Half Dome Day 1: Mariposa

Today was Jenn’s bday, and boy did we have plans. Work has been really hard on me, we’ve been crunching like nobody’s business and I should really be at work right now. This trip has been planned for half a year, well before we knew how hard we’d be crunching. I’m grateful then to be sleeping in. Jenn’s favorite breakfast first, then opening presents and throwing things in the car and hitting the road.

Jenn really loved her present, a trip through the backbone trail overnighting in Topanga, along with the tent and sleeping bags we’d need.

The drive was really smooth and we made it to Wawona by later afternoon. The Mariposa grove parking lot is full so we park in Wawona and walk around waiting for the bus. We see some draft horses for Jenn to pet right as the bus arrives.

I have wanted to go to see the Mariposa Grove and it’s Giant Sequoia last time I was out this way, but my friends were too anxious to get home. This time though with plenty of time in hand the two of us had a nice walk through the forest marveling at these massive trees, and being condescending of the overweight people riding the tram around instead. Yosemite is like a theme park for nature. It’s been made into this very accessible place where women in high heals and the dangerously overweight can enjoy seeing some of the world’s best natural wonders in a sterile and sometimes contrived way. The big diesel truck pulling a tram full of people around and the hole cut in the trunk of one of the trees big enough to let people pass right through it are evidenced. That’s wonderful, but it also means that a lot of the trails are not very peaceful.

From there we headed down to Yosemite Valley proper catching txts from our friends Rebecca and Mitch joining us in Curry Village for the night. They were just a bit ahead of us on the road. Our timing though couldn’t be better as we passed through the tunnel to the lookout point just inside the valley just in time to watch the setting sun light up the top portion of El Capitan.

Heading down to Curry Village we arrive at the meadow just as the sun’s final rays lit up Half Dome, the summit we had come here to conquer. The clouds bright reds and pinks. It’s hard to believe that in 2 days we’d be wrapping up our hike high on our accomplishment of having done one of the most famous hikes in California and the United States. Our route would take us roughly 12-14 hours covering around 18 miles and 6000 ft of elevation gain and descent.

Checking in the air was frigid, some rain had just fallen and the temperature was already close to freezing with the overnight temp expected to drop down as low as 22. I had stupidly booked us an unheated cabin because I got a deal on it reserving nearly half a year ahead of time, and there had been no deals on heated ones. We had prepared for this kind of weather but had expected weather in the 70s. Just weeks before we were getting up at 4:30 in the morning to hike in the cool before our local Santa Monica Mountains reached into the 90F range. We managed to snag an upgrade to one of the last heated tents, but with only a 1 night guarantee. We  then dropped off our “fragrant items” and food in the bear box, a giant steel box with a latch requiring opposable thumbs meant to keep bears from munching on your food and out of your cabin.

Meeting Rebecca and Mitch we had a pleasant dinner of pizza, cake for the birthday girl, and beer. Then it was off to bed early.

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