Monday, August 24, 2009

Mission Accomplished

SUMMARY: Glacier Point hike done!

The Plan

My estimated schedule was this:
* 5:45 a.m. Leave home.
* 6:30 a.m. Meet at Fremont BART station and carpool to Yosemite.
* 10:30 a.m. Arrive at trailhead for Four-Mile Trail and head out.
* 2:30 Arrive at Glacier Point.
* 3:30 Leave Glacier Point.
* 5:30 Arrive back at car.
* 9:30 Arrive back at Fremont.
* 10:15 p.m. Arrive home.

Welllll you know how it goes. I really wanted to check out Bridalveil Falls on the way by to see how much water there was, The Other Ellen (my adventurous coconspirator) was interested in the rock textures for her artwork, we needed new maps, we needed to visit the (really pee-yew!) biffies... then I wasn't quite as ready for the hike (physically) as I thought I might be...

Dang muscles

I knew that 3200 feet of straight up would be hard on my muscles and that back down would be hard on my knees, but I thought I had allowed sufficient time; 6 hours is about an average round trip, and we're both in reasonable hiking condition.

But nuuuuuuu, by halfway up my up-going muscles were shaky enough that I had to stop frequently as I got to where I could barely lift my feet off the ground. The rest of me felt fine, though. We stopped often anyway for photo ops, but I added more stops than that. The Other Ellen's GPS claimed that we spend only 2:38 actually moving on the way up, but I find that hard to believe--it took us 5 hours total, which means that we were stopped fully half the time? Dunno...

I was pretty good for about a third of the way down, then my legs began their transmogrification to quivering rubber--the couple of times I stopped to take a photo, they were shaking so badly that I couldn't hold the camera even close to still--and then they just started hurting. Not the knees so much (although they weren't happy), but more the thighs and calves because it was so steep and slippery that I operated in a knees-bent mode most of the way down, no normal striding at all. By the last mile or two, I had to stop every few minutes to rest as my legs were on the verge of collapsing under me.

I made it to the car, but if it had been another mile, it's unlikely I'd have managed it--I was already swinging my legs into position each step rather than lifting, using my trekking pole to drag myself. Sounds lovely, eh? Needed more conditioning-- On the other hand, I was a good distance ahead of The Other Ellen (TOE) and she didn't seem to be itching to go faster, either.

But the rest of me still felt great!

The Reality

So here's what it really was:
* 5:45 a.m. Leave home.
* 6:30 a.m. Meet at Fremont BART station.
* 6:45 Head to Yosemite.
* 10:20 Stop at Bridalveil Falls.
* 11:20 a.m. Arrive at trailhead for Four-Mile Trail.
* 11:45 Head out. Why did it take us so long there? Broken bootlace, couple of photos, I dunno, just took a while to get it together.
* 4:45 Arrive at Glacier Point.
* 6:00 Leave Glacier Point.
* 8:30 Arrive back at car. Divest hiking gear, find snacks, etc.; drop off found hiker at her car, etc.
* 1:17 a.m. Arrive back at Fremont.
* 1:50 a.m. Arrive home.

General trip notes

It's always fun traveling with someone with whom you can chat the whole trip away. Although TOE and I have known each other for years, have been in the same agility class off and on, read each other's blogs, and email quite a bit, still, this was a great chance to get to know more about each other.

And we didn't talk about dogs or agility nearly as much as one might have expected!

We seemed to travel and hike well together. Note to self: Worth doing more.

It had been 99F in Yosemite Valley on Thursday, 90 on Friday, so I was hoping it wouldn't be too bad for us. Turned out to be a lovely temperature--I never felt the need to don my fleece until we got back to the car.

The problem was that the air was therefore extremely hazy. Add to that a high, bright overcast, and there was so much glare looking out across the valley that I knew that all my scenic photos would be iffy. Only so much I can do in photoshop.

I did remember to put on sun lotion despite the overcast, so had no burn at all.

It sprinkled on us a couple of times, but never enough to get us or anything else wet.

It was disappointing that there was NO water, absolutely none, coming over Yosemite Falls, and this trail has the best views of those Falls from anywhere in the park. Guess that means I'll have to do it again. On the other hand, it was fascinating in a morbid way to keep seeing those dry, naked cliffs sans cascade.

We had vowed to have ice cream at the snack shack at the top. Man, my ice cream bar tasted better than just about anything! I didn't really feel hungry most of the day--got stomach pangs once so we stopped so I could eat half my sandwich; my stomach knew better than my brain.

