in which I climb a lot of stairs — and I mean a *lot*

One month ago today I climbed the Mist Trail, which is the most popular hiking trail in Yosemite National Park.  I got up at 6:30 in the morning to do it, because a) it was supposed to get to close to 90dF that day, and b) it’s the most popular trail in Yosemite National Park.

Hiking it that early in the morning was definitely the best thing I did in Yosemite Valley.  I caught the first valley shuttle bus at seven and rode it the two stops to Happy Isles, which is the trailhead for the Mist Trail (and the trail to the summit of Half Dome, but I’m not that crazy).  The trail was practically deserted (relatively speaking), and it was about 60 degrees out.  Perfect.

The beginning of the trail.  It looks pretty innocuous, doesn’t it?

A lot of even the early part of the trail is carved out of the side of a cliff.  Getting gradually steeper, too.

It’s about a mile to the first landmark, a bridge over the Merced River.  After that, the pavement ends and the hike begins.

The view upstream from the bridge.  Vernal Falls is, unfortunately, overexposed in the top center of the photo.

 After that, things start to get a bit steeper.  Over 600 stairs steeper, as a matter of fact.

Only 3/10 of a mile.  Right.

 The sign says it’s less than a third of a mile to the top of the falls. What they don’t tell you is that it’s straight up. I’ve done this hike several times before, but I hadn’t done it in ten years, and there’s a lot of difference between 42 and 52.  Trust me.

The first really good glimpse of Vernal Falls.

The drier part of the stairs.  Closer to the waterfall it gets pretty darned slippery.

Edging ever closer.  At least the mist from the falls keeps a person nice and cool.

The really interesting part.  The space between the railing and the cliff is about eighteen inches wide in places.  And wet.  And the opposite of smooth.

The top of Vernal Falls, with glacially-smoothed granite.  Fortunately, it’s dry.

Emerald Pool, above Vernal Falls.  The day I hiked this trail, there were signs posted all over the place about three people who’d gone swimming there a couple of weeks before and gone over the falls.  They still hadn’t found two of the bodies.

After I reached the top, I went looking for the John Muir/horse trail back down, because I didn’t think it was a good idea to try to go back down all those stairs.  I wound up hiking up another half mile, not finding the trail, and hiking back that half mile plus down all those stairs anyway.  I did get a good view of Nevada Falls, but by the time I took that photo, I was tired and frustrated enough that I didn’t appreciate it all that much.

Here it is, anyway.  Nevada Fall on the right, Liberty Cap on the left.

 That’s much bigger than the Liberty Cap at Mammoth in Yellowstone.

I got back a bit after noon, and collapsed in a heap for a while before Mary, who’d spent a much more sensible morning looking up at the cliffs instead of trying to climb them, and I went to find lunch, taco salads at Curry Village, which were actually pretty good.  After that, she and I rode the shuttle bus over to Yosemite Village and went to the visitor center there, which impressed me very much.  It’s a lot shinier and newer than the last time I’d been there, the history exhibits in particular were really nice, and they had a nice bookstore.

Then we came back and discovered just how disgustingly filthy and unkempt the shower facilities at Curry Village were.  If I hadn’t needed a shower that badly…

And that was our second and last full day in Yosemite.