Monday, December 14, 2009

Yosemite Death March - Epiloge

Friedrich Nietzsche famously wrote, "what does not kill me, makes me stronger." That may be so. Unfortunately neither is fun to experience at the time of occurrence. But we did survive, even though we could barely walk the next day. Amazingly the four of us did the circuit again the next year, with Christie and Mike in tow. I think it was mainly at the behest of the kids because they wanted to see what we saw. So we did, just to show we could do it better the second time around, I suppose. It was still a tough hike for us, but we were better prepared and we managed a lot better.

Regardless, that first trek was a memorable event, and not just for the mortality part. The back country of Yosemite is amazing and I'm glad I got the chance to hike it. I had done high Sierra hikes with the Boy Scouts before where we did part of the John Muir trail, but I was young and perhaps did not appreciate what I was seeing as much as I should have. I did take photos from those trips, though, and will post at a later date. The comparison should be interesting.

But there is something special about Yosemite. That view as you start down from the Glacier Point trail head, as shown above in a photo I took that day, is spectacular. Half-Dome is on the left. In the lower center is Vernal Fall and above it and to the right is Nevada Fall. Illilouette Fall is off the edge of the photo to the right between that big wall of rock in the foreground, across the gorge from where I'm standing. Once we got down to Illilouette, we had to hike up and over that wall to get to the top of Nevada Fall. You can also see how steep the terrain is down the left side of Nevada, and then further on down as you descend the Mist Trail on the right side of Vernal. The footbridge crosses the Merced at the bottom of the Mist Trail and the path continues down to Happy Isle. Allegedly it is about a 10.4 mile hike. I think that must be as the crow flies, because it sure seemed a lot longer than that with all the switchbacks along the way. I've always harbored suspicions about Forest Service mileage markers ever since I was in the Scouts; this only reinforced them.

The view below is on our climb out of Illilouette Fall. At that point you can see across the Yosemite Valley to Yosemite Fall. Glacier Point, where we started our hike, is that big wall of rock on the left. At the base you can see the debris field from the scaling event, or slide, that occurred a week earlier.

The photo below is a close up of the damage. You can see the swath of downed trees and how close it came to the Happy Isle building. You can also see the pulverized granite at the base of Glacier Point. What you can't see is how much of that dust coated the opposite side of the valley from the slide, especially along the trail between the footbridge and Happy Isle. Believe me, it was amazing to see how thick it was on the trees and ground.

This certainly was a vivid reminder of the power and unpredictability of nature. Yosemite is a wonderful place, but you have to respect it. Indeed, even in the comfortable climes of Burbank, in the heart of earthquake country, you have to respect nature. We lull ourselves into believing we are in control of our environment and we aren't, really. We just like to think we are. And then, BOOM. Reality strikes. And if we're lucky, it makes us stronger.

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