Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Learning Curve on Half Dome

My good friend Shelley, who is sometimes embarrassed by the number of times her photo shows up on my blog,called me on Saturday and asked if I wanted to hike Half Dome with her on Monday. That was a no brain er, any day with Shelley is guaranteed fun. She has such a great sense of humor, totally down to earth and just says it like it is! Half Dome sounded like a beautiful way to get in some good exercise. So on Monday June 1st, was 3:40am, my friends learned that I can actually be up and ready for a long day at a ridiculously early hour!

By 6:30 am we had learned that Starbucks is the only place open at 4:30 in the morning, and that they have fantastic oatmeal for breakfast. I learned how to use the self timer on my camera, and my friends learned that I can still talk a mile a minute while driving on winding roads at an hour that on any other night I might be just getting into bed!

Jen,DaNae, Duane, Charisse, Shelley and Reed

At the base of our hike I learned just how far we would be going; 17 miles, and that didn't count the extra mile we walked from the parking lot to start our hike.

At about this point we learned that we were not the only ones on the trail. There were posters at each bathroom along the trail warning us to watch out for the mountain lions. We also came across several little mosquito swarms, only to learn that not one of us had brought any bug spray!

Can you say WET? There is a reason they call this the Mist Trail!

My respect for the falls and how powerful the water can be was renewed. I always feel a bit of fear and awe as I watch the churning water race past me. I think I could sit and watch it for hours. Moments like these solidify in my mind that there is a being greater than all of us. He is more powerful than the raging river and has an eye for beauty. We were meant to enjoy it.
We learned that Shelley has an eye for recognizing Mormons on the trail. As Reed spoke to a man that Shelley had identified as a member it turned out to be the son of Reeds Mission President! I would soon learn though, that you could play the 6 degrees of separation to Reed Van Wagenen, and find the connection every time! He is friends with everyone, and if by some chance you don't know him yet, give him 5 minutes and he will be your new best friend! He could be the original author of the line,"To know me is to love me".
This guy here, who as best we could tell was named Trick, was one of Reed's many new friends along the way. We called him Reed's new best friend after he saved a mans life by grabbing him by the ankle after falling and almost rolling down the mountain. Hero or not though, Trick was immediately dropped from Reeds friend list when he asked me if Reed was my dad! So if in the coming weeks you see him at Target buying Grecian Formula , blame it all on Trick!

After a few hours of hiking we learned that we were still not half way! We had to go from this view point to the top of the higher of the two rocks! We decided we'd wait to eat lunch until we were at the top. I had affectionately named Charisse's husband DuWap, and we had coined a new term. Dizzy, which is how DuWap and my mom were feeling due to the altitude, was somehow changed to Disney and could also mean lightheaded and a bit silly. The lack of sleep the night before definitely had us all feeling a little Disney!
When all of us, minus DuWap who ended up staying just below the cables due to his state of Disney-ness and upset stomach, saw the cables for the first time we learned that this was more than just a steep incline, it was almost straight up!

As we climbed the cables we learned how tricky it could be for two people with backpacks, going opposite directions, to pass each other in the cozy 2 foot space between the cables on either side of you. We learned that strong arms and good shoes are critical. I watched a Gatorade bottle slip from a pack at the top of the cables and tumble down past us all the way off the cliff. It was hard not to recognize that was probably the same path a person could so easily take with just one wrong step.

When we reached the top my mom and I learned that AT&T has coverage at the top of Half Dome! We couldn't resist a little bragging on our facebook status!

My mom and I felt tough for conquering The Rock, and were grateful for Reed and Shelley's invitation to join them on this journey.

We were all in high spirits enjoying the amazing view from the top, and the exhilaration of our feat until we felt a rain drop! The wind had picked up and brought in some nasty looking clouds.

We learned just how quickly we could forget about lunch, and head for the hills! We didn't need to learn the hard way what it feels like to be clinging to metal cables on the side of a granite rock when a hail storm hits, and you can hear the thunder roaring through the valleys and rumbling off the mountains around you, but that's exactly what we did.
I learned it was much easier to head down the cables backwards, that my push ups had paid off and my arms were totally capable of holding me up while the granite was slick beneath my feet. I was surprised that I was not gripped with fear , but rather a calm yet urgent understanding that we needed to get down as quickly as possible. Because of a few mindless folks who insisted on continuing to climb up the cables during the storm, and one very nervous young lady paralyzed by fear and shoes with no traction, it took just over an hour to get to the bottom of the cables. Shelley learned how loved she is as these two angels helped her down the cables after some sincere prayer.

We were all talking and relieved that we made it off the cables when Shelley and Charisse started to tease me about my hair looking funny, "it's standing straight up" they said. This got my moms attention immediately. We then learned the greatest tell tale sign of imminent lightning in your location is when your hair looks like you rubbed a balloon on it for a few seconds! We happened to be standing on the smaller of the two large rock domes without a tree in sight and about half a mile of rock switch backs before we were in the clear.

When my mom told us to hustle down the side of that rock we listened!

Sure enough a few seconds later the thunder rolled and then a bright finger of electricity flashed right in front us. There was so much electrical current in the air the pressure of it came upon Reed, the tallest thing around. He kinda crumpled to the ground, with his arms crossed over his head, and when I saw the look on his face I was really scared for the first time. We were all a bit giddy by the time we were under the cover of the trees again.

I learned that Charisse is a lot like Shelley and speaks her mind or the first thoughts that come to it, quite freely. They both kept us laughing all day! We heard all about Ohpeemea River and snickered about the strip-ED captain agrrrrr, and tried to get our photographer to focus on our faces! This shot was taken after we learned about Charisse's personal space and what was not allowed in it. We decided to continue to put off lunch yet again until we knew for sure whether or not DuWap was waiting for us where we had left him.

When he wasn't still waiting for us we decided to eat but couldn't find a place to sit that was dry, free from vomit or otherwise. So as we continued hiking with no meals since our Starbucks oatmeal 12 hours previously Reed dubbed the day Fast Monday.

When we finally did sit down to our pita pockets, hummus, pasta salad , crackers and cheese and the best salami ever, the only thing any of us wished for was an ice cold Diet Pepsi!

About 2 hours later all we were wishing for was the end of the steep granite stairs!
We were done hiking sometime around 8pm, and Shelley and I insisted on getting T shirts announcing our accomplishment. It was an amazing day with the greatest friends! I learned a ton on this trip and I can't wait to do it again!


shelleyv said...

Hey friend, What an amazing day! Great job on the post, you really told the story of the day! I can't wait for the next hike!

Janelle Ehat said...

That was SUCH a fun post! Mom told me a little about it but I loved reading about all the fun details!! I wrote a paper on my experience hiking half dome my senior year. I'll have to email it to you, it's kind of fun. Congrats on making it and not getting struck my lightning!

Aaron and Devon said...

Sounds like fun except for the whole lightning thing! I have always wanted to hike half dome. Maybe sometime.

Tawna said...

Jen-- that sounds amazing! I had no idea that Half Dome was such a long ordeal! And the lightning?! Good stuff, and gooood to know. :) Glad you guys all made it back safe, if only a little Disney. ;)

Kristen said...

You are a total "rock"star. hahaha, I kill me. Seriously, this is one thing I don't think I can ever do - every time Michelle tells me about those cables, I feel sick inside, so I am way impressed!