For the past three years, at the beginning of every summer, I would plan to do the famed Half Dome hike in the Yosemite National Park. And every summer, invariably something would come up and I would be forced to cancel the trip. Till this summer. This time around, five of us, C, E, V, S and me wanted to do the hike. And miraculously, till the departure date of June 22nd, the plans stayed unchanged.
C and E left for Yosemite earlier in the day. V and me picked S up at the airport (yeah, S actually flew in from Seattle to do the hike thanks to a certain kind soul named Archana who did very good PR :-D!) and left for Yosemite later in the evening.
The trip started off fine. We had an one hour break for a proper dinner at a proper restaurant (a rather dumb decision in retrospect as evidenced when we did the "available time to sleep" calculation). We reached the entrance to Yosemite around 10.45pm. After travelling several miles and seeing no significant sign boards, I was convinced we were lost. Except for a sporadic vehicle or two, the roads were deserted and there was no other light. Through the shadows I could see rows upon rows of redwood trees, their silhouettes outlined in the moonlight.
This was my first trip to Yosemite (yes, I have stayed in California 6 years and have not been to Yosemite before - and your point is?) . While I could sense the majestic beauty even in the darkness, I had dreadful misgivings about getting lost (no cell phone signal either) and being forced to sleep in the car and thus wind up serving as bear lures*.
Mercifully, much in accordance with V's confident predictions, we safely reached our destination (without making a single wrong turn!) at midnight - a beautiful townhouse nestled inside the Yosemite park. We quickly settled down for the night. Four hours later, it was time to get up and get ready for the hike.
As it slowly turned bright outside, all of us filled our camel-baks, stuffed as many Gatorade bottles as would fit in, made sandwiches for lunch, squeezed in energy bars, sunscreen, trail-mixes, flash-light et al. We hurriedly gobbled down some breakfast and rushed around to speed up the preparation time. Still, it was 6.30a by the time we set off from the townhouse.
To make things worse, we promptly got lost trying to get to the valley. Finally, we managed to reach the parking lot for the Half Dome hike trail-head. Only to see it choking full. A reverse turn found us a parking space about a half mile away from the trail head (oh great, we had just added one more mile to our already looooooong ~17 mile route). There, we vigorously applied sunscreen and then, hauling our camel-baks onto our shoulders, we set off, bright and merry.
We were beginning our hike to Half Dome from the trail-head at Happy Isles. We reached it at 7.50a. We had officially begun our hike!
*bears are a genuine threat at Yosemite. Which was why we rented a car to drive down and made sure that we never left any food in the car at any time while it was parked.