When it’s almost 100°F, you have already hiked two “knolls” and there’s one more in front of you, when you are running short of water and breath and when there’s not really that much shade to rest in, it starts to be really interesting.
After a day of rest spent mostly by biking to Mirror Lake and just lying on a rock there for about four hours, it was time for some more of an adventure. This time, I was on my own. Nobody really felt like joining me on this trail. I asked. Two or three times.
I got up before my alarm (set to 5.55) even went off. After sneaking out from the tent and having a huge hiker’s breakfast including an unmeasurable amount of coffee, I started my journey.
The beginning was the same as for Nevada Falls. I just wanted to go through Mist Trail again – and so I stretched my route a bit. All right, a bit more.
Being up there so early was something indescribable.
There was almost nobody on the trails, on John Muir Trail I met a group of backpackers, all of them were young men with beards. They were taking pictures standing up on a ledge, quite a few feet (=really a lot) above the river rushing down in the valley.
Mist Trail was a lot of fun, but so cold! Because the sun wasn’t up yet, it felt freezing. But, honestly, I didn’t really mind it as walking uphill something over 600 steps warms one up.
The view up there represented the best reward for slipping down and cutting my knee on mentioned steps. The sun, slowly starting to peek out from behind the mountains, drew a rainbow into the mist and changed the color of the rocks to dark reddish-brown. It felt like two totally different worlds; where the sun didn’t get yet, the light was cold and blue-ish and green felt dark and gray, while where the rays of sun touched the ground, everything gained color and warmth. And somehow, these two worlds were right next to each other, coexisting right in front of my eyes.
I got on John Muir Trail, yes, the same part which we took two days ago (read the article HERE) to get down from Nevada Fall. On Clark Point I exchanged some hiking and backpacking tips and tricks with two men in their thirties living nearby (yes, I was a tiny bit jealous when I heard they had it only about 30 minutes to Yosemite NP), they were really surprised and interested in me using tea tree oil instead of a bug spray. The advantages of tea tree oil: it’s lighter, smells nicer, it repels all the bugs and ticks and mosquitoes as well as a bug spray, maybe better – and one really nice additional feature; it heals bug bites really, really quickly!
In no time, I reached the hundred-tiny-waterfalls part and before I even realized it, I was on a path crossing. I could either continue uphill on my way to Glacier Point or walk about 200 feet to the top of Nevada Fall.
Because I was running short of water, I decided to put this extra distance in my day and went to refill my water bottles.
Shortly after leaving Nevada Fall and getting back to the crossing and on a trail to Illilouette Fall and Glacier Point, I lost that trail. Completely. I tried to go back but it was almost impossible, my legs were sliding in a mud and I saw a cliff not so far from me. Do you remember me telling you about the tiny waterfalls above John Muir Trails? That was exactly where I ended up!
Well, at least there were really beautiful flowers. In my effort not to damage any of them – literally any – I must have looked like a drunk meadow fairy.
In about fifteen minutes, I finally found my trail thanks to hearing some voices and following that direction. Even now, I still feel so guilty about walking in that delicate area and am afraid that with my steps I damaged some fragile ecosystem! Hopefully not.
Well, if I did, the hill before me was punishment enough. Again, like two days ago, my heart just couldn’t keep up and I had to stop every here and there (basically every 100 feet) and breathe.
I didn’t really mind that stopping as I could admire the lichen- and moss- covered trees (if “lichen” is the right word, I don’t really know) and a bit higher in elevation I could even see their black burnt bark. I found a piece of bark which looked exactly like a dragon skin.
And I swear, if anywhere, Yosemite is exactly the place where I could easily see dragons live.
Yeah, talk about wild imagination.
When I reached the top, I couldn’t believe that. Not only that I didn’t trust my physical abilities, but I couldn’t believe my eyes either. It was… Spectacular. I honestly don’t know what I expected, but it was far from what I saw. And did I expect anything at all? I have no idea.
