Saturday, July 29, 2006

Back in the Land of the Softies

Yosemite Tramp, Chapter 8

Vernal Fall
Originally uploaded by RobFargo.
Having made our way back down Half-Dome, we rested for only a moment before heading back down to the valley floor. There was a cheerful spirit while we packed up camp, having just played the crescendo of the trip's little symphony. I, for one, was ready to return to the land of the Softies.

Frankly, I just really wanted a shower.

We miss calculated, in part, the number of lunch items we would need for the second half of the trip. We only had two cliff bars a piece - not quite enough calories for another four mile hike. Considering that we were heading mostly down hill, it didn't seem to be too much of a problem.

The route down took us down Nevada Falls and it's lower half, Vernal Falls. We were immediately surrounded by Softies, heading up to the top of the falls, or further, to the top of Half-dome. Again, we picked out those who would make it and those who would give up. Even though we felt a little under supplied for the hike, we were always surprised by the hikers heading to the top with only a small bottle of water, mostly empty due to poor rationing.

Both sets of falls were quite beautiful. They lacked the majesty of Yosemite falls, but they made up for it in volume. Both rushed down to the valley with amazing forth, and spilled out of their usual beds. The hike down past Nevada Falls was lined by a half-mile of stone steps, making for uncomfortable climbing, with little shade in the noon sun. The hike past Vernal Falls was a different story.

The trail next to Vernal falls splits into a foot path and a horse trail. It turns out that the horse trail would be preferable to those who did not what to get soaked head to foot. The foot path is, for a large portion, just narrow set of rock stairs along side a cliff face, overlooking the water fall. The spray from the deluge is tremendous, soaking all hikers in an instant. A good thirty minutes of this leaves one drenched. The name "Mist Trail" seems like an understatement.

One of the other down sides of hiking this particular trail has to do with the softies. They have a tendency to be very heads-down hikers, so careful with their footing that they are oblivious to people coming down. This is particularly annoying when the people in question are carrying heavy packs and have limited maneuverability when it comes to dodging clueless hikers.

Once we passed through the drenching section of the trail, and were much closer to reaching the bottom, I was feeling particularly excited about leaving the back country. I found myself whistling, talking quite loudly about the impracticality of the softies, and passing people left and right as if I was a small sports car (albeit with a heavy load strapped to the top). I may have even skipped a little bit.

We happily made it down to the valley floor by about three in the afternoon. We made our way over to Curry Village, the part of the park with showers, a camp store and beer. Picking up a celebratory meal, and more Fat Tire, we prepared for our last night camping in Yosemite.

Overall, the camp experience in Yosemite was much different then last backcountry trip in Glacier National Park[1] in the summer of 2005. That trip involved a straight, six day hike through the backcountry. Once we were two days in, there was always at least a two day hike to get back out. It required much more from us, since we had no choice but to push on, pain or no pain. Yosemite, on the other hand, safety and soft life was always a short hike away. We were never really more than four miles away from civilization.

While this closeness existed, we never let it change our backcountry experiences. It still felt like we were far away from everything and everyone. It was only more relaxing to know that if there was trouble, it was not going to be a terrible thing to get out of. I, for one, felt more relaxed and safe. In Glacier, once we passed that two day mark, and our party members knees[2] began to go, I was always a little nervous. Nervous about injury, nervous about food and water, nervous about bears. Just nervous, really.

Without all this nervousness, coupled with my overly relaxed personality after spending two months in Europe, Yosemite felt like more of a vacation than a hardcore test of endurance.

Still, I had a fantastic time in both parks, and am looking forward to the next ridiculous camp adventure, as sold to me and other hapless campers by Rob.

[1] Which, admittedly, I haven't really written about. It was pre-vagabond time. It does get mentioned here and here, as well as in some of the other Yosemite chapters.

[2] Why is always knees? Why not a finger, or an ear? It seems like those little hinges are always causing all the problems for the rest of the team.


Rob D said...

It may include 5500 feet in a day, but just imagine the view! ...Naturally, we'll be packing a few adrenaline syringes in case I need to get your heart started again at any point... but don't worry.. it looks really cool on Google Earth!

Rob D said...

Of course, you have always wanted to do some hiking in Denali.

schpatz said...

Only 5500 feet in a day? That doesn't sound so bad. Count me in!

Errr...wait. What did I just sign up for?