Anna Maria Locke


While I was out in the field this summer

(field: -noun, the mystical place where physical scientists conduct their research in the off-season)

we took a weekend off to roadtrip down to Yosemite National Park.
Yes, this place is as glorious as it looks in pictures.
(although the pictures never show the hordes and hordes of tourists and vacationers, but what do you expect from one of the most famous parks in the world)

The park itself is massive, but the most well-known and photographed part is the valley, where the Merced River has cut through the granite outcrops and meanders through meadows and woods.
There are endless trails to explore, but since we were limited to only one full day, my glory-seeking guys made the master plan to hike Half Dome. Fifteen miles, 4800 ft elevation gain, no biggie. HA. 
I am so happy to have had the chance to be conditioned for this hike (the previous six weeks of daily high elevation hiking allowed us to make it in less than half the recommended time..woo!)
It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, but definitely the hardest physical challenge I have ever experienced.

We took the Mist Trail, which passes by Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls. 
The mist is not so welcome when you are headed up in the chilly dawn air, but by the time we were heading down in the heat of the day the thought of making it back to the mist was probably the only thing keeping me going!

 This is Vernal Falls. The trail is mainly an enormous staircase cut into the sheer granite, going around and up over the falls.

 Nevada Falls, the second waterfall on the mist trail. By the time we reached this point the sun was coming up over the mountains and making rainbows in the mist.

[just looking at this picture makes my legs ache]
Most of the trail goes through the woods and is gorgeous, until you reach the final ascent of death up the bare rock. My legs were falling off my body after 7+miles of huge granite stairs. To be honest, there were parts where it felt kind of like Frodo's death march to Mt. Doom.
BUT the views are worth it!
 Once you reach the flat sub-dome area, you are greeted with this:
HALF DOME!!! dundundunnnnnn
 Yes, those are people. Climbing up the cables to get to the top of the dome.
Confession: by this point I was dizzy from the sun, my legs were dead beyond any point of death they had ever experienced, and all I wanted to do was collapse and inhale a pb and Nutella sandwich.
So I didn't attempt the cables, and I do NOT regret that decision. I don't think another couple hundred feet make the view any different.
It's kind of scary how they let anyone climb up to the top, regardless of age or physical ability!

 I can't wait to go back to Yosemite and camp for at least a week or two to explore the other trails and parts of the park. I can see myself hiking Half Dome again, but it is not one of those things where you forget about the pain when it is said and done and are left with only the exhilarating memories. I definitely am going to have to let a little more time pass before I destroy that mountain again.