Half Dome was the most beautiful natural site I had seen.
It’s a movie scene.
That’s how I describe Yosemite National Park.
I remember recently seeing a picture of 2 friends at Yosemite and wondering if it was a picture they had taken with a green screen and later inserted the background image.
It’s that picturesque.
Hiking Half Dome was even better (a bucket list item).
We set out around 8 am.
I’m surprised I didn’t fall on my face, considering I couldn’t stop looking at the beautiful surroundings instead of the trail before me.
We arrived at the base of the half dome.
People left a massive pile of gloves behind – how kind.
Why the gloves?
Because we have to climb.
You reach the top of half dome (a granite top the size of multiple football fields) by climbing up an incline granite face while holding on to cable ropes (not a good idea if a storm is approaching).
It – Was – Awesome.
We headed down and began the second leg of our 14-mile day journey.
Remember that a 14-mile hike is a big day and that 2 in our party were not used to long hikes or necessarily in shape for a long hike.
I noted to the group that at our halfway point, it was X time and that at the same pace, we would make it back at Y time (Y = Darkness).
I noted that we needed to pick up the pace.
It was agreed upon, but it was not indeed taken to heart.
And so it got dark.
Miles from our destination, it was dark.
[We later learned that our family talked with the Rangers about search and rescue operations, and since we were dressed and prepared, they would only take action the following day.
While this upset my family, I want to take this time to thank the Park Rangers for not embarrassing us with a nighttime helicopter spotlight mission at an extreme cost to the American taxpayer].
We hiked on in the darkness.
My uncle found a shortcut route via the map.
And it was and shortcut.
What the map didn’t say is that it was a slippery rocky trail beside a waterfall with no handrails.
Difficult enough by day, I’m assuming (not sure because I never got to see it in daylight) but potentially deadly by night.
I can still see the moonlight glistening off the roaring water yards to our right.
I remember at one point needing to balance and reaching out for some handrail and not being one.
I’ll admit, looking back, this was quite dangerous.
But at the time, we were focusing on making it back.
Our safety was in Other Hands.
Two more miles to go.
My sister said that she had insane blisters on her feet.
We looked – they were insane (we later found out that her boots felt tight from the start, but she hadn’t said anything).
I took off my boots and gave them to her.
How bad could barefoot hiking in the dark be?
1 mile to go.
We reached a road that headed back to the lodge.
We saw headlights. Our family saved us the final paved mile! (they had been driving for hours hoping to spot us – thank goodness they had).
Plenty of Lessons were learned from this trip.
1) Even the youngest person in the group can have insightful information, as their insight may be useful (in my case, I was correct that we would arrive well after dark if we didn’t pick up the pace).
So never refuse to listen to someone simply because they’re younger than you.
2) Be prepared (Boy Scout motto, of course).
Take overnight provisions, just in case.
3) Always try on boots well before the day of a hike. This carries over to plenty of other issues of life as well.
Measure twice, and cut once.
4) Don’t hike down wet slippery trails beside waterfalls with no handrails – especially at night.
5) Record life and take lots of pictures.
6) Dangerous experiences make the best memories (as long as you don’t die).
7) My uncle was determined to get into better shape and learn orienteering (understanding maps and how to read them). He began competing in orienteering races – not only did he become excellent at reading maps, but he also got in great shape during the process. Challenging situations can turn into a huge motivator. Use those to your advantage.
8) I also learned this was not my last visit to Half Dome.
It’s been more than ten years since I’ve been there, but I greatly desire to return.
I read this article in Backpacker about it being such a crowded hike and how the real purists set out via moonlight and headlamp around 3 am to climb the granite face just in time to watch the sunrise.
Then heading back down to pass the first set of hikers heading up for the day.
I deeply desire to do this, and if you stick with me long enough, you’ll see it crossed off my life list.
Have you started your life list yet?
What is one goal (big or small) that you have a burning desire to complete?