Ian and I awoke bright and early Saturday morning to head for Yosemite. During the drive, there was point on CA-140 when we came around a bend, and all of the sudden I felt like I was no longer on earth. It looked more like Endor, except hillier. With all the recent rain in the area, the landscape was spectacularly, almost supernaturally, green.
We got to Yosemite and parked without any problem (hurray for visiting during non-peak season and arriving early!) and found the bike rental stand. The rental bikes are all single-speed cruisers with seats that are not adjustable, so you just have to start trying out bikes to find one that’s a good fit for you. I found it hard to gauge whether a bike was appropriate for me–they all felt weird simply because they were not my bike (single speed, no hand brakes, no cute little bell, etc.), but I chose one as best I could, and we set out on the roughly 12-mile loop of bike path around Yosemite Valley.
Once I got the hang of riding the rental bike, I realized it was a tad too small for me but decided I could cope with it for the duration of our ride around the valley. However, about a quarter of the way through the loop, the bike began to make periodic scraping/screeching/grinding noises and herky-jerky movements. A few times, I dismounted and wheeled the bike for a stretch to see if I could identify the source of the issue, but, of course, all noises and weird movements then ceased. I told Ian I was pretty sure my bike was haunted. He was skeptical at first, but I think he almost believed me as we finished the final stretch of the loop and the volume of the noises coming from the bike had increased to the point where I pretty much just had to laugh and hope the thing didn’t spontaneously fall apart before we got back to the bike stand. Thankfully, it did not!
After returning the bikes and eating lunch, we set out to tackle the Yosemite Falls trail. We’d never planned to hike up to the top (which is about 7 miles roundtrip with a 2700-foot elevation gain) but hoped to get to the point about a third of the way up where there is supposed to be a stunning view of the upper falls. We knew the hike was going to be somewhat strenuous. It was doable but a bit harder than we’d expected. After we’d gone through the gazillionth switchback, I began to look with envy at people who had hiking poles–something I’d never even thought about because I live in Chicago, where hills are kind of a foreign concept. Then I saw a guy who was wearing boat shoes and wondered what kind of sorcery he was employing to not slip and kill himself.
There’s a point on the trail, right before you reach Columbia Rock, where you come around a bend and emerge from the trees to get a view of the valley. I referred to it as Holy Crap Corner because “holy crap” was all I could manage to say, being so stunned by the view.
We’d not gone far beyond Columbia Rock when we debated the merits of pressing on versus turning back. Our original destination was only about a half mile farther, but right ahead of us was what looked to be a very steep ascent. Our legs were jelly. The skies were darkening, heavy rains were predicted, and the thought of making our way back down in slippery conditions was less than appealing. So, we decided to turn back. Although I’m bummed we didn’t get to the falls viewpoint, I think we made the right decision. As it was, the rain began during the last 15 minutes or so of our descent.
Once we were back down in the valley, we got out of the rain and visited the Ansel Adams Gallery and the Village Store, where I bought—hiking poles!
Back in Mariposa that evening, I undid much of my hiking and biking with beer and rich, but incredibly delicious, mac and cheese at 1850. It’s all about balance, people!