Monday, June 28, 2010

Chilnualna Falls aka "Feast of the Overprepared"

Hike: Chilnualna Falls

The Inspiration: High water in Yosemite

Highest Altitude: 7,800'

Trip Mileage: 10

Total 2010 Mileage: 110.6

I've come to the conclusion that the substrate of Yosemite National Park is not composed of granite, but rather, genuine crack rock. 

I first ventured to the storied Yosemite Valley last fall, late enough in the season to grunt through most of the Yosemite Falls trail without encountering too many passersby. For my second run, I once again joined Rebecca and her (my) friend Good Ranger Laura, and this time we set out for a leisurely backpacking adventure up the Chilnualna Falls trail in the Southern part of the park.

After ingesting something like ten pounds of delicious homemade oatmeal, we ventured to Wawona to nab our permit and begin the 5.6 4.1 mile hike to the top. Almost immediately, we were presented with the thunderous sound and powerful spray of the lower Falls, and I was presented with the first mental challenge of the hike - safely navigate the small set of equally small granite steps carved out next to this raging beast of a waterfall, with a full pack on, natch. 

Several minutes of quiet hyperventilation later, my heart rate hit double-time as we trudged up the first mile of trail - this sucker's steep, folks. Not monstrously so, but enough to make me wish I didn't bring along that New York Magazine, deck of playing cards, pillow, bag of Reese's Pieces, extra pair of socks, deodorant stick, rain jacket... 

However, once I sucked down enough water and we entered the foresty-meadowy-not-so-devilishly-uphilly portion of the trail, things brightened up considerably - the forest lit up almost neon green, punctuated by tiny floral bursts - lupine and a bunch of other things I don't know the name for. As we continued upward, the falls and the Wawona Dome peeked in and out through the intermittent tree cover, and although it was a sweaty affair, the hike proved to be totally crack-rocky, as anticipated.

Once on top(ish), we set off to make camp in a super-secret-ain't-never-gonna-tell-you spot far from the beaten path, as advised by a very smart friend of GRL. In California terms, man, were we stooooooked when we saw this place - nothing but granite, trees, and plenty of air. Epic. 

Tent pitched (well, GRL slept under the stars), bathing suits on, daypacks fastened, we set off to find a worthy swimming hole to dip our sweat-slicked bods into. When an unseasonably high (and fast) river crossing gave us pause, we followed the bank off-trail, until we found a sweet little array of shallow potholes and sunny slabs to flop ourselves into and onto. Temporarily forgetting that this was effectively snowmelt, I plunged my tootsies in and let out a painful yelp. I spent the rest of my time on a rock, preening like a seal. And I'm fine with that.

After our, uh, "swim," I made a quick pit stop to answer nature's call. Whilst in the most vulnerable of positions, I heard a low growl. I paused, mid-squat. Perhaps that was just the river. Right? Then it came again, this time a little louder. I would have peed my pants if I was wearing pants. But I wasn't. And that made it worse that some large mammal was upset that I was marking its territory. So I scooped up my trousers and ran like bloody hell back to my friends, and hopefully out of claw's reach of whatever was making it's angry presence known.

Back at our secret campsite, the thought of dinner was a happy one. GRL planned a delicious Thai noodle dish, and we set up our little kitchen on a sunset-ready chunk of granite and got to work. And then we realized something. Something important. Something reallllllly important. 

We had waaaaaay too much food to fit into the bear canister once dinner was over. Like...WAAAAAAAAAAAAAY too much food. We snacked a bit, and when our dinner was ready, we sat back and ate. And then we ate some more. We ate noodles until they just stopped going in. And then we waited a minute and ate some more. Rice noodles definitely expand in water. A LOT.

There were groans. Moans. Uncomfortable silences. Nervous laughter. We assessed the situation. Definitely couldn't fit our food, as it stood, into the canister. 

And then there were toiletries. Dammit. We forgot the toiletries.

We systematically began to eat. I finished off the Swedish fish. Rebecca knocked off at least half a bag of trail mix. We moved the whole shebang down a slab and made a fire. We continued to strategize - if we make the chocolate pudding, add in the creamer, some pretzels, the rest of the Reese's Pieces, the dried mango, and if we each eat a piece of fruit, maybe we can fit it all in. Maybe

There was a point during all of this bear-attack-prevention eating that I think I got high. No, seriously. I think I got high from eating too much food. I was actually convinced that because I ate so much food, the bear would just come for me anyways, because I smelled like a damn grocery store.

But the bear didn't come, and somehow we all woke up the next morning and ate a ton more food, and then a few hours later, Rebecca and I stopped at the Ol' Kettle Restaurant in Oakhurst on the way home and each ate a massive plate full of grub. Actually, Rebecca stopped short of devouring her sweet potato fries, so I finished them off for her. And then I ate cinnamon bears, some trail mix, and a fruit bar in the car. I think I permanently messed up my stomach, but man - what a pretty hike. 

What Would Ed Do?

Ed would wait until the waterfall was frozen and would scale it with nothing but an ice axe and sheer grit. Regarding the bear canister snafu, Ed probably subsists on a diet of said grit and determination, augmented with periodic shots of ambition. He doesn't need a bear canister. He is a human bear canister.


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