"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The wind will blow their freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves"
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
When kitty fights wake me up in the middle of the night I know that my morning exercise plans are in jeopardy. I wake up and then cannot fall back asleep for at least an hour. As I fight my sleeplessness I keep thinking about the plans that will not come true again. This time the plan is Yosemite trip, a bit of a crazy thing to do just before we go on our vacation but we really want to go when the falls are full of water and spring is still in the air. OK, technically it is summer already but mountains have their own calendar and could not care less about ours. This year especially, after record snowfalls everything is lush and green. Mother Nature has been waiting for a good watering and this winter proved to be just what was needed for life to explode in its glory. So I lie in bed wondering if I can manage to drive to Yosemite, hike and then still be alive enough to come back the same day. We can always try and sleep on the way back but I would rather not have to do that since there is so much to do before our vacation. Those thoughts do not help me fall asleep, that is for sure but somehow I do only to be awaken it seems a few minutes earlier by the 3:30am alarm clock. Shower, leg shave (I will be hiking in shorts) and I am ready for a quick breakfast and waking Kenny up. It seems he does not want to get up either but he does want to go.
Finally we are on the road. Traffic is to our advantage since we are going against the morning rush and by the time we get to Pleasanton I can already see a big jam in the opposite direction. We are cruising, Kenny napping a bit and me staying amazingly awake. Yes, we are going! Now we have done many day trips to ski in Tahoe which is about the same time to drive but somehow this seems longer. The sun in mercilessly shining straight into my eyes and no matter how I sit, and how I position the shades, it blinds me and makes driving quite difficult. That does not bother me as much as RVs, which refuse to use turn outs to let faster cars go so we crawl behind some at 30mph in a 55mph zone. I want to start hiking, I am tired of sitting behind the wheel praying for the RV driver to notice there is a long line of impatient cars behind him. He does not seem to care.
At the park gate we buy a yearly pass hoping to come back often and we go, we go as fast as the speed limit and traffic will allow to the trailhead. I am surprised at the crowds here. I know this is summer already but I have not seen such traffic mid week ever. Lucky for us there is still room at the trailhead so we can park, get our gear and go. The sun seems strong but I still trust the weather forecast promising temps around 75F.
The trail starts very easy but soon we hit switchbacks. They are nothing like the ones we did on Whitney but still, we decide to count and say what we associate the number with. 1 - is it a prime number or not? 3 - geometrically speaking it is a half of number 8. Game like that helps pass the time. By number 19, I think, we catch up to a girl with her father or maybe grandfather. She seems to be Kenny's age. We say hi to them. She asks if we are counting switchbacks and Kenny is impressed that she caught on what we were doing. She is cute and I wonder Kenny thinks so also. I don't ask not to embarrass him. We leave those two behind like we did two ladies who seem my age or a bit older. They also move slower than we do. I promised myself to take it easy on this trail so I would not aggravate my injury but soon I am into my 'push myself' pace even though the tendon is feeling a bit stiff and achy. Now while for me the average speed of 2.1mph on this hill is about all I am willing to do, for Kenny that seems to be nothing. He keeps on hopping around and does not even breathe hard. Now our actual speed is probably even higher since I am not stopping my Garmin when we pause to take pictures. And yes, we know we are in Yosemite on this trail. The views are just magnificent. We keep on watching Yosemite Falls as we go higher and higher. Then we see the valley as far as the eye can reach. Then High Sierras come into view, still covered in thick layer of snow. It is heaven.
The trail goes relentlessly up with practically no flat parts. It has some extensive stone work and parts of it had been paved so it is not very technical, It is just steep. Fortunately for us it is mostly in the shade so I don't even consider putting the sunscreen on. I am actually quite proud of myself for going strong until is see a guy who is running up. Oh, yeah, one of those, fit, young and strong people who make me totally jealous. He is carrying only a water bottle while we have backpacks with water, clothes and snacks. Speaking of snacks. We got dry sausages that do not require refrigeration. The are not loaded with preservatives and when we tried them beforehand they seemed a bit too salty but tasty. On the trail though they made us almost want to puke. I mean they tasted just awful. Now that is a good lesson for the longer hikes. Do not carry any food you have not tasted before on a shorter hike.
This actually would qualify as a short hike. The entire distance is only 9.8mi but we are at altitude and this is a good workout since we keep on climbing. And then the trail evens out and becomes quite soft with dirt and pine needles under our feet. We meet three older guys who ask us which way the trail is going. Like many people they opt to drive to Glacier Point and hike down. Maybe this is the reason for the name Four Mile Trail - very few people do it both ways.
And then we get to the top. There is a mob there. Yes, crowds who rode buses and cars to see the grandeur of Yosemite Valley. I feel a bit smug for having to hiked the trail and for not being one of the so many obese people there. I do remind myself that I had regained quite a bit of weight and maybe I should not be so full of myself.
We do not stay there too long. After that grand hike crowds tire us. We refill our bottles and head down. About a mile from the top we meet the girl and her father. She asks how many switchbacks we counted. We say that we had lost count around number 46. Then we encounter the three guys who were heading down. They are amazed that we caught up with them and still made it to the top. I told them that it was nothing since we saw the guy running up. They met him also. They say that there is no way they would want to go up, the way down is good enough and their wives did not even go for that and will be waiting for them at the trailhead below. I offer to take their picture and then we move on. Of course going down is faster but harder on my knees and my feet keep sliding down in my shoes. I wish I had taken my Vibrams. Further down we meet up with the two ladies strolling up. We tell them we left some ice cream for them at the top. They are going very slow but they are going and that impresses me a lot. There are other people going up. Some have big backpacks (will have to check what campground they could be possibly going to). There is a group of young, about 20yo people who are huffing and puffing and are in much worse shape than I am. Now that is sad but again, I tell myself that at least they are out there hiking and improving and not just sitting around pigging out on chips. I am also noting that the trail is not shady anymore. We had the luxury of hiking up in the shade, now most of it is in full sun and it is getting hot. There is a breeze but I am sure temps are much higher than advertised. Only later do I realize that we had not drunk enough. I peed just before we hit the trail and then not again till we got home. After finishing the trail we both drunk gallons it seems so yes, we needed more fluids. Another lesson noted.
Our average speed for the entire trip goes up to 2.5mph. I am a bit surprised that I am in better shape than I thought. Now I know this is nothing in comparison to where I want to be but I see it as a good base.
Finally we make it to the trailhead. There is not one parking spot left but most cars are there just for picture opportunity and they move ahead to the next photo op. My calves are dirty. I mean they are black (why didn't I take a pic?) I wipe them off because we want to go to Yosemite Lodge restaurant so I want to look presentable. But before that Kenny wants to soak his feet in the creek. I think this is a grand idea until I step into water. I knew it was going to be cold but not THIS cold. I mean this was ice. So the soaking did last just enough time to take pictures.
I call Jan to let him know we are down. He thinks at first that we are calling from the top so he is quite impressed with us when I tell him we made it down already. I wish he was here.
The restaurant was closed. Why? We end up eating at the food court. Kenny has earned a pizza and I am gobbling up a salad with walnuts and blue cheese. Then we pig out on strawberries. Later on, we stop to get water at the Groveland supermarket (good stuff there, a lot of organic produce), we buy a huge container of organic blueberries. Life is magnificent.
My worries about breast cancer are gone. It is not that I am not thinking about it at all. A couple of the trail I wonder about future hikes but this time it is easy to dismiss those thoughts with a simple, 'you don't know anything yet'.
--- John Muir