When in Escalon, CA, be sure to eat at Groppetti's Deli for the finest (and happiest-looking) barrel roasted chicken this side of the Atlantic! Or so Tyler's painting would have you believe...

We didn't actually try the chicken, but Sarah was delighted by how pleased this bird was to be roasting in a barrel. The meatball sandwich was superb.

Sarah and Andre were the first the campsite, beating Team San Diego (who were dilly-dallying around Glacier Point) by a good 20 minutes. They weren't waiting for their friends very long, but just look at how much they got done:

The filled their water bottles (braving the stingy threat of numerous bees) and admired Andre's remarkably large collection...

...Sarah pretended to be food, and hid from some bears...

...Andre got down to some artsy fartsyness...

...and they spied on the neighbors and their portable castles.

Sarah immediately regretted forgetting her good headlamp at home once it got dark. The situation didn't improve when she replaced it with this double jointed monster, purchased at a nearby gas station.

I think Niral stepped on and broke close to seventeen pairs of sunglasses on this trip. Early on in the weekend, here's pair number two.

There were a lot of headlamps zooming around during this tasty burger session.

(Note: Sarah had removed her gargantuan replacement light by this point, claiming that the batteries had run out. Neck pain seems to be a more likely motive.)

Towards the right side of the picture you can see the dashed red trail of an airplane passing overhead.

We got off to an early start on Saturday morning. (A lot of good that did us!) Realizing we didn't have a map, we figured we'd just latch onto the passing crowds. Unfortunately, the crowd we joined (led by an enthusiastic gentleman who claimed to have done the hike last year) led us a mile in the opposite direction of the trail head. (See the extra little hook on the map below...)

Ridiculous as he appeared with his flag and jingling bell, we should have followed this dude. He must have charged up the thing because I saw him coming down long before we got to the top.

This sign warned us about bears in the area and we heard some people say they ran into a cub on the trail. But we didn't see any trace of them ourselves.

(Andre was more or less alone in his delight with how this bear is clearly interested only in the pic-a-nic basket.)

Alright...

I took a lot of pictures of dramatic rocky vistas, many of which have trees silhouetted in the foreground. I've tried to keep them to a minimum...

"Dramatic Rocky Vista, I"

"Dramatic Rocky Vista, II"

(Looking in towards the central Yosemite Valley.)

The first mile or so of the trail is paved and though it's steep, it's readily accessible to hikers and strollers alike. It's nice because after a long hike you know you're getting close to the end when you see toddlers and canes—like the appearance of seabirds after an open ocean passage. (This analogy, brilliant as it is, went underappreciated among the hike participants.)

Liz and Laura lead the way.

III

(This time venturing into artsier and fartsier territory, with the monochrome and slightly abstract composition.)

The girls. Don't be fooled by Lara's modest second place. At this point she was still saving energy for her uphill queen-of-the-mountain dash.

A pool of gold amidst a craggy rockscape as the Merced River cascades into Yosemite Valley.

Thanks to our pre-hike detour, we inadvertently evaded the early morning rush at the last manmade watering hole.

(Actually there were a bunch of people just off to either side. I cropped them out so's I could make this snappy caption!)

Usually you see a bunch of the same kind of animals on a long hike, but this was the only time I saw one of these neat blue birds. (A Steller's Jay, it would seem.)

IV

(Note: As the sun started coming up over the mountains, the previously black trees started getting a little more color.)

Liz and Laura on a switchback below (ergo: I'm faster!).

V

In this piece, the photographer entices us to consider the aesthetic merit (and originality) of another dramatic rocky vista... with trees silhouetted in the foreground.

This squirrel needed chasing.

The same squirrel, one lesson smarter.

VI

(Roll over the image to see the negative. I think it looks pretty cool!)

This joker thought it would be faster to cut the switchbacks. Looking back, I saw a lot of small tree tops swinging pretty wildly...

Liz approaching a gigantic Asian gaggle.

How could anyone resist being a little Ansel Adams-y in Yosemite?! Not that these photos are anywhere near that good, but the landscape makes it pretty easy!

(Yup... VII.)

These pictures don't really show it, but there actually were a ton of people on the trail.

Nevada Falls, in some of it's glory. (It gets a lot bigger, apparently, as stains on the other side would suggest.)

Awkward break photo. From left: Liz eating a giant stick of chalk, Laura blowing her nose with a candy wrapper, Lara and her lost buckle, Leandro and his rabbit-ear backpack evidence, Sarah's patented Camelbak pelvic thrust, and Niral's Nalgene pillow. (Not pictured: Andre, who's probably looking pretty cool and collected.)

John Muir built this phone booth himself in 1858 anticipating the invention of the telephone by nearly two decades. Though the phone itself has long since disappeared, the encasement and original RJ11 jack remain intact.

Remember how I said Lara was gonna run ahead of everyone else? (Well, we caught up to her at the bridge, but this was a taste of things to come.)

Furry old burnt tree.

Liberty Cap, with photographers/hikers in the lower right corner for scale.

(IX)

Awkward break number two. Stopping on this bridge was irresistible!

Leandro and Laura (obscured by Sarah's hand) pose for a photo and a photo of a photo being taken.

The views from the bridge were pretty much the same as everywhere else... but these views were from a bridge!

