~ continued from The Mists of Vernal Fall ~
We topped off the Vernal Fall, the last pitch along the steep wall the most challenging part. With no food or water left and the night near,…
Okay, okay, it wasn’t that dramatic, although it felt like that after I’ve heard the way my mother described this particularly fun part of the path to the top of Vernal Fall. Listening to her accounts of this part of the journey a few weeks later, it seemed to me that we ascended what might be described as a 5.∞d route up some combination of the most gnarly climbs this world has to offer.
I led my parents down the sloping granite through and towards the (now a little reduced by the climb) horde of tourists. There, at the edge, leaning against the railing, my mother looked down and said something along the lines of “I would not ride this water slide…”
We continued up the river, catching glimpses of the Emerald pool, soon reaching the bridge that brought us to the northern side of Merced river. My parents knew, faintly, what was before us; I’ve warned them about the granite steps that would lead us most of the way to the top. However, I don’t think that they fully understood the extent of what they were getting themselves into, even after getting schooled by the trail already below Vernal Fall.
“Here you go. We’re going to the top of that,” I announced, when we came to a viewpoint of the Nevada Fall. The immeasurable amount of water seemed to be falling in slow motion. The cliff seemed to be even higher than usual, even threatening, even in the beautiful sunny day.
“We’re… we’re going to the top of that? Are you sure?” Asked my mother.
“Yes, we’re going to the top of that.”
“What did you think? You’re not on a vacation here,” chimed in my father. I wasn’t sure if my mum was going to laugh or push him into the white water.
It didn’t take long before my father told me not to wait for them at every switchback and to leave my mum to him. I made sure they had their electrolyte drinks and everything they could possibly need (including the ~placebo~ energy and general pain-reducing “pills” that I packed – my parents still don’t know they were just candy) before they were to meet me on the top.
We devised a communication plan in case anything went wrong and I walked on to the top of the climb, where the path divides; one leading to the waterfall and the other one to Little Yosemite Valley and half Dome. There, I found a nice shady spot under some bushes – a little rocky but still comfortable – and fell asleep almost as soon as I laid my head down on my backpack.
“Wake up, you’re not on a vacation here!”
That was my mother, giving me the salt I most probably deserved for bringing them on this hike.
She was red in her face, breathing hard, and, apparently, hating me with each cell she had in her body.
“You don’t seem like you’re on a vacation either,” I replied, and for a second, it seemed like she might just kick me.
Our relationship was healed the moment I got up and led them the rest of the way to the top of the waterfall.
When the oohs and aahs ended, we walked a little way back to my lunch spot – a big flat slab of a stone right by the Merced river with easy and safe access to the running water. I sat in my usual spot – leaning my back against the remnants of a dead tree – and took out the food we brought.
I’ve never seen my mother eat so fast.
I refilled my parents’ waterbottle, filtering the water from the river. I drank the water from Merced river a couple times unfiltered but didn’t want to risk my parents’ health and the fate of our entire road trip.
It was the first time my parents ever saw a water filter like this – a filter that one can bring in their backpack and that doesn’t require electricity. If it wasn’t for the fact that there were much more interesting sights to take in, I bet you my shoes my father would try to dismantle it and figure out how it works, even though I explained it to him. I was really glad that he was too excited about the beauty that surrounded us.
I then left my parent to their own, sitting by the river. They were the most peaceful I’ve ever seen them in my entire life.
On our way back, we went the John Muir Trail to ease the exertion from my parents’ knees. For a long time, we walked in complete silence. It was only about halfway back down to the valley that my parents found their words again. They talked and talked, “most beautiful”, “unbelievable” and other words like this made it to me as I led the way. I couldn’t but smile for myself. Them being able to see… this… was such a feeling I can’t even describe.
( And if you feel like it, you can follow this blog so you won’t miss the future posts from the road trip.)
And have a day full of wonder! 🙂