This weekend, Julia and I took Owen on his very first road trip, to Yosemite National Park. Being first time parents with an infant, we’ve been really careful since his birth, but decided it was time to get out and show him some of the world. The drive up to Yosemite was rather uneventful. He’s been a really easy baby thus far, and his relaxed demeanor in the car for our drive up has us excited for more adventures to come. We made a few stops along the drive up, but the first one of note was Tunnel View from HWY 41. Tunnel View offers up one of the most spectacular views of Yosemite Valley. I know Owen can’t see it now, but it will be cool to take this same shot with him year after year as he grows up.
As readers of this blog know, Julia and I usually opt for a campsite far away from the confines of summer crowds and tourism. With a baby, we had to forgo that preference on this trip, and stayed at the Yosemite Valley Lodge. It was a pretty nice hotel, but an absolute nightmare on arrival. Yosemite is experiencing another record year for tourism, and the park’s infrastructure is not built to handle it. It took us nearly 2 hours to drive from Tunnel View to Yosemite Lodge due to the large number of visitors. I can’t wait until Owen is old enough to sleep in a tent. I don’t think I’ll ever visit Yosemite Valley on a summer weekend again.
After checking in and unpacking, we prepped Owen for his first mini-hike around Yosemite to see Yosemite Falls. It was a short hike, but an exciting one. Once Owen is old enough to support his own head, we’ll be able to take him along just about anywhere.
After hiking to Yosemite Falls, we made our way back towards the Yosemite Lodge for dinner and some rest. I haven’t been able to get away for long hikes since having Owen, so I’ve picked back up my old love of trail running. Trail running allows me to see the same great trails and outdoor views as I see on hikes, but in about a third of the time. For day two in Yosemite National Park, I planned to start at 5:00 AM for a run to the summit of Half Dome.
For my ascent of Half Dome, I started with the Mist Trail that passes by Vernal Fall. The first stretch of trail here is all on asphalt before crossing a bridge, and climbing a long flight of stone steps. It was hard to keep a running gait here, not just because of the steep trail, but because of the beautiful pre-dawn views I got to take in with no one else around.
After passing Vernal Fall, the trail continues to climb steeply up towards Nevada Fall. My legs were feeling pretty tired at this point, and the flat stretch of Little Yosemite Valley was a welcome respite. From Little Yosemite Valley, I continued to climb until I began to take in my first views of the summit of Half Dome.
The final mile to the summit of Half Dome is a tiring and harrowing experience. The switchbacks pushing up towards the subdome always seem to blow my quads out. My legs were especially tired this time given that I was running. My hiking legs have a lot of catching up to do! After reaching the top of the subdome, I was staring up at the infamous cables of Half Dome.
The cables can be a point of congestion on this hike in the latter parts of the day, but I was lucky to be heading up towards the summit fairly early in the morning. I was able to haul myself up the cables without any interruptions, and before I knew it, I was looking down on Yosemite Valley.
As much as I was enjoying the summit of Half Dome and the views of Yosemite Valley, I knew I need to get back to Julia and Owen. The time will soon come when I can enjoy longer days out on the trail, but in these early months of Owen’s infancy, both parents are needed in action without much time for breaks. I climbed down the cables, and decided to take the John Muir Trail back, and passed on what I knew would be a crowded Mist Trail. Julia and Owen were enjoying their time at the Yosemite Lodge when I returned, and after a shower, I helped pack up our gear for a long car ride home. Owen’s first visit to a National Park was a short and sweet one, but showed to us how much he is already capable of. We’re looking forward to many more adventures with him in the near future.