First hike of the season! My cross-country skis have been stored away and the hiking boots waterproofed and readied for another year. My strategy has always been to complete the Yosemite Valley hikes in early spring, before the summer crowds. Just last week a snowstorm hit Yosemite (and my home), but today the sun shines and hints at the start of spring. I’ve hiked this trail countless times, and each time it rewards me with a different story of the landscape: the lighting on the granite, the varying path of the water as it crashes down the cliffs, and once, even a black bear ambling down the trail to greet me.
I also have the pleasure of being able share the park with a new partner, which allows me to experience the hike through his perspective. His fresh eyes see things I’ve previously missed. He’s in good shape, but new to high-elevation hikes. I warned him of the 3,000 feet of elevation gain on this trail, but he’s proven himself to be a trooper and he’s not even breathing heavy. We both seem to hike at the same pace and have an affinity for chocolate – perhaps I’ve found the perfect hiking partner!
At the first viewpoint of the falls, a short distance past Columbia Point, we pause for photographs and enjoy the mist from the pounding water as the wind carries it to us. Shad pauses to experiment with f-stops and exposure settings; he just bought a camera and is learning photography. It’s all too technical for me—I prefer the ease of a good point and shoot. At the top of the ridge the landscape blooms with snow patches, and I assembly a snowball that my companion easily dodges. "Don’t interfere with art," he says, using his camera as a shield against a further attack.
After descending the rock staircase, we come to the to the top of the falls. Shad leans precariously over the railing in pursuit of a good photograph, while I stay further back, being a bit chicken of sheer heights. I’m close enough to see the surge of water over the cliff, a rolling motion of whiteness.
On the way down, I add a different picture to my memories of the landscape: the wind has strengthened and it plays with the falls, twisting and turning the stream of water the way the breeze will tease a curtain in an open window.