The second last day was probably my most favourite day of the entire trip, not only because we had all begun to adjust to the time difference and our bodies were becoming accustomed to the higher altitudes, not to mention the shocking amount of physical exertion that was now a part of our daily holiday routine, but because we unexpectedly and unintentionally climbed Nevada Fall, a trail that is meant to be quite gruelling, with views that will make you forget all of the hard work up steep and rocky terrain that you have just conquered!
After getting lost and (literally) driving in circles, 35 minutes and 7 left handed detour turns later, we made it to the Half Dome village. Also known as Curry Village. Why one place would have two names that are easily distinguished but not actively publicised (in our books or GPS) is beyond me. Safe to say that three unsuspecting Aussies became very caught up in the “snafu” and ended up parking in a caravan park and jumped on the nearest shuttle bus so that we wouldn’t waste daylight. Ah, the adventure!!
Squished between a group of irritatingly perfect European tourists and some elderly people that were not familiar with the concept of personal space, I resorted to holding onto Justine’s backpack, as I am vertically challenged and could not reach the railings to hold onto. Story of my life!
Once we arrived at the Happy Isle nature centre, it was go pros at the ready, Clif bars securely stowed and we departed for the top! Of Vernal Falls, that is. A much more moderate, sensible hike to embark on with less than a Litre of water each and zero hiking experience, bar the previous days’ “hikes”. I use this term loosely, because as you may have noticed, our hikes consisted of mainly taking too many photos of ourselves eating lunch and playing with far too intelligent squirrels 😂
The Mist trail, which leads to the top of Vernal Fall and the enchanting Emerald Pool, begins easy and then after a certain point becomes more challenging, with slippery rocks and a rainbow mist of clean, chilly water from the top of the glacier above. This is simultaneously breath taking and goosebump-making! Especially when there are people standing on the edge for good photos! 😉 the most notable stretch of this trail is the railing that is literally drilled into the side of the rock face, where hikers can brave the mist, the height, and the crowds for a cramped two way clamber up some smooth rocks to the top of the falls. What a view!!!
The same could be said about our lunch time view, the Silver Apron on the bank of the emerald pool. Some boys were dumb enough to walk across the slippery apron and tried to climb up the banks of the pool. Thankfully they didn’t fall in and get sucked away in the terrifyingly fast undercurrent to the waiting mouth of the gaping waterfall which would lead to imminent paralysation and or death. Just! Two other tourists were feeding a very fat squirrel that then decided to opportunistically nab the filling of my sandwich…. we ate our lunch then went back to admire the beauty of the valley from the Top of Vernal Falls.
An ironic but inevitably true sign stands proudly beyond the boundaries of the copper coloured barricade, rusty from years of being bathed in the mist of the mystical falls “is a photo worth dying for?!” No, of course not! And my adventurous travel buddies and I stayed safely on the correct side of the barrier. Unfortunately, we lost a twin (Justine) who after Jane said “let’s go” doubled back down the part of the track which we had already conquered, as there was a bit of a miscommunication between the three of us. I’m ashamed to say it took Jane and I a full 5 minutes to realise that Justine had gone walkabouts. We were preoccupied with Jane’s go pro, and then of course everything had to be mirrored on my far less superior and more temperamental freebie from HBF. After I filmed more footage of squirrels than I’d like to admit, we began to search for Sheryl with an S, also known as Justine.
I looked farther up the path, and Jane stayed put for when Justine returned. Sure enough, in true twin fashion, Jane knows her sister inside out and Justine appeared some 20 minutes later, looking less than happy and definitely a little annoyed because she thought we were lagging behind being slow. Once we sorted out which way we were going, we fell into a line and continued up the trail. I could not look at Jane without dissolving into fits of laughter. I’m sorry Justine!! It wasn’t funny that we were separated but it is so typical of the three of us to have such things happen, and Jane has always made me laugh at times where I shouldn’t.
