April 28, 2015
Nevada Fall via John Muir Trail
Total distance: 8.0 miles
Nineteen years plus one day ago I was on the trail to Vernal Fall during my first visit to Yosemite National Park. Fast forward almost to the day and I was back on the same trail. Much has changed in Yosemite since then, but one thing has not: to get to the falls from the valley, all trails head uphill.
My destination on this outing was Nevada Fall. Instead of walking up the Mist Trail (which Andrew and I did in November 2013) I ventured up the longer John Muir Trail. Hiking this section of the JMT meant not seeing Vernal Fall, instead walking in the shade under a canopy of fragrant trees.
It was a slow, heart-pounding grind up two thousand feet, but I kept a steady pace and counted the series of switchbacks that led to Clark Point, seventeen in all. Though longer, this stretch of trail was less crowded than the more direct route. I figured I’d take a break at the point.
Upon rounding a switchback I came face-to-face with a manmade stone retaining wall. The wall hit me like a ton of bricks. It was then I realized that all my concentration was centered on getting up the hill and none of it was focused on the beauty surrounding the trail.
Coming out of the woods at the point, the view opened up. There sat Half Dome, Mt. Broderick, and Liberty Cap. Now I couldn’t help but focus on the beauty around me.
Nevada Fall was just a mile away and I could see it from the trail. With no time to waste, I decided to forego the break at Clark Point and continued up the hill following the JMT.
The path skirted the mountainside with a solid stone wall protecting the edge. Slushy snow from a recent storm sat melting on the trail as I approached six thousand feet. Water dripped from the top of the mountain like rain falling from the sky. To keep from getting wet, I walked close to the wall and peeked over to have a look. It was awesome.
People milled about near the footbridge at the brink of Nevada Fall. Some talked with a Search and Rescue ranger who was on hand, and a few sprawled out on large boulders and soaked up the sun.
I crossed the bridge and continued walking alongside the surging river. Though I was hungry and needed a break, I didn’t want to stop. Walking at a slower pace, I pushed forward towards Little Yosemite Valley one mile away, a smaller valley above Yosemite Valley proper.
Instead of going up to LYV, I found a secluded spot near the water. I drank in the beauty of the river, then closed my eyes and listened to its powerful sound.
Lunch tasted exceptionally good. A squirrel begged for a tasty morsel. He slowly inched his way closer until I shoed him away without a bite. I packed up then headed out knowing that the trek downhill would be easier on the heart.
Though I didn’t need a break going uphill, halfway down I sat on a rock to rest my weary knees.
Lizards ran up and over the rocky terrain. A fresh mountain breeze blew arousing a flurry of dust and leaves across the trail.
Birdsong filled the air. Up in the trees one bird whistled a distinct call. A second answered. From a distance a third responded, and farther away, barely audible, a fourth echoed the call. I realized I missed a lot while walking uphill.
On the way out of the park I stopped and said hello to my daughter Julia who earlier in the month began her seventh season as a Yosemite ranger. Here’s a photo of Julia and Andrew nineteen years ago during our first trip to Yosemite. It’s hard to believe so much time has passed.