Exploring the Mist Trail, Yosemite
As I walk out the door I notice a stack of cash on my desk, $32 short. Not to mention rent was due five days ago. Can he just pay on time for once? I scurry out the door to avoid any awkward encounters. It’s a horrible way to start the morning. In my rush, I forget my banana and another breakfast missed. But no need to worry, I have a Trader Joe’s pre-packed salad waiting for me in the office fridge.
Man, transitioning to a more minimalistic lifestyle can suck sometimes. Squabbling over $32 and a banana, this is not the digital media lifestyle I’m used to. Usually reminding myself that an extended period of travel is months away is enough to get me back on track, not today. Every small annoyance is magnified 10x. I usually only encounter this anxiety after a three day weekend bender full of beer, football and shame. But I haven’t had a drink in weeks, this is a different withdrawal and I don’t like it.
I now feel it in my bones, they literally ache. A coworker makes a comment that I’m “intense” today. No sh*t. I really need to get out of the judgement of others. Then, like a crack addict who finally gets his fix, it comes to me. My subconscious was calling for an adventure and only a California road trip can answer the call.
A quick visit to Google yields a few worthy destinations. But one single quote narrows the search to one:
“A passage of scripture is written on every cliff”
Thomas Starr King, 1860
In a State of perfect 10’s, Yosemite is the crown gem. Each sliver of sunlight reveals nature that can’t deny a higher artist in complete command of their brush. It’s the equivalent of David on the scale of a small country. And no hike demonstrates this more than the Mist Trail. A coworker quickly reminds me that if I plan on going all the way to Half Dome that I better have a permit. But I’ve made my mind that the Mist Trail will do.
I leave at 7am to avoid the traffic. 5.5 hours to my Airbnb Airsteam, the only palace suitable for an American road trip to Yosemite. I arrive midday and quickly get situated. I lay out my hiking attire for the next day and head to the local market to prepare a hardy meal.
The Airstream is so well equipped I’m able to whip together a braised rib roast with grilled asparagus. I imagine Lewis and Clark prepared a similar feast before embarking on their endeavors.
Arriving to Yosemite and Ascending the Trail
The drive to the trailhead is an adventure in itself. 50 miles over two hours of winding, climbing road. Once I reach the park entrance, I show the Ranger my credentials. He mentions my American the Beautiful pass I borrowed from a friend. I respond by saying I bought it at the Grand Canyon… i’m always lying to fit in. He tips his hat and I’m on my way.
Walt Disney would be hard pressed to replicate the approach to Half Dome Village. Between shadows of Oak trees and Mountains are flickers of stills from another age. As I leave my car it’s impossible to ignore how the crisp cold air hugs you. Refreshing compared to how LA smog chokes. As I weave through the crowds I can’t help to notice the still drunk adventurers and those cold sober about to embark to Half Dome. A moment I’ll share on another trip. I make my way to Happy Isles and begin my ascent.
It’s 1.4 miles to Vernon falls. Mostly a paved path with a bridge filled with selfie stick touting foreigners halfway in. I fill my Camelbak a bit underwhelmed by my surroundings. Little did I know this is where the hike actually begins. The next half mile is 1000ft of steep steps not for the faint of heart. And as I approach the final bend there’s an echoed roar of a 300ft waterfall. During a non drought it must be deafening. The final steps reveal a reflection pond so still but yet so deadly. 14 unsuspecting deaths teased by the seemingly tranquil water that will pull you into oblivion. I use this marker to rest and catch up on reading. The expert hiker yelling at the German exchange student for feeding a squirrel signals it’s time to continue on.
It’s another 1.5 miles to Nevada Falls, a tangled mess of switchbacks and hikers going against the grain. A young Boy Scout knowingly tells his peers how chocolate is the perfect snack for a day hike. I heed to his advice and start picking out the chocolate from my trail mix. It helps distract from the aching in my calves.
There’s no bend or roar to warn me this time. I emerge from a rare level ground of trees to a 900ft beauty guarded by the equally stunning Liberty Cap. The final switchbacks known as the “giant staircase” are manageable amongst its mist. The reward is an impossible view whose pictures do it no justice. It’s time for a few selfies and lunch.
After a few hours, I descend on the John Muir trail to gain a few more perspectives of the Titans of the Yosemite Valley. I don’t account for an additional hour down as the temptation to stop and marvel is irresistible. The trail ends where it all begin, at the bridge with the selfie sticks. In the glow of achievement, I indulge in the practice myself.
Reflections after the Trail
On my departing morning, I’m drinking a whole milk latte at a hipster cafe full of old people and pregnant women. Weirdly I feel at home, but not because of the ambiance. I usually avoid whole milk given the flatulence that subsequently occur. But I’m usually at an airport in business attire waiting to board a five hour flight. In this moment, I’m out of my usual loop of caring only about judgement. I used to chug whole milk out of a gallon jug after basketball practice because I liked it. I made a decision this time for the same reason. Though it’s far from achieved, a path to independence tastes good. I’m done with awkward encounters, I’m ending the sublease when I get home.