Sunday, November 29, 2009

Yosemite Death March - Part Three

Sorry for the long intermission, but I was intensely involved in a special project for work. Essentially I was making a year-end report for our home department as a five-minute music video - yes, it's a long story. And yes, it's my first attempt, so you can imagine the compressed learning curve. Regardless, it is 98% complete and well before the Thursday deadline, so I can relax a bit and get to blogging again. But what would a serial be without intermission, eh?

When last seen, we were at the top of Nevada Fall preparing to head down to Vernal Fall. The trial was steep and strenuous, but I was still lively enough to stop for pictures (I have not scanned those slides yet, but will sometime soon). I also was not feeling the effects of dehydration yet. We stopped at the top of Vernal Fall and rested. Then we proceeded down the Mist Trail.

The start of the trail from the top of Vernal is a bit nerve-racking for someone like me who has a touch of acrophobia. While I'm not particularly nervous about heights, I do get twitchy when I feel precarious and unsteady at a height. I like to feel secure underfoot. That's why it took me several years to learn to ride a bicycle and why I never learned to skateboard or ice skate. I barely could roller skate. The first several hundred meters or so down the trail is against a rock wall. The narrow, deep steps are carved out of the rock and there is an iron handhold that is not very secure keeping you from toppling over into the abyss. If you think I exaggerate, the shot above (from a different trip) was taken at a more secure part of the trail as it wended its way down the gorge. I kept expecting to see llamas in Incas along the way. Yes, that part was an exaggeration, but not by much.

As I intimated, the composition of the bulk of the Mist Trail was stone steps. Many were natural, but some were shaped into platforms. They were irregular in width, depth and length. Going up is arduous; going down is treacherous - and very, very tiring for someone not used to working those muscle groups involved in the act of stepping down between 18 to 24 inches average at a time for over a mile. Add to that the heavy mist of the fall, which was quite plentiful this trip, and you can see how slow the going was for me. Don't forget, I was carrying 50+ pounds of camera gear in a not so secure pack (that would come in a later trip). The fear of a shifting load throwing me off balance and causing me to fall was ever-present on my mind.

By the time I hit the bottom of the Mist Trail, I was spent. The shot below, taken on an earlier trip (same day as the photo above), shows Vernal Fall from near the foot bridge as it crosses the Merced. If you look to the right of the fall, you can see the rock face that comprises the last part of the trail. Unlike this photo, it was dusk when we got down there. We still had about a half mile to go to get to the shuttle bus stop a Happy Isle.

There is the old movie cliche' of the wounded soldier saying to his comrades, "Leave me, save yourselves!" I literally said that to Tina, Roy and Aida. My legs felt like quivering tubes of Jello and I could barely stand. We were out of water (ironic, since we were next to a river - but again, we were warned of parasitic amoebas) and night was falling fast. The landscape beyond the foot bridge was covered in a thick layer of pulverized granite from the Glacier Point slide and looked like the very picture of devastation.

Roy and Aida threatened to drag me down the trail by my feet, so I rose after an all-to-brief respite and staggered on. But you'll have to wait for the next installment to hear the remaining story. That's why it's called a "serial." :-)

For those who are interested in learning more about the Mist Trail, here's a link to the Yosemite website on the subject, with photos:

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