Thursday, October 28, 2010

Yosemite Finale - At What Age Do We Stop Doing Foolish Things?

Roger here....  Flash back a couple of weeks...  Dianne and I are gawking at the views from Glacier Point (3200 feet from the valley floor) at Yosemite National Park.   I see a young man in his 20's doing the final leg of the "Four (really 4.6) Mile Trail" from the valley floor.  He is out of breath, but looks great.  His face showed a huge sense of accomplishment.  "Did you walk up the whole way?"  "Sure did!"  "Wow, congratulations."  A seed was planted.  I could do that, too.  It would be great.  Probably won't have the time to do it, but wouldn't it be great?  I could buy one of those t-shirts that brags about completing the "Four Mile Hike."  A seed was planted.  Maybe a foolish seed, but a seed, nonetheless.

Flash forward to today...  What an adventure!  I can't believe I did it.  I feel weak.  I am still taking Aleve.  Every muscle in my body aches.  My knees feel better - think they're going to be OK.  I was really concerned at the end of the hike.  I think I'll order that t-shirt on-line.

Flash back to last weekend...  I hate it that we won't be going back to Yosemite, but we have seen and done all the things we planned to do.  It is such a commitment to get there -- two hours to cover forty-some miles one-way with road construction.  Dianne and I decided that we loved our time there, but that the hassle of getting there would keep us from going back on this visit.  But wait, what about the "Four Mile Hike"?  I know that Dianne would not want to do anything that strenuous, but maybe I could do it? 

 Dianne just started a new time-consuming project (peeling the decaying Diamond Shield from the front of the motor home).  "Hey Dianne, how about me doing the Four Mile Hike one day while you work on your project?"  Look of concern, "By yourself?  I would worry.  You could:  fall off the mountain, break an ankle, get attacked by a bear, dehydrate, starve to death......."  "I'll do some research to see if it is feasible for a 60-year-old man in reasonably good health to do this hike.  I won't do it if it seems unwise.  If I don't feel like I can make it all the way up, I'll just turn around.  The return should be easy;  it's all downhill."  (Oh, how I now hate - downhill).  So I googled away.  I found a fifty-something couple who has done the hike several times.  Three and a half hours to the top;  two and a half hours back down.  I decided.  I am going to do it.  I need to pick a day with good weather and decent temperatures.

Flash forward to yesterday - a day I will always remember...  I got up at 5:30, ate breakfast, shaved, brushed teeth, and grabbed my hiking pole (thank heavens - I often forget to bring it; it proved to be vital on this hike) and my small backpack (with water, a peanut butter sandwich, gorp, and whatever other stuff I always keep in there). 

 I had already  promised Dianne the night before that I would call her when I got there, when I reached the top, and when I arrived back at the car, so I did not need to wake her.  I was on my way by 6:30 a.m.  There was very little traffic.  I beat the park ranger to the entry point, so there was no line.  The construction workers had not yet set up their one-way traffic points.  

I arrived at the trail head at 8:00 a.m. and was on my way by 8:15 -- ahead of schedule -- a good sign.   It was cold, though.  The weather forecast said the high would be in the mid-fifties, but as the photo of ice shows, it was 28 degrees on the valley floor when I began.  Thankfully, one of  the items buried in my back pack was a pair of gloves.  The exercise walking up would make the temperature bearable (and it did).  Two couples entered the trail just ahead of me.  I would not be totally alone.  On to a classic Yosemite hike....

As you can see, the "Four Mile Hike" from the valley floor to Glacier Point is really 4.6 miles.  4.6 miles of walking, and up 3200 feet, then 4.6 miles down.  A strenuous 9.2 mile hike.   The blogs I read said that the ascent was doable - not horribly steep, BUT it was continuous.  No flat sections here.

The first little stair-step section looked so interesting.  I had to take a picture.  On the way down, I grew to hate them.

As I followed the couple in front of me, pretty much keeping the same pace, a young Swedish couple began to pass me.  I stopped to let them pass, when the young man asked if I had seen the BEAR.  The bear!  Where!  "Just back there.  He was sitting in one of the oak trees that overhangs the trail eating nuts.  I looked at him.  He looked at me.  We moved on."  The young lady smiled and said, "We moved on quickly."  I told them that I did get hit on the head with an acorn (true) and wondered if the bear had winged it at me 
:-)  What nice young kids.  

On I went.  As I climbed higher, the scenery became spectacular.

During the first two-thirds of the hike, as I rose above the oak trees, Yosemite Falls was visible.  It was also audible.  Every time I turned on a new switchback, I stopped to take another picture.  The couple in front of me was doing the same thing.  We joked about this being the last picture we're taking of the falls.

Then something amazing happened that turned us into liars.  Oh, my gravy!  There is a rainbow in the falls!  As we moved upward, the location of the rainbow shifted.  I took a few more pictures :-)

The next shots show a common perspective of one of the switchbacks, followed by a 180-degree turn to show the view from the other side.

Nearing the top, Half Dome came into view through the trees.  Wow.

Then I saw a large mule deer doe in the distance.  Not a great picture, but fun to watch her.

I watched the doe for a few minutes, turned a corner, AND...  I MADE IT!!!!!

4.6 miles.  3200 vertical feet.  I beat the couple that was in front of me (but not the young Swedish couple :-)  I did it in three hours and fifteen minutes, fifteen minutes ahead of the fifty-something couple that I read about.  AND, I feel great.  My knees feel a little funny -- something new -- but, wow, do I feel great.  The sun is shining.  Time to take off the gloves and sweatshirt hood.  Time to enjoy the view while I eat my sandwich.  The gift shop is closed for the season, so I can't get a "Four Mile Hike" t-shirt, but that is OK. 

