Day Twelve: Thursday, May 31st, Yosemite


“The mountains are calling and I must go.”
~ John Muir

I’ve been thinking a lot about all things big and magical. About a greater scale and a deeper reality. The expanse of the ocean. The tall trees. The neverending desert. I’ve been mesmerized by my own tininess.

El Capitan

And today…


I am indeed tiny, and this place confirms my very tiny place in the Universe. John Muir found the Divine in the granite and trees of this very valley, and being here, it is no wonder. It would do no good to argue.

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”

~ John Muir

This is quite the place.

We were on the road into the Valley Floor by 8:15 this morning, and not a moment too soon. We managed to find parking, and were free to take the shuttle all around the park for the rest of the day. Pretty good idea that Park Service of ours had. This joint is a logistical nightmare.

Half Dome

We started at the visitor center and read all about the place that is now Yosemite National Park. We’ve been wanting to get here for a long time, and Emily’s been contemplating a History Day project on Muir and this, his heaven, so we thought we knew quite a bit, but we easily spent the rest of the morning reading exhibits and watching films. Funny how you’re never done learning.

We have three days here, so we knew we had to budget our time carefully. We’re looking at short hikes to get the most bang for our three-day buck.

Yosemite Falls

After some lunch back at the van, we shuttled to Yosemite Falls, saw the tallest waterfall in North America, hiked to the base of the Lower falls, and got back on the bus. It was beautiful, but a hike to the top was, sadly, more than we could ever fit in. Temporally or physically.

For the rest of our afternoon, we opted for the Vernal Falls hike. We figured the .8 miles up to the footbridge was certainly doable; the further .8 to the top would be discussed and negotiated upon completion of the first half. Stock would be taken.

We didn’t go in blind, but we didn’t have all pertinent information at hand either. The trip to the footbridge gained 400 feet in elevation. The rest of the trip up gained another 600 feet. These facts we knew. Pretty steep, but we’d manage. We’re not that out of shape. We also understood that we’d be going back down afterwards. This is important data to consider. What we did not know was that the trail was paved and consistently inclined. The first half had no stairs, just a constant uphill.

Now some folks prefer things this way. Smooth pavement underfoot, no tripping hazards or ankle breakers. I am not one of them. Give me a rocky, uneven path any day. Make me climb up and over boulders and wade through small rushing rivers. I’m good. But something about rock-hard pavement and a constant uphill slope disagrees strongly with the scar tissue in my ankle, and I cry a little bit.

Vernal Falls Footbridge

We made it to the footbridge and enjoyed the wind and the spray with about twelve thousand other fine folks. Daylight remained, and the crew wanted to go all the way up. I, too, wanted to go all the way up, but the ankle said no. Vehemently. I sent them on with well-wishes and instructions to take many many pictures.

And I searched for a comfortable chunk of rock on which I could sit and do battle with the ground squirrels.

Back in Oregon, at Harris Beach where the knowledgeable Fish and Wildlife volunteers were, one of those little buggers bit my foot. The squirrels. Not the volunteers. He believed me to be harboring squirrel treats.

Here in Yosemite, the varmints are known–along with others, like the adorable yellow-bellied marmot–to carry the plague. The park service warns you off pretty hard. And even more locally, here at Vernal Falls, there was an entire colony populating the busy footbridge area where the crowds break on their way up and down. To feed the animals. Or so the squirrels tell me.

No matter where I sat, I had critters creeping up on me from behind, wondering if I might share my non-existent lunch with them. I thought at first that I might catch a few zzz’s in the shade–Scott and the girls would be gone for another hour and a half easily–but I was instead forced to stand sentinel against the hoards of plague-ridden beasts. Sigh. At least I had a view.

The fam made good time, saving me from certain death by rodent, and made good on their promise to snap a few:

Vernal from the top…
…with gooners
On the way back down. It’s not known as the Mist Trail for nothing. Scott and the kids were soaked.

In the mean time, I made friends with a couple from New Mexico. They shared their chocolate with me. I love them.

We didn’t get back to our billy-goat campsite until 7:30, but we swam nonetheless–because there is a pool–and enjoyed a very late dinner amidst the growing mobs of international tourists.

The road up here to tent city is so steep that not one vehicle has yet to make it up without spinning and spitting gravel everywhere. Our tent’s precarious placement at the edge of the road wracks my nerves as I imagine projectile deaths through the rainfly, or runaway cars from three sites up, or even death by our own tumbling van. It sits at a hideous angle just two feet from our sleeping heads. But there is a pool.


Love from Yosemite,

The Whole Enchilada:

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