Vernal and Nevada Falls

On Saturday, I had initially planned to hike to Cloud’s Rest from Tenaya Lake, but after talking to a park ranger who told me that she thought it was too slick (there is a narrow rock ridge with steep drop offs that you have to pass which is apparently quit iffy when wet) to chance it, I opted out. My second choice was the Upper Yosemite Falls trail, but I spoke to a different park ranger who said he thought it was worse than Half Dome and you are pretty much hiking in direct sunlight the entire way (it’s the zig zag trail in the photo yesterday). Ew.

He and another park ranger with him both recommended the hike to the top of Vernal and Nevada Falls via the Mist Trail, so I decided on that. I took my sweet time getting going on Saturday morning and started the hike at nine. I walked the mile from Camp Curry (Half Dome Village *eye roll*) to the John Muir trailhead at Happy Isles Bridge, then walked on it until I got to the Mist Trail. It was a glorious morning – low 30s and sunny.

The hike was beautiful and on a nice path for the first mile or so. I was a bit chilly in my fleece, but it was really nice weather for hiking. I’d certainly rather be too cold than even slightly warm.

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After about a mile or so (I have no sense of distance when walking), I started climbing steps and was able to view the Vernal Fall. It was so beautiful even though it was a fraction of the size it is in spring or summer.

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If you look closely, then you can see the tiny people on the rocks. Some idiots were actually swimming in the pool which is incredibly stupid considering it drains right into a fast moving river of giant boulders. I will never understand how people can be so careless around water. More people die on the Mist Trail than anywhere else in the park because of that current. I don’t go anywhere near the edge of the river, the pools, or climb around the rocks near the river – too many people slip, fall, and go over that way.

Anyway, after viewing the waterfall and judging careless people, the real steps began.

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Endless steps. My pedometer registered 100 flights by the top. I had a hard time on them because they were very steep and I kept making the mistake of looking down and getting light headed. Then there was this:

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Thank God for the hand rail because it was slick. I finally made it to the top of the fall and rested while watching natural selection in action. More idiots. Maybe I grew up with overly cautious parents, but never in my life has climbing over a fenced area on the edge of what is essentially a cliff seemed like a good idea. As children, we were never allowed to get off the trail, climb on things that were fenced off, or disobey the signs and warnings in the park. Maybe I’m a boring person, but I prefer safe and responsible adventuring.

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A view without foolish folk:
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I was going to turn around at this point and head back, but I fought against my inner lazy lady and kept on hiking toward Nevada Fall. It was an easy walk in the shade to the base.

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And then it was more stairs – what turned out to be almost 150 flights of stairs. Thankfully, stairs are a lot easier to climb up than just going over rocks. The view was pretty nice though.

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I made it to the top of Nevada Fall after three hours of hiking and it was far more spectacular than I could have ever imagined. I also enjoyed the company of two middle-aged Irish gentlemen who intermittently argued about Monty Python and sang folk songs for about an hour as we ascended the steps. They also shared some of their Whisky with me at the top and we had a lively discussion about the mosquitoes in Ontario versus Texas (one of them spent the past year in Canada). It was a charming way to survive the stairs.

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I relaxed for a half hour on top eating lunch and taking in the scenery.

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It only took me two hours to get back down and it was really easy (as opposed to going down at Mount Tallac). And I saw a little furry friend who was working on getting chunky for the winter:

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I stopped briefly at Vernal Fall again to enjoy the view:

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And I sent my sympathy down to all of the hobbits trudging up from below:

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The trail was certainly challenging at several points, but not miserably so. I didn’t feel like I was going to collapse when I finished and I even had enough energy to walk the mile back to my tent, then went on to the visitor’s center to check some more stuff out. It was nine miles round trip from Half Dome Village and totaled just over 250 flights of stairs on my pedometer, but it was worth every step.

I spent the rest of the afternoon piddling around the village area. One of my students I work with told me to check out the Miwok Indian village behind the visitor’s center, and I didn’t even know that was there. Talk about some devastating history (to be fair, show me some Native American history that isn’t devastating). My student told me that they still use the village for ceremonies today and shared some of their history, so I was glad I had a chance to visit (he’s a member of Miwok tribe in this area).

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