 I called Dianne and told her that I should make the descent in two and a half hours.  I lingered for a while at the top.  I took a picture of the trail head sign to prove that I was actually there, and started down.

The Goblin Boulder
After about a half mile, the first (of many) signs of trouble appeared.  Oh, no.  I have a little bit of pain in my left knee.  I haven't had a knee issue for ten years -- the last time carrying furniture down 3 1/2 stories while moving my daughter from one Chicago apartment to another.  (That same night we could be seen wheeling a computer desk on a two-wheel cart at 3:00 a.m. in front of Wrigley Field - another story.)  I digress, back to the hike... 

 Man! It is hurting a lot more and now I feel a twinge in my right knee.  I am too far up to have this happen now!  Soon I was in complete agony.  Both knees were in constant pain, but I could not rest them for any length of time and make it back down before dark.  People going up asked me, "How far to the top?"  Soon, the same people were passing me going back down.  I stopped taking pictures, because I did not care;  however, I could not resist a photo of what I call the Goblin Boulder.  The facial expression accurately describes what I was feeling.

Without my hiking pole, I am not sure I would have made it down without help.  I was truly using it as the only means of descending even the smallest of steps.  My knees hurt.  My lower back began to hurt.  The scores of people passing me on the way down offered no real reassurance when they said, "Well, there is plenty of daylight left."  I felt like Amos McCoy.  (I know that dates me.) 

 The young Swedish couple passed me.  I told them to scare the bear away before I got there.  They laughed.  (They would have carried me out, if I had asked.)  The couple that I joked with passed me.  Lots of people passed me.  I usually stopped when I heard people coming rather than show them how pitiful I was.

I measured my progress by looking at Yosemite Falls - above the upper falls, half-way down the upper falls, near the lower falls, half-way down the lower falls.  The cars looked more like cars and the trees looked more like trees - a good sign.  BUT, every time I saw the pathway below (above photo), I became discouraged.  I called Dianne to tell her not to worry, but I would be later than I thought.

Is that a car alarm I hear?  Never thought I would be thrilled to hear a car alarm.  I have to be close to the trail head.  A young twenty-something smiles as she passes the hobbling old man (me).  Then she stops.  A beautiful doe and two almost mature fawns crossed the trail.  I stopped, too.  It was a magical moment.  Then, she turned around and headed toward me, whispering, "Bear!"  I whispered back,  "Bear?"  She pointed.  

Just ahead, sitting in the trail -- a BEAR.  (Crap, I wanted to see a bear while I was here, but preferably from the car, and definitely NOT blocking my way on the trail when I was just arriving near the car.  Crap.)  The young lady joined me as we watched the bear for about five minutes, until it turned and climbed the slope next to the trail.  We waited a while and decided that he was not interested in us, and slowly moved on down the trail.  We soon revisited the doe and her fawns, as well as a magnificent antlered buck.  I don't have any pictures of any of this, as I was more concerned about not being eaten by the bear.  

The car.  I am back to the car.  I see it about a hundred yards ahead, but it is taking me forever to reach it.  The car.  I made it to the car.  The two and a half hour descent took every bit of four hours.  I called Dianne.  She was relieved and promised me spaghetti when I returned.

ONE MORE CHALLENGE.....  The five steps into the motor home.  With Dianne's help, I made it.

My dear wife had a hot epsom-salt foot bath, two Aleve, and spaghetti waiting for me on my return.  She also told me that she would remind me of this day the next time I attempted something that might be beyond my capabilities.  (By the way, the tiny blue spot under the blanket is part of my pajamas - not my underwear, or anything else :-)

Flash forward to this moment...  I really feel pretty good.  The pain in my knees and back is totally gone.  My legs have that achy, muscle-building feeling.  I lost five pounds in one day.  Would I do something "foolish" like this again?  Maybe, but not for a long time :-)

Can't forget the Whippet Picture of the Day.  This one is entitled, "Best Buddies."


Gin and Syl said...

My knees ache just from reading this. Those trekking poles sure do help. Love the photos.


Nancy and Bill said...

Way to go ROGER!!

Don't stop doing "FOOLISH" things, but maybe just do a little training first ;o)

We've added that hike to our list of "TODOS!"

Thanks for taking us along!!

Safe Travels and Happy Trails....

Dori said...


Glad you did it. You would have regretted not trying and now you a) can buy the t-shirt; b) can brag for life; 3) will have a great story to tell forever. Good job!! -Piper

Margie and Roger said...

Good grief! Are you crazy or what? Diane is the smart one in that family! Only kidding. It's a hike you will remember the rest of your life....and that you didn't get a photo of that bear.

Royal ABCS said...

Stephanie King here (from waaaaaaaaay back at HSJH) I just love reading about all your adventures! I'm a total 'blog stalker' :) Sounds like a wonderful hike - but I have to say I giggled near the beginning when you talked about the down being easier... I've always thought down was MUCH harder on the body (easier on the lungs, but worse on the feet, knees, and back!) But what fun to now tell the tale - and what great memories! Looking forward to your next adventure! :) (ps - did Diane get her project done that day?!? :)

Travelwithwhippets said...

Great to hear from you Stephanie! Hope you and your family are doing well. I actually knew that going down was harder on the knees, but I have been doing a lot of hiking and have not had even a twinge of knee pain. It was a surprise to me - not a pleasant one. My knees fully recovered the next day. Dianne made progress on her project, but it will take some time to finish. She is planning to write about it some time in the future. Take care!