July 17, 2016
Today we started at Yosemite [Happy Isles] and hiked to the campground at Little Yosemite Valley.
(^This is how Augie's writings will appear throughout the JMT Diary)
After spending a night in the backpackers camp, Augie and I were eager to hit the trail. We joked about a rather passionate couple from the night before who seemed to either not remember or not care about the close proximity of tents in the campground. I went for a quick stroll alone, snapped some pictures and felt humbled by the granite valley walls. It was going to be a big day.
The first trail day began with hiking out of the valley from Happy Isles. We followed scores of day hikers up Vernal Falls. The crowds thinned out after we passed the popular waterfall and made our way to the Little Yosemite Valley campground.
The hike up here was beautiful but strenuous. We gained about 2000 feet in 4.5 miles. The views were worth it - there were at least 3 waterfalls over 300 feet high! We practically had to fight through the crowds to get a decent view.
When we got to our campsite in Little Yosemite Valley we set up camp and began the 6.6 mile round trip trek to the top of Half Dome.
Going straight up stairs carved into the rock, the hike culminated in a ladder-like climb up the backside of the Dome.
The “ladder” was actually two cables about arms width apart and waist high. They were supported by poles inserted into holes that had been drilled into the face of the rock. We basically had to pull ourselves up.
The way down was a lot scarier. With lots of use, the face of the rock was slick and steep. Will was scared shitless. When we reached the bottom we both agreed,
“Been there, done that, don’t need to do it again.”
Yeah - I was pretty terrified, but I did the damn thing.
The highlight of the day was 100%, undoubtedly, the summit of the dome. You could see for miles in any direction. 4000 feet below you had a bird’s eye view of Yosemite Valley in all its grandeur, which was breathtaking. Men can build such marvels as the pyramids, Empire State Building, and Golden Gate Bridge, but they all are left wanting when it comes to the Dome.
Augie has a tendency to wax-poetic in writing and in person which made him a great companion for the poetic JMT.
We ascended Half Dome in the late afternoon and enjoyed an hour or so on the summit before returning down the cables. I cursed like a sailor the whole way, only biting my tongue when a woman quickly passed me. Once off the cables (and after kissing the granite), the prospect of a hot dinner and rest put some pep in our step and we ran back to the Little Yosemite Valley campground.
After finishing the soon-to-be familiar routine of filtering water, cooking, cleaning then packing the bear canister, I attempted to sleep. A muffled noise from behind our tent caused me to sit up and shouts of "BEAR" suddenly rang throughout camp. Rangers sprang to action and scared away a large female black bear. I had heard her walk right past our tent! She came back three times that night to inspect bear boxes containing backpackers' precious food. Each time rangers scared her off with spotlights and a paintball gun.
Lot's of action on Day 1 of the John Muir Trail.
Tomorrow we climb another 2000 feet to an elevation of 9500 - 10000 feet. 5 miles down, 215 to go.
Cell phone dump for more context