Andre felt it necessary to take a peek over the edge of the falls.

They say that the sound of running water makes you have to pee (or at least so cartoons would have us believe). I've never put much faith in that claim, but it would explain the disgruntled crowd hanging out near the last bathroom along the trail.

"Wussies Camp" if you ask me. (Real hikers do the whole fucking hike in one day!)

See what I mean? Arriba! Arriba!

I wonder if the big worms ate the little worms...

Tree shadow with self portrait.

It's hard to tell in this photo, but this bee has another (dead) bee attached to it. Nonetheless, it swooped Niral.

Sarah trying to peek around the corner to see if we're at the top yet.

 

Almost to the top, we pass another large gang of Asian hikers.

A large staircase, hewn into the shoulder of Half Dome, this was probably the most strenuous part of the hike. Riddled with illness, the valiant Sarah prudently decides not to overexert her weakened body. Her perseverance in making it this far was applauded by all.

After the staircase, there was a large area that seemed like a perfect place for a rest and a snack before the final burst of climbing. ("The Cables...)

This chipmunk was probably mostly interested in the snacks.

Holy shit.

Fortunately for Andre (everyone else brought their own) there was rainbow assortment of gloves at the bottom of the cables. He snagged a couple of work gloves and hopped on line.

So... You're on this slick granite mountain, climbing up the side, stuck in boot-to-boot Labor Day traffic, and clinging to the cables since your life depends on it, while the unobstructed high-altitude wind is trying to pry you off. Occasionally a water bottle rolls by with remarkable speed and somebody's hat flies off and tumbles over the side into the abyss. People are trying to go up and down in a passage between to slippery cables which are only two feet apart.

5. Pray.

En Español: 5. Ora.

(They don't tell you about the thunderstorms until the top.)

The rock at the bottom of this photo (which, coincidentally, looks like it might say "Andre) is at the top of Half Dome. Everything else in the picture is straight down. You can make out some switchbacks far in the distance in the center of the picture.

But actually, the top of Half Dome is pretty big! We had been wondering how anybody could possibly camp up here, but it seems pretty reasonable.

And, there's alpine citrus!

The dramatic ledge. A must for any camera. (Not to mention another dramatic rocky vista. What are we up to now? XVII?)

Liz and Lara, at the top.

She's kind of hard to make out, but that's Liz laying on the outcropping in the middle.

Not to be outdone, Gast ventures a limb out over the edge.

 

Typical rock formations.

Atypical rock formation.

Unless you went down backwards, as this wise girl is doing here, you had a gut-wrenching view of the drop below you.

Like a ridiculous mountaineering Brady Bunch, our heroes pretend like they aren't scared shitless.

In the end, we all made it down, reunited with Sarah who was keeping guard down at base camp, and started the long hike down.

Here's an unrelated photo of a tree with soft green mossy branches.

By the time we had gotten back to the bridge, the wind had changed directions and was blowing the dwindling waterfall uphill (visible as mist in this picture).

Presumably unbeknownst to the boy swimming in the background, this sign reads:

"Stay out of water! Powerful hidden currents will carry over the fall. Stay back from slippery rock at the water's edge. If you go over the fall, you will die.

The message is accompanied by a dramatic illustration of a hiker losing his grip as he desperately grasps at some slippery boulders.

From back: Half Dome, Mt. Broderick, and Liberty Cap. Take that Ansel! Three in one! (XXI)

Getting close. (We flew up the mountain, but now our knees were feeling it.)

What the hell... One more! (XXII!!)

Two flowers crane their stalks for the last rays of sunlight.

Down at the bottom we realized that if we weren't going to hike in one big group, we probably should have come up with some kind of meeting place. Half of us waited at the trailhead, while the other half waited in the parking lot, each group wondering where in hell the other one was.

Sarah makes the most of the wait with a good stretch. (Although she's seen smiling in this photo, just after the shutter she was heard to grumpily inquire, "why the *@&$! are you taking pictures of me?)

But in the end we all made it back and had some tasty Indian food and couscous and booze.

The next morning, back at camp, Andre once again felt like taking unnecessary pictures of the mossy trees.

Sarah posing with our favorite tree of the whole trip.

(This one's pretty cool too.)

This is what the trunk of a car packed with the gear of five people for a long weekend looks like.

And this is an SUV with Andre's and Sarah's crap.

Sarah looks over a now-nearly-vacant campsite.

And the gang looks forward to a long drive home.

Sarah, in her summery attire, alerts us to potentially hazardous terrain near the bottom of Bridalveil Falls.

Behold! The mighty, the unrivaled, the incomparable Bridalveil Falls! (Visible in this photo as a small plume of mist at the edge of the cliff.)

Recklessness.

Oh, and the drive back to Berkeley wasn't very fast...

 

Trip stats:

Distance hiked: 17.6 mi.
Elevation gain/loss: 4042 ft. (holy moly)
Unnecessary addendum: ~2 mi. (click here for more route information.)
Giant granite domes scaled: 1
Pants peed: 6/7
Sweet swimming hole sessions: 1/2
Pic-a-nic baskets pilfered by bears: 0
Dramatic rocky vistas blogged: 22
Well planned (and highlightered) trip with delicious food: 1!