We were absolutely the last ones to leave Glacier Point to head back down, and a German medical student leaving at about the same time slowed down to hike with us, for companionship both for the mere emptiness of the trail at this time of the evening and the fact that she didn't have a flashlight with her. If she had just passed us, though, she might have made it down before complete dark on her own.

Although she was wearing tennis shoes rather than hiking boots; this was a problem on this trial. In the old days, Yosemite paved *everything* to make it easier for people to get places. Not too many decades ago, they realized that paving difficult and dangerous routes to make it easier for every numbskull in the world to get himself into trouble wasn't a good idea, so they've been allowing the asphalt to gradually break down and go away.

The problem on this trail is that it was steep, so the sand and gravel on the unbroken stretches of asphalt made every step like walking on marbles or slick ice. We slipped even with our hiking boots and trekking poles; her shoes had a much tougher time of it going down. TOE had two poles and lent her one.

It was fun to have a third person to chat with. She was smart and funny and we talked about vocabulary and languages and medical training in Germany vs. in U.S. and travel and all kinds of things. We exchanged email addresses--best of friends after two and a half hours together on the trail! Amazing how that works. A year from now we'll probably have no recollection at all of the people we just met.

Not my beautiful dogs


This hike surely would have tuckered out the dogs, but in addition to them being prohibited, there were many reasons for them not to be there:
* Small wild lifes of which I got some snapshots
* Rattlesnake
* Sheer cliffs

Fan mail Q&A

My dad sent me some questions. Here ya go:
How was your companion? (See above.)

Did you have bear problems? Bare problems? Beer problems? We never saw bears. We were careful not to leave anything resembling food in the car. We did not encounter the guy who likes to hike in the nude. And no beer involved; in fact, TOE and the German hiker talked about wines!

Did you suffer from mountain lassitude? (Private joke.) I think if anything it was Drought Lassitude.

You mention ice cream - No champagne because Binder wasn't there? (Continuing the private joke. If you haven't read The Ascent of Rum Doodle, do so--family favorite.)

Did you get sun-burned? Nope. (See above.)

Run short of breath? Only once--on the drive in, we stopped & I jogged down the road for a photo shot. Realized I was a little short on breath. Took a hit from the albuterol and was fine the rest of the time.

Get cramps? Nope.

Many people going up? Down? Did you see any going both directions as you did? Or the other way - starting from the top for the round trip? As we were going up, people passed us all day going in both directions. We must've been the slowest ones on the trail. I'd guess we saw at least three dozen people on the trail. One couple passing us going up asked whether most people started at the bottom; they had started at the top, gone down, and were heading up again. They still passed us briskly.

If you did it again, would you take the bus one way - which way? Hmm, hard question. If I were to do it again--which is starting to be a given, now realizing what great Yosemite-Falls-with-water shots I couldn't get this time--I'd still start out going up. If I were to take the bus, it would be going back down. But that seems so much like cheating (or at least wimping out) at that point!

I've been trying to load a few sample photos to go with this post, PLUS photos of dogs that WERE there, at the top of Glacier Point, but Blogger has been giving me (and others) grief for the last 2 or 3 weeks about finishing its uploads, and I don't have time for hacking by hand, so you'll just have to go to our photo sites for ALL the photos:
* Mine: Glacier Point Hike photos with brief narrative. If you have the bandwidth for it, using the Slideshow button in the upper right is probably the way to go (you'll still see most of my text, but the links I've embedded don't show up in the slideshow, if you care).
* TOE's: Hike photos with sparse comments; lots of boulders because she's interested in the shapes and textures, but also plenty of lovely view shots. And lots of me for a change.
* TOE's brief blog post about the prequel to this trip.

21 comments:

  1. What a fun post, and it was a great trip that I very much enjoyed. Though I've never been called TOE before ...

    Glad I'm not the only one that Blogger is giving grief. For text uploads I find I can just click View Blog after the first failure.

    Photo uploads take enough hacking that I just keep clicking the Wait for it to finish button.

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  2. So can I interest you in snow? I go to Shasta every spring and camp at the Sierra Club's Horse Camp. You don't have to ski as at that time of the year, the snow has settled and you can mostly just walk on it.

    I or Shasta Mountain Guides would have to teach you some basic snow skills, but they're pretty doable.

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  3. Ellen: TOE--that's because you've never hiked with another Ellen before. So you were never The Other Ellen before. ;-)

    BLogger--I keep clicking wait and it never gets there. Never. I have to go to my ftp site, get the names of the files, go to a previous blog, copy the HTML for the images, paste it in, update it with the new images-- fah. Faggedaboudit.

