November 18, 2013
The Mist Trail
Total distance: 6.5 miles
Happy, happy, happy is how I felt after completing the amazing Mist Trail. Hiking in November meant that Andrew and I didn’t get to see the spectacular show of water spewing forth from the featured falls. We also didn’t get wet, the trail wasn’t slippery, and the crowd-factor was minimal. I am highly impressed with our National Park System’s maintenance of this heavily traversed trail, one that thousands of people hike each year.
It was a cold morning as we began our walk from Curry Village, where we left the car. The trailhead was a mile beyond at Happy Isles. The one thousand foot climb to the precipice of Vernal Fall began at the trailhead.
At the trailhead, a paved walkway lined the way for almost a mile as we walked under a canopy of trees and through a boulder garden that was undergoing renovations.
The short uphill jaunt continued until we reached the vista point at the bridge.
The view from the bridge was the first chance we had at seeing the massive Vernal Fall. What we saw instead was a massive, water-stained granite wall and a narrow ribbon of water spilling over.
Andrew continued ahead up the granite staircase beyond the bridge. When I stopped for a breather more than once, he looked down and asked me, “Are you sure you want to do this?” I replied, “Of course I do because there’s no way that I’m walking down these steps.” (Down is always harder for me.)
Vernal Fall crashing onto the boulders below was mountain music that accompanied us up the granite staircase. As we climbed higher I thought of all the people who had died there, and said a prayer for them and their families.
Each step was deep enough to fit my small foot. Some steps were steep, but for the most part, it was a comfortable climb until the last section when I happened to looked down.
The last set of steps were protected by a guard rail. I used the guard rail as a handrail until it veered away from the steps. Upon reaching one of the steepest steps of the day, I stopped and looked over the cliff, then froze with fear and couldn’t move. My hands began to sweat. Keeping my eyes towards the wall, I climbed up the boulder-sized step bruising my shin and bumping my head on the granite wall in the process. Once I was up the step and mentally back on track, I quickly caught up with Andrew.
At the top of the waterfall we watched a woman climb over the guard rail and walk down to the water. Even though the water was low, I wanted to shout at her to stop, that dozens of people have been swept away after climbing over the rail.
We found a pleasant spot near Emerald Pool and ate lunch before continuing on the path uphill.
We passed water cascading down rocks like a water slide known as Silver Apron, then Nevada Fall came into view.
Through a series of switchbacks (another three hundred foot climb), we reached Clark’s Point, Andrew’s favorite spot on the trail. The view from Clark’s Point was outstanding. We saw Grizzly Peak, Mt. Broderick, and Liberty Cap as well as the back of Half Dome and Nevada Fall.
Here, the trail intersected with the John Muir Trail (JMT), our return path. The JMT led us downhill and around a dozen switchbacks.
At one point we walked through an area that appeared, by evidence along the trail, to have been effected by a rock slide .
The JMT eventually connected with the paved Mist Trail where we retraced our steps to the car.
This trail was challenging but doable, and the conditions were excellent. It’s a hike that I would like to do each autumn. As an added bonus, we saw a bear!