Like when we operated a flight together to London. We had been delayed on the ground for close to three hours, and once we were airborne and began the service, we had been yelled at, patronised and almost vomited upon. Patience was wearing thin. We were double ending a cart (two people serving from one cart, either end, not anything rude keep your pants on thank you very much) and an important looking businessman was enjoying his In Flight Entertainment (IFE) very jovially and not to mention loudly. After politely asking the man three times if he wanted anything (at increasingly louder decibels and with even less patience than before) and being met with no response, Jane finally yanked his headphone away from his ear and promptly shouted ” ANYTHING TO DRINK, SIR?!” By this stage I couldn’t keep a straight face, and had to bend down stick my head into the cart and laugh properly because I was at risk of snorting and or wetting myself in front of the passengers. Ooops! Luckily the man had an excellent sense of humour and didn’t take offence! He and his scones and tea and was very happy 🙂 so now you can see why I couldn’t look at her for a good half an hour! 😂
Pressing on further up the trail meant we’d be forgoing our original idea of the “scenic route” (there we go with that again!) down the John Muir Panorama Trail, on an easy paved trail that would ensure less toe-curling gravel to grip onto and more opportunity to take even longer to descend. After not much deliberation at all, we continued up the Nevada Fall trail. The rocks became loose, the ground was steep and the views were breathtaking. We stopped every 5-6 minutes or so, for fear of dropping dead due to lack of water or slipping and banging our heads on one of the lovely, rippling, multi coloured rocks.
After approximately 45 years (or minutes, double the amount the man down the trail had suggested it would take us) we made it to the top. I used one of the disgusting trail toilets so that my bladder didn’t implode, and conceded that it was the most nauseating, toxic bathroom ever in the most spectacular of locations! Definitely worth risking diseases, and anyway, I had my hand wipes and sanitiser just in case! The best is Bath and Bodyworks Pink Chiffon. I am not much of a “pink” girl, but the glitter and scent is far better than washing one’s hands in brown tinted, recycled trail water!
Of course I had to fiddle with my GoPro (results to come sometime this millenium, I hope) and then follow the girls over the smooth, cold rocks, the pretty, picturesque bridge and then almost straight off the edge of a cliff! No, really! Despite the million-and-one signs literally saying “you will die” at the top of Nevada Fall, there isn’t actually a single barricade on the side we were on!
This struck me as incredibly invigorating, and extremely reckless. Suppose you climbed all that way and just tripped over the edge?Suppose you just wanted to end your life in one of the most stunning locations in the world, and you didn’t even need to cross a border (physically or metaphorically) to do so? That got me thinking about fences, boundaries, roots and things of the sort. Why is it that we tend to feel safer in these enclosed spaces, when really they aren’t physically restricting? Is it all a psychological thing? Free choice is a funny concept. The fact that we could just jump off, run off, roll off, trip… or even throw a chair or bludgeon someone over the head just because is astonishing. But we seldom do.
Anyway, whilst I was off on this mental tangent, the twins were taking photos, clicking and beeping away while I hung back (composing myself) and then daintily as I could in hiking boots, dangled my feet over the edge. It was astounding! I felt so free, so reckless yet so in control. What a feeling! In the meantime, we ended up taking photos for a very persistent group of Italian tourists (one of them in particular must’ve mentioned a saloon in the middle of nowhere about 7 times in a single sentence), gave them some tips and waited until they were further down the trail than us before we left. We did not want to share our lovely cabin, and we most certainly did not want to end up on the front of the newspaper back home:
“Trio of Australian Hikers Slayed in Yosemite Wilderness!”*
or something to that effect. Whilst waiting for the potential offenders to descend, I decided to take the opportunity to fill up my giant water bottle with “fresh” glacier water and some water purification tablets to ensure that I didn’t contact dysentery or something. I did not die of that, or a water borne illness, and although I only had a few sips, it was comforting to know we had lots of water just in case!
The rest of the hike was punctuated by photos, serendipitous interactions with other hikers and the setting of the sun. A lovely, unplanned and untamed day!
*a bit of a stretch. but still!