Wednesday, August 19, 2009

California Day 7: Yosemite

It would have been a crime to come so close to Yosemite National Park and not visit and day 7 was the day we set aside for the two/three hour drive. It was fortunate we had three drivers registered to use the car as it turned out we would need all of them. The journey was pretty interesting leading us to a variety of roads including country roads that we had not encountered in the US yet. At one point we had to stop at a railway crossing for 10 minutes while a very, very long goods train went past.

It cost $20 to enter Yosemite in a family car and this was the point I took over the driving. We headed to Curry Village where we briefly thought about renting a tent for the night before dismissing it and renting a boat to take out to the stream instead. It was literally a case of three men in a boat but the low water level and our combined weight meant we had to get out a couple of times to push it. We reached the other end an hour or so later and took a shuttle back to Curry Village where we stopped of for a quick snack at the Taco/ Burrito bar before climbing towards the first waterfall (Vernal) on the half-dome day hike.

The website says it is a walk of moderate to strenuous difficulty. I wish I had visited the website first as I would have been better prepared. I went up in black jeans, a t-shirt and trainers ("pub wear") with the temperature near 100 degrees Fahrenheit when everyone else was in hiking clothing. My friends were not much better prepared with one of them going up in in little more than plimsolls. It was far and away the most tiring thing I have ever done and there were times when I thought it might have been my final destination. I was absolutely cream-crackered when we got to the footbridge and that was only halfway there, although it was arguably the hardest bit because after that the steps started. Steps as high as my knee with pensioners and kids doing this. Going up was bad enough but I did worry how I was going to get back down (although actually it turned out to be a lot easier). Carrying a bag did not help and we had to share the burden which I think was fair because it contained our only water bottle that we supped from regularly. Our boy in plimsolls nearly slipped on a few occasion on the descent but managed to keep his balance, unlike the lady we saw on the way up who had large cuts at her knees after what must have been a particularly bad fall. The top of the waterfall was impressive though and I would not mind attempting the full trek to the top of half-dome in better shape with the proper gear. Maybe the ascent turned me mad.

When we got back down we decided we had enough time to see the giant sequoia at the other end of the park. It took us an hour to drive there and by the time we made the walk the sun had set and none of the photos I took came out. It was pretty scary walking through that part of Yosemite in the dark in the knowledge that there were bears about. An hour there meant it was an hour to drive back, and we had to fill up at a self-service petrol station we passed in the park. We got back to the Valley and managed to catch a glimpse of the nutters ascending El Capitan at night, who spent the time in the dark hanging off the edge of a cliff shining torches at each other. After two hours driving I had to finally give up the wheel to member one of team Le Mans and fell asleep for the other three hours back. We reached home at nearly two which perhaps meant we would have been justified in staying over.

Yosemite is an amazing place which quite literally will take your breath away. I might have a convenient excuse that I live too far away to justify going back and completing the half dome trail. One would have to be incredibly fit to do it, but Yosemite will inspire you to give it a try.

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