Wednesday, August 24, 2011

August 20, 2011 – Yosemite - Hiking Clouds Rest

Top of Nevada Falls
When Thomas called that he would be going to Yosemite Valley to do some hikes, it was too good to pass a free ride to Yosemite. After I got the Hall Pass from Promila for the weekend (no we did not try anything as remotely wild as the latest movie indicates); we were all set to go. Friday night we had friends over, and they left around 12 midnight, and I started packing much later.

By the time I was ready, Thomas was at the door and we started driving to Yosemite Valley little before 3 AM. All thanks to Chetan, now I knew most of the major trails from Yosemite Valley. Thomas was clear that he did not want to do cables, so Half Dome was out. One of the trail which was remaining for me was 4-mile trail to Glacier Point, however, at some point Thomas wanted to do Mt Whitney. So I thought we should start with Clouds Rest hike from valley floor. This hike is comparable in distance and elevation gain with that of Mt Whitney, however, much less in altitude.

Clouds Rest (9930 ft elevation, 22 miles from Valley Floor and 6000 ft elevation gain) – I did this hike on July 16, along with Half Dome. So I thought, maybe we can tack on Glacier Point after coming down. Thomas, I knew is fit, with 2 Marathons and sub-8 half Marathon timings, I was anticipating that he would be kicking my butt. Keeping this in mind, I wore my running shoes and Thomas was wearing his running shoes as well.

Unlike in July, there was plenty of parking available at Happy Isles trail parking lot. We started from the parking lot at 7 AM. I was carrying 3000 ml of Cytomax, 500 ml of water and some cliff bars. Thomas had real food and Gatorade. We saw very few people on this popular trail. I thought nobody would be passing us, when 20 year old park ranger closing the gap behind us. I tried to talk to her and slow her down. She was studying nursing and was interning at Yosemite Valley in Search and Rescue team. It was inspiring to see as how people are able to find their way to combine passions together with their jobs. She told us total of 16 people died so far in Yosemite, from start of this year. ‘Stay safe’ were the last words we heard before she zipped pass us.

We took the longer John Muir Trail (JMT), again saw very few people. Sun was shining, and it was getting warm. When we reached Nevada Falls, it was almost 8:45 AM. This was much slower than the usual standards. We took a small break, ate some breakfast, and moved on. We were clocking 30 minutes a mile, it was evident that we would not be hike anything else today with that pace. Last 4 miles were much slower. We chatted about politics, movies and families. I came to know that Vinaya was doing BS in IT, while doing her nursing job and taking care of 3 kids. That was astounding. I can see why she wanted to do get into IT, as it would give her time to space out in front of computer. Needless to say, I am not sending this blog to any of my office colleagues.

I came to know the rich sports traditions in Kerala, how many stars they had generated in athletics. Thomas himself was an accomplished runner and swimmer in his college days, and still going strong. Comparing my school and college, I never saw a track in my life, growing up; just played street cricket. Note to myself - A lot of catching up to do, cannot leave some of the things to next life.

Heat was getting to us by now, and I could see the difference between a good hiking shoe and running shoe for long hikes; or maybe it was lack of sleep and my feet were not strong enough to handle the wear and tear of 22 miles without a cushion. Thomas told me that this was his first time when he could feel his heart pounding, it never happened to him before, even in Marathons ! I wonder if he had forgotten those courtship days, no years, when he was wooing Vinaya.

We reached at top and were surprised to see over 30 people up there. Most of them came from the Tanaya Lake and you could see the long ridge line, and people still keep coming. I had gone through 2.5 liter of Cytomax by now. Thomas was eating rice, jaggery dry hardballs, called Avalose Unda. He shared few with me. First one was easy to eat, when I was on second, it was too hard to bite on; apparently, the trick is to work on it, little by little, wet it by your tongue and make it little soft, and then bite into it. This did an automatic slow release of sugar in blood stream.

While going down, we met Ms Joan, 70 year old lady who was doing this hard hike. We both thought, it would be great if we could do this hike at her age. I felt little stiffness behind my knees, so was careful drinking enough fluids. We took short breaks, and since both of us were wearing our running shoes, the dust keep getting into them. Thomas was a little annoyed with the dust, and washed his feet at Nevada Falls. It was hot now; and I had gone through all of my Cytomax. We both were glad that we did not skimp on keeping enough water. With all the breaks, we took just below 11 hours for the hike. Took shower at Curry Village, which refreshed us, and we were ready for our celebratory Mammoth Port beer at Curry Village. We ate the big buffet, and were ready to head home.

Roads were empty again, and soon it was extremely difficult to keep my eyes open. I told Thomas, that I am extremely sleepy, but I should not be sleeping, as it might induce sleep for him. And he was tired too, he had only 3 hours of sleep. We chatted about our families, vacation, religion, other Yosemite hikes, how to inspire (read - not piss off) family into hiking in Yosemite, planning for Grand Canyon hikes. However, after each topic, it was extremely difficult to keep awake. I asked Thomas, what would keep him awake, as he was driving. ‘Juicy gossips’ was his reply; and boy he was so right. And I found out that we were no different than two girls chatting about everybody. It made us laugh, and drove sleep away. Well, I am not going divulge any details about gossip here, as it pertains to most of this audience. However, do not get disheartened, ‘The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about’.

Thomas drove pretty much like me, meaning that every exit I had to remind him and he did miss one exit, while we were busy gossiping. Also, it made me realize, since he did not know much about Yosemite, I had to step up on where to park, get back to car in dark etc. Though, I did Clouds Rest a month ago, for this hike, I tried running shoes, besides it was much hotter; I learnt something new. For me, hiking in Yosemite is summarized by Robert Sweetgall – ‘We live in a fast-paced society. Walking slows us down.’