in Outdoor & Adventure
Conquering the John Muir and Mist Trails and Little Yosemite Valley
John Muir Trail Yosemite National Park
John Muir Trail Yosemite National Park
John Muir Trail Yosemite National Park

[Read more about Yosemite National Park]

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"Turn around," she said. "Never," I muttered as I realized that Mist Trail was not the path I had intended to take and would be much more difficult than what I ever expected.

Okay. So let me tell you how my adventure in Yosemite started. It was crazy. Just crazy.

So, I arrived in Yosemite Village on a bus that travels from the Merced Amtrak station right into the heart of Yosemite Village. The first thing I do is go to the Visitor's Center for my backcountry permit and bear canister. It's really exciting at this stage, because this is when you plan your itinerary, get your permit, the bear canister... Oh, you don't know about the bear canister? That's a hoot!

The bear canister is giant drum that's intended as a place to keep your food. It's a very simple mechanism to open and close the bear canister, but bears have not yet sussed the process for opening or closing it. Fantastic, right?! You're in the woods, in your tent and your food is safe, so you're safe and happy trails, right? No, you don't understand. The bear canister is not for the purpose of protecting you. It's for the purpose of protecting the bears from you and your crazy human food that will make the bears crazy. It's not about you. It's about the bears. It's all about the bears. Because if the bears get a taste for macaroni, then we'll all have to forget about going to the national parks because bears will hunt down the food that they enjoy. Get it? The moral of the story? The bear canister, if you don't have your own bear canister--and who else but the most egregious REI patrons would have their own bear canister? I'm not that crazy, yet--is just a few dollars per week. Get one! Anyhoo...

So, anyway... I arrive in Yosemite Village, as I said, and I get my permit and the bear canister and I had a supply of almonds that I promptly put in my bear canister and then it was time to start climbing the trail to get to Little Yosemite Valley so I could camp out amongst the trees and nature and beneath the stars and that was a perfect excuse to eat some carbs! So, I go to the grocery store and they had big bags of carbs in the form of Santitas white corn tortilla chips. Frickin' delicious! I had a big bag of that as I made my way to the trail head.

Now... This is where it all went wonky...

I had intended to climb John Muir Trail. However, at the trail head, I followed a path to the left that seemed as though it was John Muir Trail, but it was actually something called Mist Trail. At this stage, I had my huge rucksack that was tied together with a military square bag and my shoulder bag with the bear canister that was protecting my almonds. This was a heavy load just for walking purposes, so it was very challenging for climbing.

As I continued walking and breathing and enjoying the exercise, there were a lot of people milling about and I was surprised because I thought, "What's the attraction to this area? Are they all hiking to Little Yosemite Valley?" So, I'm walking and breathing and this obese, Black woman that was walking just in front of me said very distinctly, "Turn around." That got right on my nerves.

I used to weigh more than 300lbs. When I see people who have the same sort of body that I had in the past, I usually ignore them. It's just a thing that I don't ever want to have in my life again. But, this particular person spoke to me and she was telling me to stop what I was doing. The thought in my mind was, "You are the ghost from my past and I'm not going to let you take this from me. Fuck you. I'm continuing."

At this stage, I didn't know that I was climbing Mist Trail and not John Muir Trail. But, when I arrived at the grand "stairway" I realized that I was in a "different" location that I first believed.

What can I say about Mist Trail? It's steep. It's treacherous. A spectacular bit of it is a narrow path along the side of a bald rock with plumbing pipes for railings. Think of the steepest stairs you've ever walked and then make them steeper. Add loose rocks and slippery surfaces. That's Mist Trail.

Mist Trail and John Muir Trail lead to the same location, but Mist Trail is one and half hours quicker. That's what I'm talking about. It's steep as all heck!

During my first day at Yosemite, after arriving at about 2pm in the afternoon and starting the climb at the trail head at about 4pm, I made it to Silver Apron just as the sun was setting. I was climbing into my tent just as darkness arrived, on a steep slope with pure rock beneath the tent. I wedged it between some trees and prayed that it would not slide down the rock face.

It was amazing. The darkness. The sky. The stars.

As I sat in the darkness of my tent and the profound quiet of Silver Apron, the noise of the trail head was as far away from me as anything I'd believe I'd never see or hear again.

And, the words of that obese Black woman? "Turn around"? NEVER.

Eventually, I did have the pleasure of climbing John Muir Trail. It's long, meandering and challenging. It's also beautiful with its white water creeks and "babbling" brooks, the foliage and the views of the waterfall and mountains.

I have never seen or done anything like the things I saw and did during my adventure in Yosemite. I would like to articulate the grandeur of the experience, what I saw, my feelings, my memories, but I don't know what I would say. However, this is what I know about the experience: After my adventure in Yosemite, I believed that life had value, that merely being alive was somehow valuable, that there is a rhyme and a reason to the world, the earth, its mountains, rivers and oceans and that I am somehow connected to that. And, that is a belief that I did not have before I went to Yosemite.

Wikipedia said:

Yosemite National Park (/jˈsɛmɪti/ yoh-SEM-i-tee) is an American national park located in the western Sierra Nevada of Central California, bounded on the southeast by Sierra National Forest and on the northwest by Stanislaus National Forest. The park is managed by the National Park Service and covers an area of 748,436 acres (1,169 sq mi; 3,029 km and sits in four counties: centered in Tuolumne and Mariposa, extending north and east to Mono and south to Madera County. Designated a World Heritage site in 1984, Yosemite is internationally recognized for its granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, giant sequoia groves, lakes, mountains, meadows, glaciers, and biological diversity. Almost 95% of the park is designated wilderness.

On average, about 4 million people visit Yosemite each year, and most spend the majority of their time in the 7 square miles (18 km The park set a visitation record in 2016, surpassing 5 million visitors for the first time in its history. Yosemite was central to the development of the national park idea. Galen Clark and others lobbied to protect Yosemite Valley from development, ultimately leading to President Abraham Lincoln's signing the Yosemite Grant in 1864. John Muir led a successful movement to have Congress establish a larger national park by 1890, one which encompassed the valley and its surrounding mountains and forests, paving the way for the National Park System.

Yosemite is one of the largest and least fragmented habitat blocks in the Sierra Nevada, and the park supports a diversity of plants and animals. The park has an elevation range from 2,127 to 13,114 feet (648 to 3,997 m) and contains five major vegetation zones: chaparral and oak woodland, lower montane forest, upper montane forest, subalpine zone, and alpine. Of California's 7,000 plant species, about 50% occur in the Sierra Nevada and more than 20% are within Yosemite. The park contains suitable habitat for more than 160 rare plants, with rare local geologic formations and unique soils characterizing the restricted ranges many of these plants occupy.

The geology of the Yosemite area is characterized by granitic rocks and remnants of older rock. About 10 million years ago, the Sierra Nevada was uplifted and then tilted to form its relatively gentle western slopes and the more dramatic eastern slopes. The uplift increased the steepness of stream and river beds, resulting in the formation of deep, narrow canyons. About one million years ago, snow and ice accumulated, forming glaciers at the higher alpine meadows that moved down the river valleys. Ice thickness in Yosemite Valley may have reached 4,000 feet (1,200 m) during the early glacial episode. The downslope movement of the ice masses cut and sculpted the U-shaped valley that attracts so many visitors to its scenic vistas today.

The name "Yosemite" (meaning "killer" in Miwok) originally referred to the name of a tribe which was driven out of the area (and possibly annihilated) by the Mariposa Battalion. Previously, the area had been called "Ahwahnee" ("big mouth") by indigenous people.

- So sayeth Wikipedia, 09/02/2019 19:56:54

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