Half Dome — Page 11

Yosemite - Vernal Falls & Mist

Vernal Falls

Just across a wooden footbridge, we leave the thundering Nevada Falls behind and soon arrive at the Silver Apron and Emerald Pool, en route to Vernal Falls.

The Silver Apron is a broad granite fan surrounding Emerald Pool. Given our relatively close range to Curry Village, this area tends to be crowded with casual hikers and tourists. In years past, Emerald Pool was a popular sunbathing site—a practice the NPS now discourages.

The Emerald Pool Atop Vernal Falls Over The Edge Vernal Falls

In fact, signs advise not only of the danger of swimming here, but also that entering the water is a federal offense.

Why all the fuss?

Just below the placid waters of Emerald Pool lies Vernal Falls, and if you haven't guessed by now, swimmers here get swept over the falls with a little too much regularity.

While scenic and misty Vernal Falls isn't quite so high as Nevada Falls, it's still not the kind of place where you'd suddenly want to try to learn to fly.

The Mist Trail takes us right to the brink of Vernal Falls, where a guardrail lets us peer over the edge to oblivion with some degree of security. From here, the trail plunges right down Vernal Falls' headwall, in a not-too-modest display of trail engineering that cuts right through solid rock.

As Emerald Pool is far too gorgeous a place to ignore, I stop once again to refresh my water supply and soak my feet. A few hardened criminals (probably Europeans) are swimming in the pool, I see, in brazen defiance of the law.

I'd love to join them, but then again, as I eye the water's current, I decide maybe the feds are on to something after all.

After fifteen minutes or so of rest I'm back on the trail. I pause atop Vernal Falls to peer over the edge, which provides a great view of the trail ahead. The air seems less misty than usual today, which is probably for the best. The trail below the falls is particularly steep, with a prolonged section of steps that are slick enough to cause trouble even when they're dry.

Past the steps, the trail flattens, entering a bright green forest. Just past that, we rendezvous with the John Muir Trail, having completed the loop around the two falls. Curry Village is just another mile or two away, and after a long day on trail and cables, I'm looking forward to a hearty meal. True, it's not easy to leave the beauty of the Mist Trail. But I promise myself I'll come back soon.

next: Yosemite

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When there is snow, SierraDescents is Andy Lewicky's California backcountry skiing and mountaineering website. Without snow, sierradescents becomes an ill-tempered hiking and climbing blog.

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