Half Dome – Yosemite Musing
Dateline: Yosemite National Park, August 14, 2009
With all good intentions, I planned to hike to the top of Half Dome last night to be on top to see the annual Perseid’s Meteor shower. I planned this trip 9 months ago. I checked the Almanac and found the “moonless” week and the peak of the Meteor shower. 60 streaks a minute usually. Great – Curry Village Tent Cabin booked for Aug 13/14. My hiking buddy bailed out 2 weeks prior so I scrambled to get a hiking partner – nada. Mrs. Half Dome was paranoid that I’d bonk going alone and insisted that I phone her after the hike. OK. OK. I hit the sack at 4 pm and slept pretty well thanks to earplugs. Up at 7 and ate a beef and rice Heater Meal. All loaded up and on the trial before 8 pm. Dusk, but still light. I brought a rain shell and strapped a North Face wind-blocker to my fanny pack. Hiking up the ever dimming Lower Mist Trail was easy … but it was pitch black at the top of Vernal Fall. The bats came out and buzzed me; then giant moths attacked my headlamp. No sign of Bigfoot. By 9 pm I saw a stream of late hikers returning down. I was pleased to see that all had lights. I got questioned as to why I was going up so late. “The Meteors” My multi-stage LED headlamp was great but a lot of dust in the air reduced a clear image to a foggy one. The light illuminated about 20 feet but it was black outside the circle of light. I admit to a lot of stumbles as jagged rocks popped up out of view. The trail beyond the Vernal Fall outhouse is difficult to follow in daylight and at night I had a challenge in navigating to get to the Silver Apron Bridge. As I continued towards Nevada fall, I found that I was wasting a lot of time going down false trails off the switchback areas. The trail looks a lot different when viewed thru a headlamp. At one point I found myself approaching the banks of the Merced and knew this was wrong. As I turned left, I felt I was back on a trail. Soon I got the funny feeling that I was diverting – but I KNOW there is only one trail there – the Mist Trail. I should be getting to the granite steps. I checked my GPS and I was going south. Wrong way. Hmmm the trail I was on did not look familiar. No one was in sight. Soon I could make out a man-made structure – the Silver Apron Bridge. Huh? I had gone in a big circle. That iced it for me. A decision was made to head home. It was 10 pm and at this slow rate I would not be on top until well after 3. It was getting cold. And the stumbling was increasing. While checking my GPS I hit the deck and cut my knee. Not wanting to be a statistic, I decided to bag it and head back. It was amazing to see the trail bone empty. No one at all but me. No one. I would have wiped out many times without the use of my Leki Hiking poles. I could not image doing this w/o them. No bears or other wildlife . I got to Curry about 11 and decided to drive up to Glacier Point and view the shower from up there. When I arrived (took an hour to get there), I saw a gigantic meteor fall. Then 2 smaller streaks over the next hour. Around 1 am the moon rose over Half Dome and pretty well blotted out the stars. I laid on the rocks at Glacier Pt until 2 and waited for the spectacular “shower” that never came. Oh well, an hour drive back to my tent cabin and sleep. Would I do it again? Hmmm pitch black hiking was tough. And it got pretty darn cold at 2 am on Glacier. To stay on top per my plan would have been no fun. So when I do not have fun – I bail.
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Lady Madonna, children at your feet. Wonder how you manage to make ends meet. Who find the money when you pay the rent . Did you think that money was heaven sent .” – The Beatles
*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com