This was it. The big kahuna of hikes, the longest and hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Dad and I drove up to Yosemite on Wednesday night. With the late start and some traffic, it was pitch black by the time we hit the Manteca area. Safe to say that driving down into Yosemite Valley was a challenge. On the plus side, we didn’t have to pay the entrance fees because the Ranger stations were closed. We stayed at the Yosemite Valley Lodge inside the park – sufficient and clean, with good hot water (so important), but also pretty warm and stuffy. You definitely pay for the convenience, that’s for sure. Worth it though, to only have to drive 5-10 minutes to get back to your hotel room. For us, it cost around $250+ per night, but we were lucky and got a 2nd floor room with high ceilings.
We hit the trail around 5:30AM the next morning, after maybe 3-4 hours of sleep. We were pretty zombified. The first several miles passed in a haze, because I don’t remember climbing up so far in the dark. But being able to reach the views around sunrise was wonderful – the pit stop at Nevada Falls was my absolute favorite part of the hike. The waterfalls, the rocks, the colors – certainly happiness-inducing. More details and learnings below.
We took the John Muir trail both ways. It’s supposed to be less steep and less dangerous slippery than the Mist trail, but I don’t know that this was the best idea, because the distance was such a struggle. Dad’s GPS showed a 20+ mile round trip, contrary to what the Internet blogs say. In my head, the trip is divided into a few parts:
- Uphill on a paved path – easiest part to traverse, but fairly steep for a mile or two.
- Huge switchbacks – fairly steep, lots of rocks to step through.
- Nevada Falls – around the 4 mile mark, perfect for a break and water refill.
- Pine trees/forest – flats through the valley after the falls, then steep uphill through forested area toward the Subdome. This was probably the hardest part.
- Subdome – pure rock, with stones for stairs. Definitely on the more dangerous side.
- Cables/half dome – pretty self-explanatory.
I bought these REI hiking tights a few days ago. They’re a little too big for me (I bought size S and usually wear size S in Adidas/Nike), but they did just nicely on the hike. As someone who doesn’t like wearing hiking pants, these worked just fine. The best part were the deep pockets on both thighs. My phone went in one with easy access the entire time.
Sock liners are your friend. I’ve never double-socked anything for any hike in my life, but this method saved my skin literally. No blisters, not even a hot spot. I wore these REI liners, and then pulled on a pair of Darn Tough merino socks over them.
Everything else was your normal athletic wear: Express run tank, random sports bra, and a North Face zip pullover for the morning chill.
These Ahnu Sugarpine boots were the best. I only broke them in once on a 10-mile hike to Tomales Point, and they performed wonderfully. Tons of grip from the Vibram soles, and they did just fine on the smooth granite along the cables. I normally wear size 7.5 and have a 8.5 in these to accommodate the thick socks.
I had hiking poles on this trip, but I probably only used them 1/3 of the time. Just a personal preference, though they did help a lot in some spots. I just felt more cumbersome with them more often than not. They certainly helped on the downhill though, for stability and balance.
Definitely needed at least a 2-3L reservoir for hands-free hydration. I also carried a 24oz metal water bottle as backup, which helped a ton. For food, we brought a sandwich for lunch at the top of the dome. I also carried a couple Kind bars, and a couple of those almond butter sandwich biscuits. Electrolyte gel packs and gummy chews are also your friend. They certainly helped as far as preventing cramps and the like.
Terrifying. Absolutely terrifying. But you’re also so tired that adrenaline just pushes you through and you don’t really have a chance to think too much beyond making it to the next set of poles/planks for a rest. Like everyone else says, gloves are so important. Unfortunately, I was wearing leather gardening gloves and these were not the best choice. They actually slipped a lot on the metal cables, which also led to a couple scary moments. The rock was very, very steep about midway up, and at one point I started getting tired. Mind over matter is definitely a thing, and I powered through to the top. Also randomly passed some guys from UCSD BTEC days on their way down – of all the places, ha.
All in all, super proud of ourselves. It was all kinds of exhausting, exhilarating, and insane scary. It was quite hazy and ashy due to forest fires in the region, which was a bummer for the views at the top. We also saw all a manner of wildlife, including a mummy deer and her two baby deers, squirrels, fat chipmunks, and even a bear on the trail! The trip back was probably the longest return hikes I’ve ever experienced. You definitely need stamina to make it back down to the valley. I also busted my hip flexor muscles on the way up, so coming down was a super struggle for me personally. I pretty much limped my way down at least 8 miles. Three days later, I’m still quite sore.
Cheers to adventures and family time. Gods know we need it more than ever.