Wait, where's Part III? Here you go: Hiking Yosemite Part III: Up The Half Dome
Eventually I give up waiting for someone to show up with a wing suit or some BASE jumping equipment and decide to make my way down the treacherous Half Dome cables.
However, the way down poses an entirely new challenge: people.
And these aren't just any people, these are panicky, confused, irrational people who are outdoors for what may be the first time ever (whoever suggested that they climb Half Dome was obviously hoping they wouldn't come back).
My trip up Half Dome was relatively relaxed. I was free to pace myself and I did not have to worry about people coming up behind me or down in front of me (i.e. I was moving slowly).
Coming down, a literal queue of people now crowds both sides of the cables, and the slow-moving mass does nothing to inspire confidence that I am safe from hikers tumbling down the mountain and taking me out on their way down (but at least I will have plenty of cushioning).
A quarter of the way down I decide that stopping at every twenty feet to wait for the next uphill (or downhill) hiker to advance represents a level of efficiency that I am not comfortable supporting (what my efficiency supporting threshold is, I have no idea).
The solution? Step outside the cables, and walk along the outside of the “trail” using just one cable to ensure I do not slip and fall to my death.
On a side note, I now realize why people at the top of the subdome were wearing harnesses: people are clipping themselves onto the cables to ensure that a slip will only result in their falling to the next downhill set of posts.
As I watch a girl above me begin to lose her shit (literally, I think she pooped herself), I duck under the cables and make my way to the subdome.
The rock offers surprisingly good grip and despite the terrified “what the hell are you doing” looks from everyone on the cables, I make it down unscathed (and if you decide to do this and get yourself killed, then don't come crying to me).
I reach the subdome and continue downwards towards the ranger checkpoint, when suddenly I run into the family I met on top of Clouds Rest (I guess we made pretty good time). After a stop-and-chat, I continue down the subdome to rendezvous with Moist.
We retrieve our gear at the bottom of the Half Dome trail and continue our trek down into the valley via the Mist Trail (a shortcut to our original plan, but apparently one that offers some nice views of water running off of various cliffs).
Coming down a particularly steep and narrow set of rocky switchbacks I look down the hillside and spot a ranger moving towards us.
Even though we have permits (and are close enough to a trailhead to be a day hikers (which would mean we don't need permits)), my disdain for authority still causes a moment of panic within me.
A minute later and we are face to face. After the traditional “pretending to be interested in your hike, but actually just fishing for information” questions, the ranger asks the inevitable, “Do you have your permit handy?”.
Knowing what he wants me to do, but deciding to be a smart ass instead, I respond, “It's not handy, but I have it.”
“Can I see it?” he asks, unamused with my literal interpretation of his question.
Forgoing the obvious “can/may” scenario, I decide to play nice, “You may,” I tell him as I take off my pack and retrieve my wilderness ticket.
“Mind if we grab a picture together?”
“I do,” he says as he hands me back my permit and continues up the trail.
I guess not everyone wants to be my friend. Sad face.
From this point forward things start to go downhill (literally and figuratively).
The Mist Trail (our route into the valley) is absolutely packed. We have to push my way through crowds of oblivious hikers who for some reason insist on taking pictures four across, in the middle of the trail (I hope they all go over the falls).
In addition to their bothersome presence, I have found the average day hiker to be far less friendly than anyone you encounter in the backcountry.
Whenever I find myself approaching a trailhead, unadulterated views of the surrounding nature and the friendly “how are yous” of the backcountry gradually give way to crowds of amateur photographers and the screaming of children (or parents at children).
I can't get to the bottom fast enough.
Reaching the bottom first, and being the good friend that I am, I decide not to wait for Moist as I catch a bus back to the village, assuming that he will figure to meet me there (I think we had a conversation about this?).
On the bus, two young girls wave to me and as wave back wondering what is going on, the man sitting next to them (who I assume to be their father) says, “Good to see you again.”
Naturally, I have no idea who these people are, and I proceed to have a vague conversation attempting to disguise said fact (why don't I just ask them? Because sometimes I like to challenge my on the fly rhetoric) while they discuss with me their plans for the rest of the day.
Five minutes later and no closer to finding out who these people are, the shuttle pulls up to my stop and I bid my mysterious friends adieu (maybe they're my stalkers – how exciting).
A quick visit to the store and now armed with a day's worth of food and beer, I head to a table in front of the shop and proceed to sleep without eating any of my bounty.
Eventually I wake up and eventuallier Moist shows up to join in the feast.
Our time in Yosemite has been fun, but it's time to move on to the next adventure.