HIKING JOHN MUIR HALF DOME TRAIL Yosemite National Park California

Hiking Team: Dave Miller, Holly Miller 

Hiking Date:  July 2009

Holly and I started up the famous John Muir Trail at the Happy Isles Trailhead in mid-afternoon with no intension of making it all the way up to half dome and back by night.  We wanted to see how far up we could go on this moderate to strenuous trail. We actually ended up hiking up about 2,000 feet in elevation approximately four miles one way (8 miles round trip) or about 50% of the way to half dome before turning around. We began in shaded forest area but the trail would open to a few meadows as we slowly ascended. After a 1,000 foot climb we crested a hill and was on a flat area where we heard our first waterfall, Vernal Falls (Photo#2). This was one of several falls as part of the Merced River. He ascended a hundred or more steep rock steps along a rock cliff that was slow, tough climbing (Photo#3).

We sat on a rock to rest next to the river that ran over the cliff creating a long 317 foot waterfall. Holly fed some squirrels and I read the signs telling people not to wade into the shallow river as many hikers have lost their lives when the current took them right over the falls. The trail took us about 100 yards parallel to the stream and you could see how enticing it would be to waterslide (Photo#4) down the stream (which is called the Silver Apron) except…if you didn’t stop you would plummet over Vernal Falls to your death.  The trail took us back into a semi-wooded area for over a mile we ascended another 900 feet where we could see a beautiful large waterfall off to our right called Nevada Falls (Photo#5) which has a 594 foot waterfall. We went a little farther then turned around to head back. We would like to come back and hike all the way to half dome someday but I am told for safety, it is now a lottery system as they only let so many hikers make the final trek across the dangerous chain railing to the dome. Still this was a memorable hike with great scenery and of course, Holly is a great hiking companion.

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