A few years ago my wife, my children, several people from my church, and I went to Yosemite.  All told, thirteen people made that trip. 

            We left home in Lancaster, California at 6:00 AM on a Tuesday morning.  After a five hour trip we arrived at Bridalveil Creek Campsite, 7,000 feet above sea level.  Bridalveil Creek is located just south of Glacier Point, which is on the south wall of Yosemite Valley at an elevation of 7,214 feet. The point offers a beautiful view of Yosemite National Park, including Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and Nevada Falls.

We unpacked the car, set up our tents, and made sure that every scrap of food we had carted with us got stuffed into one of the bear cans.  I only had to see one video of a big black bear peeling the roof off a car just so it could grab a candy bar to understand the value of the armor plated boxes that the National Park Service provides.  They are quite roomy and we had no trouble packing two ice chests and a bunch of other boxes into it.

            Once everything was in order, the whole group of us took a short ten minute drive from the camp up the road to the trail head for Sentinel Dome, a granite peak shaped like an enormous upside down bowl.  It is less than a mile south of Glacier Point. From the top, 8122 feet above sea level, one has a great view of Yosemite Valley. Our hike from the place we parked the car to the top of Sentinel Dome was only 1.1 miles.  An easy hike.  So the whole troop of us, children included, began walking.

            Part of the trail is uphill (after all, we were climbing a mountain) and a couple of our companions dropped out early.  But my wife and children continued without any trouble, though we couldn’t help but notice that some storm clouds were gathering from the east, blotting out some of the clear blue sky.

            On we went.  Soon, the sky rumbled with the first clash of thunder.  We marched on.  A wonderful cool breeze kicked up, a pleasant respite from the hot ninety degree day.

            More thunderclaps followed.  The sky turned black. By the time we reached the base of the granite dome, we decided that going up upon a high, bare rock with metal hiking sticks might not be the wisest choice.  Just then, it started sprinkling.

            We started walking back.  The sprinkles became just plain rain.  We quickened our step.  The rain came down harder. It was a warm rain.  In fact, my children, my wife, and I actually enjoyed it.  But the hail came as a bit of a surprise. B-B sized, it didn’t really hurt.

            Within ten minutes, the temperature dropped twenty degrees.  By the time we got back to our van, the rain had stopped.  But we were all very soggy.

            Two days later it was time to take the long hike to Half DomeHalf Dome is a granite dome in Yosemite National Park, located at the eastern end of Yosemite Valley. The granite crest rises more than 4,737 feet above the valley floor (8,836 feet above sea level).  My wife volunteered to drive those of us brave or foolish enough to make the trek. 

Arising at 3:55 AM, the seven of us who were going loaded ourselves into the van, our back packs full of water and trail mix.  By 5:00 we were at Glacier Point, where the Panorama Trail begins and we began what would be a ten mile march to Half Dome. We crossed two water falls (on bridges) and trudged up and down.  Our altitude dropped two thousand feet and then went up two thousand by the time the three survivors reached the base of Half Dome a little after 1:00 PM.  Four of the seven who began that hike so early in the morning succumbed to the distance and the heat.  Only three, one of whom was me, managed to reach the goal. 

It was, according to what we were told after the hike, the warmest day Yosemite had seen in decades.  Over the course of the hike, I went through six liters of water.  I had to refill the water bladder in my backpack twice, once at a spring not far from Half Dome and once again above Nevada Falls.  Thankfully we had a water filter pump that safely processed the water for us.

The hike back from Half Dome was a nine mile trek down to the valley floor at Little Yosemite.  That’s where my wife was waiting to pick us all up.  I made a mistake that year in purchasing cheap hiking boots.  Although they had been serviceable on previous short, five mile hikes, they were not up to the task of a 19 mile death march.  The last three miles from Half Dome were all steeply downhill and my right knee started to hurt.  Each step was excruciating, but I pushed on since I didn’t really want to spend the rest of my life in the wilderness.

            About 9:30 PM the three of us emerged from the trail sweaty and tired.  My wife picked us up and drove us a short distance to Curry Village, where we joined those who had dropped out earlier for a very satisfying pizza dinner.