But I was thrilled. This small victory strengthened my belief in that I could really do it.
I just sat there for a while, taking it all in. I couldn’t but feel moved and just… I don’t even know how to describe that feeling. You know, when everything goes quiet and calm and you just know that that is the place where you are supposed to be, that this is what you are supposed to do, that everything is in its place and everything makes perfect sense.
I was perfectly happy.
And nothing and nobody could reach me there.
It was just me and this omnipresent Something I couldn’t describe. God, maybe? However you want to call It.
And it felt right.
Oh, man, it felt so right.
After a while, it was time for me to get back up on my legs and continue on my way.
Part of me wanted to just turn left and wander off, maybe go so far that I would even reach the PCT. (One day I’ll get there, I feel it in my bones!)
It wasn’t so bad to go downhill, not at all. I could really enjoy the descent even though sometimes the terrain was really steep and slippery.
First, the path led me into a wood. The trees provided me with so-desired shade and a fresh breeze filled my lungs with sweet-scented mountain air. The sun rays getting all the way through the branches of all the coniferous trees growing there drew pictures onto the land and everything around me felt so alive that I wanted to dance.
I laughed out loud.
I could do it. There was nobody to hear me. On this path, there weren’t really many people. The only looks I got were from surprised lizards and a black bug that somehow landed on my shoe but decided he didn’t really need a singing taxi (yes, I started to sing), so left immediately.
Over the rocky path I went, the stone sometimes so smooth that I could just slide down (which, in conclusion, was the safest way how to get over it). The sun made it so hot that not even lizards were sunbathing there. When I accidentally loosened a rock, off it went, downhill and over the edge of the cliff. Hopefully, it didn’t kill anybody down there. I realized I wouldn’t want to be in the place of this rock and payed even more attention to not sliding and falling.
And that was when it came, the most stressful part of a hiker’s day; deciding where to pee. Well, I’m pretty sure the other human waste disposing action is even more stressful, I can still consider myself lucky it was just this. There wasn’t any water in at least half a mile in my surrounding (always take care of your business at least 200 feet away from any water source) so I could be calm about that, I just had to get 200 feet from the trail.
It didn’t sound like a problem until I tried. There were these low but ominous bushes everywhere and I pretty much scratched my legs all the way up to half my calves. But when you have to go, you just have to go.
Back on the trail, walking swiftly mild downhill, I decided I wanted to just sit down for five minutes and adore the view which was… well… adorable here. Yes, I have a really extensive vocabulary (*cough, cough – sarcasm).
Unintentionally, I found Point Vista (even though I didn’t know it was that at the time I ended up taking a rest up there). The path there is not marked so you’ll probably have to look for it. When you are in switchbacks near the cliff, it is the path leading to the right (or left, if you are going uphill, from Illilouette Fall). I don’t remember it exactly.
I wandered there because it looked interesting;
“No way there can be any trail along the cliff,”
If you find it, you’ll be rewarded with one of the most beautiful (and quite rare) views and gain a whole new perspective of looking at Yosemite. Good luck!
After getting back on the trail and actually starting to hike again, I got off the sun, back into the woods – and I met somebody! A doe. It was just a few feet from me, I didn’t dare to pull out the camera, I was afraid I would scare it.
So I just stood there, looking at it. She stood there, looking at me. We both stood there, looking at each other.
And then, first human being I met since the crossing at Nevada Fall! Actually, I didn’t know if I was happy to meet him or not, as he scared the doe. But it was nice.
A few more feet downhill and I refilled my little bottle – and didn’t spill (=waste) any of it! Yay! That was a pretty important element as I found out later.
It didn’t take long before I heard the Illilouette Fall. I sat at the bank and had some snack. Cherries have never tasted better (even though they were pretty warmed up from my backpack)! And who else had such a beautiful “dining room” that day? (I know, quite a lot of other hikers and backpackers but…) 🙂
Well, that snack was the last bigger piece of shade I got on my way that day. (Hey, that’s a rhyme!) And also the last time I drunk my water without actually thinking about that I had to save it and be careful about how much I drunk.
