Tromping About In The Wild

Yosemite FallsThis past Saturday I went on a short day hike in Yosemite with my friend David. Drawing on past experiences, I decided to ensure that not only had I sufficient water, but comfortable means of carrying it. This attempt was not without some lessons of its own.

The last time I was in Yosemite was a hike to half dome. This was a warm summer day, and I quickly finished off my Nalgene on the way back down. Taking the Mist Trail back down to the valley only served to exacerbate the onset of delirium by placing large volumes of water just out of reach of the knee-punishing stone steps of the descent.

For this trip, I decided that I did have enough water bottles, but didn’t relish the idea of carrying them by hand (or in a backpack). My current daypack has the endearing quality of preventing any sort of airflow across my back, which is Not Fun on any reasonably steep hike. So, I stopped by REI and picked up a shiney new hydration pack.

The new pack worked great. It was lightweight; the hip and sternum straps kept its weight off my shoulders and my back cool, and I could stuff my jacket into it when it got too warm. It also left a half-liter of water on my shirt because the main opening leaked. (The pack has since been exchanged; it was just too useful when functioning to give up on.)

We had decided the previous night that even though the cables were up on Half Dome, it might be better to climb the Upper Yosemite Falls trail. We finally left our staging base in Modesto at 0430 hours and made it to the valley floor before most of the crowds. (There was a single vehicle in the day use parking area before us.) The trail itself, mostly vertical, reminded us of the worst part of hiking in the mountains: switchbacks. Fortunately the weather stayed cool, and we made it to the top with only token complaints.

The falls seem to generate their own weather, or perhaps it was just the heights, but the wind blew the mist from the falls into the valley, and small flurries of snow would appear at times. Gloves were an item I had left in the car, so I had to content myself with fuzzy pocket liners. You could hear the falls before seeing them; a low rumble somewhere between freeway traffic and thunder.

We ate lunch at one of the stores on the valley floor as a sudden rainstorm came and went, and were very glad that we had not climbed Half Dome. (It’s not one of the better places to be in a storm.) On the road to the exit I pulled off for a short nap, waking to the sound of hail on the roof. Once outside Yosemite, the weather returned to normal and I could see enough sky to pull of the road and lower the top. (OK, that wasn’t the only reason, there’s a nice twisty downhill grade that’s /really/ fun to drive. I did resist the temptation to try drifting on the turns.)

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