Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Half Heart Kid on Half Dome: Part II

As we continued our drive the ominous clouds up ahead made it very apparent that we were going to get some precipitation. A quick stop at the Tuolumne Meadows ranger station confirmed the forecast but we had an itinerary to stick to, plus my uncle had my father under the impression that we only had to hike half a mile before we could pitch our tents. We trudged into the woods at the first crack of thunder. Paul, Jeff and Cola took the lead while my father stayed behind with me. On our ascent to Cathedral Lakes my father taught me to pace my steps out similarity to how the climbers on Everest do. Sherpas tell the climbers to have two second gaps in between steps so that they do not break a sweat and consequently freeze to death (two seconds was a bit much for our hike, and I had no fear of freezing to death, but I have applied my new knowledge to my pace ever since then). Soon enough, a cold rain began to fall on us and my father realized that we had traveled way farther than a half a mile and we were still not at the lakes. The heavier the drops fell, the more we thought we had missed our trail junction, and we were began to wonder if our fellow party members had done the same. We eventually caught up with them after they stopped to cover their gear from the rain (a wet sleeping bag makes for a miserable camping trip).

The Half Heart Kid on Half Dome: Part II

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As we continued our drive the ominous clouds up ahead made it very apparent that we were going to get some precipitation. A quick stop at the Tuolumne Meadows ranger station confirmed the forecast but we had an itinerary to stick to, plus my uncle had my father under the impression that we only had to hike half a mile before we could pitch our tents. We trudged into the woods at the first crack of thunder. Paul, Jeff and Cola took the lead while my father stayed behind with me. On our ascent to Cathedral Lakes my father taught me to pace my steps out similarity to how the climbers on Everest do. Sherpas tell the climbers to have two second gaps in between steps so that they do not break a sweat and consequently freeze to death (two seconds was a bit much for our hike, and I had no fear of freezing to death, but I have applied my new knowledge to my pace ever since then). Soon enough, a cold rain began to fall on us and my father realized that we had traveled way farther than a half a mile and we were still not at the lakes. The heavier the drops fell, the more we thought we had missed our trail junction, and we were began to wonder if our fellow party members had done the same. We eventually caught up with them after they stopped to cover their gear from the rain (a wet sleeping bag makes for a miserable camping trip).

Fortunately the rain had slowed to a drizzle as we forged onward. When we finally came upon the lakes, the rain had come to a nearly complete halt. We pitched our tents, ate our dinner and filtered some water. The lakes were named for the peak that towers behind them, and the storm had left two beautiful rainbows directly to the right of the jagged peak. As an aspiring amateur photographer I grabbed my camera and snapped some photos. I think my favorite photos of the trip were taken that night. I could have taken photo after photo if my battery did not have to last another two days. As the rotation of the earth slowly dropped the sun behind the mountains in the distance, magnificent colors came into play. The shades of yellow and orange in the clouds reflected off the still water with the shadows of the Sierra Nevadas sandwiched in between. The bright citric colors faded into light pink, and then there was only darkness. If I had stayed up or awoken in the night, I would have seen some amazing stars at that elevation, but once my head hit the pillow I was comatose until my father woke me up the next morning.

To my surprise, my friends could in fact wake up the first time they were asked too (probably because it was my father that asked them to get up, it had never worked for me). The previous day we had hiked entirely through woods, but our second day had some meadows dispersed in the miles. We saw mountain peaks in the distance, pikas harvesting supplies for their nests, and yellow bellied marmots scurrying around feeding in the woods. We were exposed to the mosquito more than any other creature native to the park. They were everywhere, but it was the season. As the snow melts and runs down the mountaintop, it pools in anywhere it can. The more stagnant water, the more mosquitos there are. In one particular section of the hike (a part I have deemed as mosquito meadow) we stopped to filter water. As my father and I caught up to the others, Jeff and Cola were sitting on a rock filtering water while Paul was dancing around them, smacking himself and the air. He was constantly moving and telling us how miserable it was. When I stopped to hand Jeff my bottles, I snapped a picture of my leg and later counted seventeen mosquitos on one leg (but I had pants on so it was not so bad). They were vicious, and even though my pants shielded my legs, and the deet created a forcefield on my skin, they could and would get me through my shirt.

As we descended the meadows ceased and the forest began. We had gone ten miles and were ready to pitch our tents. The weather was looking like it had the day before and we did not want to get caught in the rain again. When we caught up to our other party members they had already found a spot. It was a beautiful spot perched on a small cliff. A small stream of glacial melt ran next to it and Jeff was hunched over the fire pit already working on producing flames. After dinner, Paul hosted a wittling competition, which he deemed himself the winner of (apparently my fish did not meet qualifications because it infringed on a trademark put forth by Goldfish). We headed to bed after the contest, the next day was a long hike, starting with an early ascent to half dome.

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