Published: June 27th 2008June 24th 2008
Half Dome Water Fall
another water fall on the way up half dome....the hardest/longest hike ever
My brother [Jeff] and his wife [Amber] are both teachers so they are blessed with a summer break. This year for their break they went on a cross country trip, I was lucky enough to convince them to let me join the road trip for the Las Vegas, Nevada to Portland, Oregon leg. It is very much a national parks and camping oriented trip which suited me very well as I have been eager to do some camping.
Las Vegas, the city of sin. This was very apparently to me - the sleepy-eyed backpacker who arrived at Planet Hollywood at 1:30 in the morning, exhausted, toting a huge backpack with all my camping gear - getting funny looks from a limo full of girls dressed to the nines walking into the hotel at the same time. Their night was just starting and my was just ending. I woke Amber and Jeff up to say "hi" - both seemed really excited at the chance to sleep in a real bed and take a shower (their camping trip started at least a week earlier). Jeff went on about the buffet they had for dinner and amber just went
On the half dome hike
back to bed :) (a common theme for the remainder of the trip). I dropped my stuff off and felt obligated to go downstairs at least to check things out. A quick stint at the craps table left me with an extra $100 in my pocket and then it was time to hit the sack.
After a breakfast of chewies (granola bars) and water from one of the 13 nalgene bottles that they packed we headed out of Vegas towards our first stop...Death Valley. I was actually pretty excited about Death Valley, even though it was the beginning of the summer and we were going to the hottest place in the country. I had done a bit of research and saw cool pictures of salt flats and things of that sort. So things were going really well....the temperature quickly climbed from 80 in Vegas...to 90....up to 100...and it peaked at 115 when we arrived at the Badwater Basin (Death Valley's lowest point). We attempting a short 30 minute hike in the 115 degree weather (which is when we took all the salt flat photos that you see) that started off really well, but didn't end too
Peak of Half Dome
A picture of the top of Half Dome
well for Amber (we won't get into the details) we all had about enough of the park and the heat and were happy to get back into the car and get the AC cranking....well as we head out of the park we start to see all these signs telling us that we shouldn't run our AC because it will cause the car to over heat. So we sat in the oven that was our car....in our debilitated state it took us about 30 minutes to realize that we should roll down our windows...and by that time we were all like a well-done thanksgiving turkey.
Kings Canyon is where we spent our first night camping. It was a beautiful camp ground in the hills. We had a spot right next to a fast moving stream which was quite nice. The most noticeable thing about this park was the quick temperature change. We went from 115 to 60 in about an hour.....pretty dramatic. We had a big fire, tinfoil dinner and a short hike that night.
I woke up this morning probably around 5:30 (Haley knows all about this) eager to get started...but i
didn't hear any movement in jeff and ambers tent....6:30 rolled around....I started to make bear noises, thinking maybe they'd wake up....by the time 7:30 came around I had gone on a short walk, filled up all 13 water bottles, and built a fire...finally i hear some movement in Jeff's tent - i think we eventually left after 9.
The drive to Yosemite was pretty uneventful save a stop at Mono Lake, one of the oldest lakes in the world (over 1 million years old). Mono Lake is an alkaline and hypersaline lake in California, that is a critical nesting habitat for several bird species and apparently small black flies. Mono Lake is 1000 times more alkaline then the ocean, so of course we had to go swimming....which ended up being more like wading once we got a warning from the park ranger not to open our eyes underwater or it will sting 1000 times more then it does in the ocean. Amber was the most daring of all of us and actually went down all way to her neck. She was rewarded with a weird white film that covered her body (and ours as well) for the next 2
Keeping Cool in Death Valley
Trying to say out of the 115 degree sun in death valley
days. At one point Jeff's legs were so ashy from the lake that we actually had to pull over and wash them off (but I resisted...and kept the film for days).
Along the lakes edge was a layer of flies so think that it looked like black sea weed - but when you walked closer they would all fly around - the average person could kill about 500 flies with one stop of the foot - Jeff could kill about 1500 with his foot, and amber could get about 2000 with her big old dogs (haha)
We got into Yosemite later then we wanted and had to convince a rude park ranger that we were not a bunch of punks, and yes we are prepared to camp in the back country, and yes we will pack out all of our trash, and of course we won't burn down the forest, etc.... The most interesting for me that night was the discovery of a new type of food that Jeff and his friends invented. I'm not sure what the name is but you basically combined macaroni and cheese with roman noodles. Voila, you are carb loaded for the hike the
I love how amber makes herself nice and slip so she goes down easy (we have more of these!)
The Half-Dome hike was impressively epic, everything was on a much larger scale then I was used to. 600 foot water falls, pumping 1000's of gallons of water, huge rock cliffs, crazy squirrels, and an relentless incline. I mean seriously, it was uphill the entire hike to the top. The kind of up hill that just hurts. It went on and on and on. I was a 17 mile hike, one that we had to rush into so that we were not hiking home in the dark. Jeff and Amber are not much for taking breaks, or stopping, or even slowing down while eating or drinking - we didn't even stop to get something out of the backpack. This was not only the hardest hike I (actually all of us) had ever done, but also my longest. It was actually funny, I'd be walking up the incline (of course) just exhausted, and I'd look around the next bend and I'd see an older Asian lady wearing sandals, or an overweight elderly man. I was constantly surprised at the number of people that (successfully) managed this hike, this same hike that I was having a hard
Jeff at an alpine lake in kings canyon CA
time with (of course they all had started a few hours earlier then we did).
At the top of the hike is the actual "dome". This is a portion of the hike that is too steep to climb on your own. So the park put up cables. You don a pair of gloves and pull yourself up the really really really steep last section (check out the pics - you can see the cables). The problem is that this is a HUGE bottle neck. People start climbing up the cables and then become afraid and start to go really really slowly, causing huge traffic jams. Making things so much worse. Not only did we have to climb a 70% inclined slope, but we had to stop every 3 feet, basically waiting in line....this part was miserable. Every now and again someone would drop a bottle of water and you'd see it dramatically fall for 4500 feet down the cliff. We met some interesting people while waiting in line (notably Pat who was guiding a group of 10 mid aged ladies [impressive] on a fund raising trip) (Mom, I'm not sure if you could have managed this). We eventually got
This was the last leg of the half dome hike. You had to climb practically straight up the cliff using the cables that are put into place. This is a huge bottle neck
to the top, were overly impressed with the once again "epic" view from this high up, took a ton of photo's, and then climbed back down again. I think the hike up took us over 7 hours and the hike down down we ran/walked in less then 3.
After the never ending hike we all piled into the car - Jeff drove (like normal), I navigated (like normal - using my iphone) and amber.....well amber slept (which was pretty much on par for her). We drove to Sacramento to crash at my friend Tim Meade and Genvieve's new house (thanks guys).
This is the end of the part 1 - part 2 will be coming out soon
There are more photos below