Woke up at 1:30 am and couldn’t get back to sleep. Oh well. I can’t tell you how many sleepless nights I’ve had before Grand Canyon tours. You just get up and proceed with the day as if you did have sleep, though it’s not as enjoyable.
Got up at 5 am. Was gone by 5:15. The day before I’d bought a crappy can of Starbucks coffee for my morning jolt, and it was not as good as what I make with my porcelain cone filter. Oh well.
The winding road along the Merced, from my campsite into the Yosemite Valley, was beginning to wear on me. Yes it’s beautiful, but, winding roads tend to blind me to nature’s glories. Frankly, I’ve come to almost hate them.
Got to the parking area closest to the trailhead by 6 am. After getting my backpack perfect – filling water bottles, making a ziplock bag of crappy instant coffee, filling my salt container, etc – I was off.
The Mist Trail is probably the most hiked trail in Yosemite. It ascends from the flat Valley and parallels the path of the Merced River as it flows and falls out of the Sierra high country. Along the way of this steep trail there are two large waterfalls: the Vernal Falls and the Nevada Falls.
Though there is water crashing against rocks on this steeply inclined path of the Merced, which creates mist close to the river bank, where you really get wet from mist is where the trail winds upward right next to the Vernal Falls. It’s like getting rained on. So, after commencing my trek, and crossing a bridge, and passing everybody because I can haul boody on a flat uphill trial (though get left in the dust when I have to pay attention to where I put my size 15 boots on scree-filled trails), I donned my Goretex rain gear, wrapped my cameras in plastic bags, and climbed the steep granite steps to the top.
The cold wetness was invigorating. It would’ve been nice for the sun to be shining to feel some warmth, but, the sun was still behind the mountains. Nonetheless, the steep climb warmed me up just fine. When I’d gotten to the landing above the falls I took off the rain gear and let the howling winds dry my clothes a bit. Below the falls water crashed into the rocks creating white smoke. The force of the water landing on a human body would have done some damage. I waited there fifteen minutes before continuing on to the top of the next fall, the Nevada Falls.
Up, up, up… my legs were still sore from the Yosemite Falls hike on Monday, but I didn’t care. No pain no gain. That’s conditioning. Steep hikes will get just get easier, and that final ascent to the top of Nevada Falls certainly was steep.
I also began to get annoyed at all the people behind and before me. Of course they have every right to be there. Of course my presence was an intrusion on their solitude as well. Still, the crowed nature of Yosemite at this time of year was making me realize staying here doesn’t sound agreeable. In spite of the reservation system going into effect on Friday the 20th, I could still get into the park by passing through the gate before 6 am, which is not a difficulty. But I’d have to rush, and feel crowds, and… no.
The top of Nevada Falls is something else. It’s one of the most majestic places in Yosemite to be. The ground here is all glowing granite, and it was the canyon downstream of these falls, which I had just walked through, where the words of John Muir “Range of Light” came to mind. I stared at those canyon walls with an intrigue others not familiar with Muir’s words wouldn’t understand. But I understood them. I appreciated them.
There was no fire rainbow though. Back in June of ’19 I’d stood above Nevada Falls, and the force of the water then sent smoky mist into pines and firs creating a floating rainbow in the trees I call a fire rainbow. The winter of ’18 to ’19 was incredibly wet for Arizona and California, and, thus, there was increased water runoff made that fire rainbow possible then. This past winter, however, didn’t produce that same water as ’18-’19. So, no fire rainbow.
At this point I decided to walk a mile up the Merced to the Little Yosemite Valley, which is essentially where the Merced begins to flow as a river, of course before it falls and then flows through the real Yosemite Valley. The trees blocked most of the views, though I was able to climb up here and there to get some perspective. The Little Yosemite was ok. Not spectacular like it’s big brother. However, no footsteps or voices were heard. How nice nature becomes in solitude! How incredibly different all Yosemite would be without massive crowds! That’s what John Muir saw. That’s why I read his words.
An hour later I passed Nevada Falls again and headed down the John Muir Trail, which parallels the Mist Trail from above. For a portion water drips from the cliffs above, and creates little pools I had to avoid to keep my boots dry. From here I captured a good view of the Nevada Falls with my Samsung. This was one of the only photos I took throughout my whole hike because I just didn’t like the compositions, and I’m fine with that. When conditions are right, I fire off. Otherwise, it’s just a hike with images that will be etched into my imagination, and are more important than ones captured digitally.
The Muir trail thereafter is awful. It’s steep and covered with sand. It’s like walking on ice. It’s almost treacherous, and I had to carefully select every place to put my feet so as to avoid slipping. This tired me far more than going up, and the crankiness that set in made me dislike the crowds even more. Here on this Muir trail there was no doubt that Thursday would be my last day in the park.
Before getting back to my car, I stopped and stared at Illouette Falls, which is on a tributary stream that flows into the Merced near the beginning of the Mist Trail. Way above me white smoke floated above the shining rocks and disappeared into the sunshine. Here is where Range of Light really came to mind, though, unlike Muir, the desire to scamper up boulders a thousand feet to be next to those falls was not there. It was time to be DONE.
Got to my car. Had a 45 minute drive back to my campsite. I was fairly exhausted at this point. I actually took a little nap in my car when I got back before getting out to perform a multitude of tasks before hitting the hey at like 8 pm. The lack of sleep the night before made sleep this night sound and wonderful.