    Snow? No. I'm sure I've already told you that. Just, no.

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  4. Wow. Just Wow. Thanks for taking the time to caption all the pictures It was just like I was there..without the muscle wear and tear! I loved photo #72...TOE looking out over the valley. You take the BEST trips!

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  5. Great photos! One day I'll make it to Yosemite but for now I live vicariously.

    I was truly flummoxed over how you were going to get ice cream to the top of your hike. I didn't realize there was a restaurant up there, doh.

    I vote for the snow hike-and take the dogs.

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  6. Dawn: OK, Bright Angel Trail is about 4000 feet down (or up) & 10 miles; this was 10 miles round trip and 3200 feet up and 3200 feet down. Now I'm thinkin' I can do the BAT! How about you?

    Elayne: It's one thing to stroll casually in the snow with the dogs. Love it. It's another to go hiking and/or camping in the snow. Hate it.

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  7. P.S. Cafe at the top--mostly snacky sorts of things--hot dogs, cheese pitas that you can heat in the microwave, big cooler chests with ice cream (that & the big fridges with tons of drinks tell me that cold wet things are very popular there). Most people drive up, and it's an hour's drive from anything like civilization.

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  8. I overlooked the part about the camping. Yeah, you would not get me camping in the snow either. Hiking with Yax Trax or snowshoeing with the dogs though-fun!

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  9. OK, actually I don't know whether she was talking about camping. I have done a little casual snowshoeing and that was fine. Have always wanted to try a little cross-country skiing, but not that much. Maybe a couple or 3 hours and be back in time for lunch. I'm not sure that's what Ellen had in mind, though.

    I have hiked up Lassen when half of it was still in snow. Not too bad. I have gone backpacking in the snow. Will not repeat. (And the weather was fabulous, too.)

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  10. I mean, whether she was talking about tent camping or whether "Horse Camp" has, like, actual warm buildings and beds in which to sleep.

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  11. What a great trip! Amazing photos, amazing subjects :)

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  12. Horse Camp has no no horses and the only building is this great cabin but you only sleep in it if there's an emergency.

    Here's one photo of my tent at horse camp at Shasta:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ellenclary/668260522/

    My mostly unorganized photo stream with some amazing Alaska shots is here:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ellenclary/

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  13. Here's another camp at Horse Camp. Note super blue sky (no polarizing filter used) and the short sleeves.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ellenclary/668255312/in/set-72157600562308808/

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  14. I like how your panoramic landscape shots almost line up in the thumbnails! Boy, that's a lot of snow. You are a hardy woman.

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  15. Oh you must be looking at the Don Sheldon / Ruth Glacier photos. Yeah those did line up nicely. Not bad for standing on a glacier with a point and shoot and the nearest computer a plane trip away.

    BTW anyone can fly on a plane to the Ruth Glacier and land on it and walk around it. The scenery is Out Of This World. No hiking or camping required.

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  16. Re super blue sky and short sleeves: Note snow on ground. Water freezes at *what* temperature?

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  17. Ah, but snow in the spring time is not the same as snow in the wintertime.

    It refreezes at night, but the temperature was 40 or 50 degrees during that day (yes the snow is actually melting technically). Even on Everest (so I've heard) in the sun it can get very hot (80 degrees F) during the day sometimes.

    If you choose to climb at night (when it's easiest to climb on) it is cold but during the day it can be quite nice.

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  18. So if I want to hike the Bright Angel Trail in October of 2010 I have to call (or something) on Sept 1 2009 which is right around the corner. I am torn. Can I get in shape by then? OF COURSE I CAN! I think. I should just do it, right? So far no friends (or spouse) have committed that they will go with me though...but I haven't pushed about it in a few weeks. Guess I should.

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  19. That might be true. Since I didn't do the Bright Angel Trail, things might be different. I suggest checking around on the web for more info. And deciding where you want to stay (assuming that you want to stay) at the bottom--at the lodge/ranch, camping, or hike back out (or ride back out). Find out what requires reservations & when. And then you can use those dates to (hopefully) propel your nears & dears to commit. Good luck!

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  20. Dawn I don't know where you are getting your information but this website:
    http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/backcountry-permit.htm
    say that reservations are taken only 4 months in advance by fax or mail (no phone). The table says that for October you would apply Jun 1st.

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  21. Well, she got suggestions from me that some things open up a year in advance. Like Phantom Ranch, for example--13 months in advance, it says here:

    http://www.grandcanyonlodges.com/lodging-704.html

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