaks on the way up to let the people coming down pass us, but we eventually made it to the top and explored the top of this huge rock. The people we had hiked all day with were so friendly and encouraging the whole way and especially on the ropes. We met a man who was 75 and hiking this route for the 10th time, which was completely inspiring and encouraging. We found the best spots for photos at the top and I walked out to the "diving board" for a few seconds before I got too scared and had to run back to the main part of the rock. We heard a bunch of people calling their family members from the top, but sadly I didn't have service. We also saw a small fire in the distance. Then Linda and I walked to another ledge to take photos of Lexi and Hailey. We sat for a while after getting plenty of photos to have some snacks and regain our strength for the way down. We had finally made it to the top around 1 p.m., but we couldn't wait too long before heading down because we needed to get back before sunset.
I used my hands to slide down the cables (facing the rock the whole time so I did not realize how high up we were) and burned some holes into my nice new gloves. Better the gloves than my hands though. The way down was much easier since it didn't require as much arm strength, but the people were much less friendly going down. We had to be very patient, which I didn't mind. I was able to calm down enough to really enjoy the view from where I was. I definitely hit a wall once we finished our climb down the cables and sub dome.
It was then I realized...oh man we are only halfway through. My knees are in so much pain, my thighs are shaking, everyone but me has run out of water and this took much longer than it should have. The feat and adrenaline was no longer helping me either since the worst of it was over. It was a veryyyy long way back. It felt even longer than the way there. Thank goodness we found a water source at the top of Nevada Falls where we could purify some water and fill our Camelbacks. At least we wouldn't die of dehydration on the trail. The last 6 miles all seems like a blur in my head. A very painful, grumpy blur. We managed to get lost trying to find the John Muir Trail, which is supposed to be easier. We think we took it, but there's no way to be sure. All we knew is we were going down and down and down. We eventually made it to the bottom of the first waterfall and I had to sit and rest. I almost broke out in tears from exhaustion. I really wasn't sure I would make it back to our camp at times. I strongly considered just sleeping exactly where I was, but we all kept each other going. After a miserable walk back to our camp we all arrived limping and whining. The Irish campers across the way saw that we were in rough shape and were kind enough to bring the other girls a beer. There was a man who just happened to walk by our site every time the girls were drinking beer, and it became a running joke that it was always a beer emergency. We socialized a bit and stayed awake just long enough to eat some half cooked Top Ramen and make it to our beds at least. I had a terrible night sleep that night. Every time I tried to get comfortable or roll over, a shooting pain would go through my legs.
The next day, we were in better shape than we thought we would be in. I mean everything hurt, my knees were swollen, and my feet looked like they had been mauled by a bear, but I could walk which is more than what I thought I'd be able to do. We decided to take it easy that day. We did some shopping, rode the free bus around the valley floor stopping at all the interesting places like the Village Store and the Ahwanee hotel. We took the bus to a campground where we were going to board our Valley Floor open air tour bus. This was a two hour tour that drove us all around the valley and up to a nice viewpoint for photos. A ranger told us really interesting stories as we drove around. I think it would have been perfect if it weren't for the extreme heat, but we were able to hide in the shade for most of the ride. She told us about El Capitan, another famous rock that people like to rock climb, and how someone has speed climbed it in two and a half hours. She told us that Yosemite falls is the tallest waterfall in North America, but it looked a little dinky because of the drought. She predicted it would dry up soon for the season. She told is of some old Yosemite traditions that don't exist anymore like the firewall off of one of the big rocks and the bear den where tourists used to come watch bears eat leftovers and garbage. She also told us about a waterfall called Bridalveil Falls where pioneers said that you would marry the first person you looked at I think...or talked to...I can't remember which. The Ahwanee people also believed that if you looked directly at this waterfall, you would be cursed. The drive was quite informative and gave me some new perspective on all the sites in Yosemite.
When we finished the tour, we took a short walk to the bottom of Yosemite falls. It may not have been a flat walk, but at least it was "paved the whole way!" We sat on some rocks below the falls and numbed our legs in the ice cold water. It felt amazing. I climbed some rocks for a bit and eventually we headed out, after trying to get a photo with a mountain in the background. A man walked right in front of our photo as the self timer went off, and we got a good laugh out of the photo that resulted. He felt bad for ruining our photo, so he came back and took one for us.
We went back to our campground after our trip to the falls, and noticed the sky turning red because of the fire. The sky was raining ash so much that they had to cover their beer bottles so they wouldn't be drinking it. The ranger told us that the fire had spread from 17 acres (probably when we had seen it the day before) to 2,100 acres and I got a bit worried. We went to eat at the restaurant that night and all got huge "child's" pasta meals. We sat I'm a lounge area where we were able to get some wifi for a minute, and say out in the amphitheater to watch the sunset on Half Dome. I really wanted to go back out to a field we had seen earlier, so we all went and just laid there looking at the stars. The sky is so clear there that we could see sparkles and shooting stars all over the sky. We tried so hard to get photos, but all we could get was photos of the ash. We went to bed that night feeling much better than the night before. Linda and I woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and saw a little raccoon scavenging around. We were not ready to say goodbye to Yosemite, but we left early the next morning to avoid problems caused by the fires.