All the rest of my hike was destined into an uphill suffering. I know, I’m too dramatic here but hey; it was getting close to 90°F by the time I left a lookout at the waterfall, the woods, and with it the last pieces of shade! And the temperature was about to go even higher. (But seeing the waterfall was worth it, honestly.)
I’m not going to lie to you. I was really glad that I could take a shuttle from the Glacier Point (which I ended up not taking). I couldn’t even imagine how it would have been if I had to hike Four Mile Trail down to the valley. I would probably have to just slide it on my butt all the way down, and let’s be real, that would hurt pretty badly.
But at the same time, I somehow couldn’t bring myself to regret this whole thing. It was too rewarding, too beautiful, too fulfilling for me to be considered as wasting of my time and/or energy.
Every single step was worth it.
I stopped literally in every piece of shade I found. This last part of the trail was in a direct fire, the sun shone strongly leaving the land (and so the air) unbelievably hot.
It was time to have my lunch, my watch said it was something after two o’clock and my stomach strongly agreed with that I should really eat. I had a piece of pizza from yesterday’s dinner (yes, we bought pizza). I originally thought I was just going to eat it cold, but the weather spoke for itself, I was destined to have a warm meal.
Because the pizza was wrapped in a tin foil, I basically just put it on a stone in direct sunlight, sat back in shade, wrote my journal and waited few minutes. The three hikers who passed me had a very understanding expression on their faces when they saw this arrangement.
It actually worked. I’m not lying when I say that the cheese actually got so soft that it stretched as I took my first bites. Mmmm. Yummy! I hope you’re reading this after you had your lunch.
And these views from my “kitchen”…
Not so long after my lunch, I met this Indian man. He invited me to share his piece of shade and we started to talk immediately. Now, I was never really careful about this whole “don’t speak to strangers” thing. Oh, if my parents knew how many strangers I spoke to even as a child! Luckily, they don’t – and they don’t speak English either so they probably won’t read this.
The rest of the way was so much more enjoyable thanks to this! We spoke all the time, about our jobs, about religion, about the world, about climate change, about everything we found interesting. I’m really not good in these small talks like: “Hey, how are you? It’s hot today, right? And have you heard about this Angelina Jolie thing?” – pull this out on me and we’ll spend the rest of our time together in quiet. No, thank you. But ask me about what I think about bringing Przewalski’s horses back to Mongolia or the USA stepping out of the Paris Agreement and our conversation will last for the rest of the day.
And this man who was able to keep a good conversation offered to give me a ride back to the valley. I know, I know, for the safety sake I should probably not say “yes”. But I did. Somehow, I couldn’t (and can’t) believe that somebody with bad intentions would walk down to the falls and back up in this heat only to get somebody as “stupid” (for saying yes) as me. There are many easier ways, I would say.
Glacier Point… Well, it was nice. But too touristy. Because there’s the road leading up here, everybody – and I mean EVERYBODY – goes up here. As I walked towards the view point, I was violently pushed out of the way with an elbow of some old Asian woman and up there, while taking pictures, asked by an impatient teenager on high heels – YES, HIGH HEELS, I couldn’t believe my eyes either – if I was done with it and that they needed that spot for her pictures. What?!
I don’t want to disappoint you – and Glacier Point has truly some awesome views – but my intentions after only two minutes there were: “Get out of here as soon as possible!”
Maybe, later in season there are gonna be less these tourists. Hopefully.
I have to admit, there was one good point in it all. The shop. With ICE CREAM. Yeah, that was pretty awesome.
Map: (I’m not sure how google maps gets the distance and time, according to the signs I passed, my way was something over 9 miles because I took the longer, less steep trail to Nevada Fall and honestly, it’s basically impossible to hike this in only three and half hour, you can even find approximate mileage and time on the Yosemite NP website – Panorama Trail is 8.5 miles.)
And have a wonderful day! 🙂