A view from Glacier Point

View from Glac­i­er Point

I was a lit­tle appre­hen­sive but most­ly excit­ed as I set off towards the trail­head. I was walk­ing into the wilder­ness, on my own for the next 4 weeks. My longest trip had been a one week trip in New­found­land last Octo­ber, and that didn’t exact­ly turn out as planned. The mul­ti­tudes of peo­ple of all shapes and sizes wear­ing every­thing from jeans to the lat­est fash­ion, didn’t exact­ly con­jure images of remote­ness and tran­quil­i­ty, some­thing I had been imag­in­ing in my mind as I planned the trip. I kind of expect­ed this though. It was after all Yosemite Nation­al Park, one of the most vis­it­ed in all of the US. Regard­less I couldn’t get over the fact that I was start­ing the John Muir trail with asphalt under my feet sur­round­ed by peo­ple. It felt more like Dis­ney­land.

Map of Yosemite Valley

Rough map of Yosemite Val­ley

Start­ing in Yosemite and end­ing on top of Mt. Whit­ney (or vice ver­sa) the John Muir trail trav­els 210 miles through the heart of the Sier­ra Neva­da moun­tains in East­ern Cal­i­for­nia. It is often con­sid­ered the high­light of the Pacif­ic Crest Trail (A trail run­ning from Mex­i­co to Cana­da). And I’ve heard it described by some as the most beau­ti­ful moun­tain range on earth.
It was labor day week­end, Mon­day and I had spent the last day and half wan­der­ing around the val­ley explor­ing with my friend Lupi­ta. We didn’t end up doing the back­pack trip we had planned along the south rim of the val­ley due to leav­ing a day late but that didn’t mat­ter, it was so amaz­ing just being there. We arrived on Sat­ur­day night, late, around 2:30am and I had to get up at 5:15am to get in line at the per­mit cen­ter. I wasn’t sure exact­ly where Yosemite Vil­lage was in rela­tion to the camp­ground but I had an idea, although find­ing a trail (the most direct route) through the camp­ground would be dif­fi­cult at best, in the dark. By the time I final­ly nailed down all of the details to my trip there was no way any per­mits were going to be avail­able. They all get reserved around 6 months in advance, it’s quite a pop­u­lar place. I had read online that you should get there real­ly ear­ly in the morn­ing to ensure you get your per­mit. I would have to find the office in the dark and wait until it opened.

Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View

Yosemite Val­ley from Tun­nel View

Forc­ing myself out of the tent at 5am was painful. I stum­bled around in the dark hop­ing I was going in the right direc­tion. It was around 2 miles to the vil­lage most­ly along an asphalt road. I hoped the cars rush­ing by me weren’t going to the per­mit office. What if there were oth­er peo­ple as crazy as I was and there was a full line of peo­ple wait­ing for per­mit! A line of 10 or more peo­ple sit­ting in chairs try­ing not to be caught sleep­ing by a wary patrolling ranger ready to jump out from behind a tree when you nod­ded off. I imag­ined it being like a line at an REI used gear sale, for those of you who haven’t wait­ed in one it can get pret­ty long  and usu­al­ly involves tents set up in line by peo­ple arriv­ing at 9pm the night before. All these thoughts stew­ing in my head as I walked in the dark. The tree cov­er broke at a large mead­ow, the views were jaw drop­ping. Gran­ite walls tow­ered above me, bathed in moon­light, stars filled the sky. Gaz­ing across the mead­ow at the slick gran­ite that seemed to glow in the dark, it start­ed to sink in, I was in Yosemite! We were in such a hur­ry last night to get here and I was dead tired, but there were def­i­nite­ly worse places to be. Heck I could be behind a com­put­er work­ing on some crazy dead­line, a sce­nario that had become all to com­mon in the years on the job.

I walked by the per­mit office…nobody! It couldn’t be, was I at the right build­ing? I walked around to the oth­er build­ings, a post office, vis­i­tors cen­ter, Ansel Adams Gallery and the per­mit office right in the mid­dle. Nobody. I walked up to the build­ing and some­one appeared out of nowhere, it was Fred from Ten­nessee, he had got­ten in late the night before and slept in front of the build­ing. I was so tired but hap­py I had secured my spot in line. I heard they reserve 3 or 4 per­mits for walk-ups, per­mits that you can’t reserve online but could pick-up the day before you want­ed to leave. As long as I held my spot in line I would be guar­an­teed a per­mit for tomor­row (Mon­day, Sept 3rd)

6 hours lat­er I was walk­ing back into camp with my per­mit. The val­ley was alive with people…everywhere! I was excit­ed, it was just a mat­ter of time before I start­ed my 4 week back­pack­ing trip. 4 weeks I thought, that’s a long time to be on the trail. I intend­ed to hike the John Muir trail  last year (2011) but work got in the way. I end­ed up on a film in Nova Sco­tia, Cana­da in mid August that ran all through Sep­tem­ber. But that wasn’t all bad, after all I got to go back­pack­ing for 5 days, went on a 3 day canoe trip and did all kinds of hikes across Nova Sco­tia, all while the film was shoot­ing. And to top it off my awe­some boss Paul got my flight delayed by a month after pro­duc­tion was com­plet­ed and I spent it in New Found­land. A month of adven­ture that will soon be includ­ed in anoth­er post. This year it was a bit eas­i­er to get off although there were many oth­er things tempt­ing me not to go. It takes some per­se­ver­ance to take a month off from work and spend it in the back­coun­try.

The vast panoramic view from Glacier Point

The vast panoram­ic view from Glac­i­er Point

Lupita at Glacier Point

Lupi­ta at Glac­i­er Point

Our first stop that day was Glac­i­er Point. A clas­sic view of the Yosemite Val­ley. I’ve seen hun­dreds of pho­tos from here but noth­ing quite cap­tures it like being there. Such unre­strict­ed views and the drop off, def­i­nite­ly not for the faint of heart. Peer­ing over the edge induces knots in your stom­ach. A straight drop, thou­sands of feet below, cars dri­ve around like toys, the Merced riv­er snakes across the val­ley floor.

Gazing out to Half Dome

Gaz­ing out to Half Dome from Glac­i­er Point

After view­ing the val­ley from such dizzy­ing heights we did a short hike to the base of Ver­nal Falls, which also hap­pened to be the start of the John Muir Trail. Keep­ing the excit­ment up I got the first view of the sign, at the bot­tom of which was my end goal “Mount Whit­ney Via John Muir Trail 211 miles”. I’m start­ing it tomor­row! Ver­nal falls wasn’t flow­ing very much due to it being late in the year and after not much snow last win­ter. It was peace­ful though. Lupi­ta took a nap while I snapped off some pic­tures.

Vernal Falls

Ver­nal Falls

A short nap at Vernal Falls

A short nap at Ver­nal Falls

Half Dome at sunset

Half Dome at sun­set

Lupita and I taking a break at the base of Vernal Falls



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