half dome – yosemite

I’m alive!

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.

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The Route

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.

Clothes

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.

Gear

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.

I carried this Camelbak with a 2L reservoir. At 18L, it was a teeny bit small but Dad carried this 32L Kelty Redwing and anything extra we needed, including the water filter.

Also, this Nike hat. Saved my face, along with this sunscreen.

Food/Water

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.

The Cables

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.

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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.

alamere trial run

I’ve been bad and in a slight funk the last two weeks. No exercise, no hiking. I may or may not have used my busted ankle as the excuse to lay off anything that even slightly raised my heartrate. Sigh.

So I decided to hike to Alamere Falls again, figuring it for an easy one since there’s not much elevation change at all and there’s a gratifying waterfall waiting for you at the end of the trail.

It was strangely easy (except for the having to be careful on my ankle part). I suppose this means that I’m in much better shape than I was a little over a year ago? I wasn’t the first one in the parking lot, but I was definitely the first one on that trail and the first to reach the waterfall. I started at the trailhead at 7:20am and made it back to the car around 10:30, including a 30+ minute break for some pictures and breakfast-snack. I had the entire cliff to myself for about 20+ minutes before the first couple groups of hikers arrived too. Compare that to last year, when it took us 4+ hours roundtrip, and we didn’t really stop to rest at all either so we could beat everyone back to the lot. The only thing I didn’t do was the scramble down to the beach. Since I was the only person around, I wasn’t sure I wanted to risk not being able to climb back up on my ankle. Better safe than sorry for sure. I also ran maybe 1/3 of the way back which definitely saved me some time.

Some other observations while returning and observing hikers coming in:
– A lot of girls wear makeup while hiking. The first group that came after me consisted of 4 Asians, 2 of them female and both wearing full faces of makeup, eyeliner and everything. And there I was all nasty and gross from the humidity and fast pacing. Sheesh.
– I’m not huge on “trail etiquette”, but since we’re all sharing the trail, it makes sense to at least acknowledge the other people sharing it with you. So I usually smile or say hey/morning really quickly. Younger folks don’t do this, at all. They just ignore you and half the time, don’t even move aside to make it easier for you when you pass them. That’s probably the most annoying part.

Anyway, I’m going to attempt a two-fer this weekend and drive down to Castle Rock for a short 5-miler tomorrow. Wish me luck.

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berry creek falls – big basin

Hiked the Berry Creek Falls Loop this morning with Dad. 11.5 miles, and we averaged maybe 3 miles per hour if you don’t count a couple breaks for nature’s calling + food.

The good:
– Great workout overall. Not particularly strenuous like the internet says, in my opinion. It’s more of a long moderate hike. We went counter-clockwise, so tackled all the hard parts first, came down along the waterfalls, then took the gradual hike upward back out.
– Waterfalls! Even in peak summer months, the waterfall +all the littler ones were still pretty nice to see. Given our direction, I actually liked climbing down alongside them.
– Some interesting bits – downed trees to climb under and small hops that might be actual stream crossings after winter rains.

The struggle:
– Loads and loads of mosquitoes in the morning – so aggressive. Had to hide in the car and wait for the park store to open up at 8 so we could buy obscenely expensive DEET spray. It worked, at least.
– Rolled my ankle. Twice. Those hidden slippery roots, man. I should really wear boots from now on if there’s these redwoods about. Fortunately (or unfortunately), it was my left ankle. Not sure if it’s a good thing that it wasn’t the same right ankle, or bad because now I have two weaker ankles overall.
– Big Basin State Park gets crazy insane crowded. We got there super early before the rangers even show up, but when we came out, there were people, kids, everything everywhere. Also in general, lots more people on the trail we took after around 11am. Just the way it is.

Now, I gotta rest my ankle. It’s not as bad as last time, but I need it to be in working condition for next weekends hiking. Thank you, ibuprofen.

Time to do some arts and crafts.

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hike plan update

I’ve been bad and have only done upper body workouts a couple times since Tomales Point. Between work and home drama, I’ve been distracted and off my game. Yikes.

Dad’s in town this weekend, so we’re going to hike Berry Creek Falls down at Big Basin. Should be fun. I’m going to try and do a two-fer this weekend and tackle Castle Rock too.

Mission Peak – 6.5 mi, 2200 ft gain, half of half-dome
Tomales Point – 9.4 mi, 1200 ft gain, mileage
Berry Creek Falls Loop (Big Basin) – 10 mi, 2000 ft gain, waterfalls! +mileage
Castle Rock State Park – 5.5 mi, 1000 ft gain, lots of scrambles
Mitchell Canyon-Eagle Peak Loop, Mount Diablo – 7.8 mi, 2200 ft gain, heat/endurance
Stinson Beach to Mt. Tam Loop – 16 mi, 3200 ft gain, mileage

tomales point

I had two goals for today – try an extra long hike just to get used to the mileage, and break in my hiking boots. They’re Ahnu Sugarpines, brand new, and probably the lightest boots I could find that didn’t look super ugly:

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I dragged myself out of bed at 6am and made it up to the trailhead around 8:15, after circling back to take some pictures of the early morning fog settling over the bay:

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So beautiful. Point Reyes has so much wildlife, it’s amazing. Bajillions of baby bunnies along the road, those little quail-ish birds, and I even saw a fox?dingo?something? driving in. Everyone comes for the elk of course – the hike itself isn’t particularly challenging. Just a little long. But the views at the end are totally worth it. I hauled along a Lou’s sandwich and it never tasted so good, sitting there watching the ocean.

PS I met Prongs.

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change of hike plans

Sticking to an order isn’t super feasible, so I’m just going to hike them as they come. Generally, I need to up my mileage and gain some stamina for the huge 4000-5000 ft climb. This is now my to-hike list and I’ll do as many as I can:

Castle Rock State Park – 5.5 mi, 1000 ft gain, lots of scrambles
Mission Peak – 6.5 mi, 2200 ft gain, half of half-dome
Mitchell Canyon-Eagle Peak Loop, Mount Diablo – 7.8 mi, 2200 ft gain, heat/endurance
Berry Creek Falls Loop (Big Basin) – 10 mi, 2000 ft gain, waterfalls! +mileage
Stinson Beach to Mt. Tam Loop – 16 mi, 3200 ft gain, mileage
Tomales Point – 9.4 mi, 1200 ft gain, mileage
Mt. Wittenberg and Bear Valley Loop – 13.8 mi, 1800 ft gain