Last weekend started out pretty typical: my boyfriend and I made the four-hour drive to Yosemite for a few days of climbing with friends. But what I wasn't counting on was sleeping in that first morning and missing my chance to climb. Left alone, I figured I might as well go for a hike. My original plan was to do a two-mile hike to the base of Vernal Falls — ha! Twelve hours and 17 miles later, I had endured one of the most difficult treks of my life.
I would caution anyone to face a long distance challenge with a friend — especially for safety reasons. But if you've ever stopped yourself from going on a long run, hike, or bike ride because you were alone, it's worth considering as long as you do your research and come prepared. I can't remember the last time I felt so completely gratified and accomplished. Here are the things that helped me endure the trek.
- Do your research. While I wasn't expecting to go beyond Vernal Falls via the Mist Trail and then take on Half Dome, I was prepared. It's a hike I've always wanted to do so I knew what to expect. I studied it enough to know the route and trail conditions with confidence. I also had done the Mist Trail (the beginning of the hike to Half Dome) several times in my past.
- Be prepared. I didn't expect to go on a epic hike, but I did expect to be away from my camp until sundown, so I packed appropriately. In my pack I had enough food and water to last me beyond a full day. I also had extra layers of clothing, a headlamp, map, sunscreen, and a compass.
Find out what other tips helped me on my trek, and share your own stories with me when you read more.
- Practice safety. Luckily, in Yosemite you can get cell phone reception. I made a point to send text messages to my ggroup letting them know where I was going and when to expect me back. I always keep my ID on me, and when hiking or climbing, I carry a whistle and blinking headlamp. It's a surefire way to get the attention of people from a distance in case you need help.
- Know your limits. I saw many people of the trail struggling who had to turn back. Don't push yourself beyond your limit of safety, and make sure to rest. I definitely took time to let my body regain strength before trekking up another difficult push. On the other hand, don't give up if you know you can make it. Enduring a long distance hike or ride alone can be challenging and lonely — I made a point to motivate myself with little mantras throughout the day.
- Talk to people. On the trail I tried to speak to people and it paid off in multiple ways. It helped combat the solitude, and I was able to pick up on some knowledge from those more familiar than I was.
Again, I want to stress that if I could have done this with a partner, I would have. While I definitely don't recommend doing the hike to Half Dome alone to everyone, I think it is very liberating to try and meet some physical challenge on your own.