The Four Mile Trail

6 June 2014 in Hiking, Trails/Hiking, Traveling, Yosemite National Park

I suppose the Four Point Six Mile Trail didn’t have as nice of a ring to it as the Four Mile Trail, but considering it’s closer to five miles and it’s all up hill at a steep grade so it feels like seven miles they could have went with the Five Mile Trail or the Stairway to Heaven Trail. This trail ascends from the valley floor to Glacier Point. We have been avoiding it like the plague because it’s in the valley where massive congregations of visitors gather daily to dawdle, waddle and snap the occasional photo in between acts of terrible driving, littering, and spending money on souvenirs and overpriced food. But we had to pick up a fellow ranger this evening who was coming in from San Francisco on a bus so we made an exception.

We were in no hurry to get down there though and so we casually ate breakfast and readied ourselves before departing. With great patience I navigated us past the car choked parking lot nearest to the trailhead and found a place just down the road to park. It was almost lunch time by then and so we had a little bit of leftover stir fry before we left the truck and started our hike.

The sun was high in the sky, radiating down at full strength, but we were saved from its wearing affects by the protective shade of the trees which lined the trail. There was also a pleasant wind that at times turned strong enough to make a grab for my hat, but never cold enough to cause a chill. At first we saw very few people on the trail. Initially we passed a couple at the trailhead who seemed to be considering their options and along the way we crossed the occasional solo trekker, but for the most part the trail was surprisingly peaceful.

As we gained ground and elevation the views of the valley below grew more and more stunning. We soon spotted the Merced River slowly snaking its way through a series of drastic bends before straightening out for a very long stretch. The cars and busses gradually reduced in scale until they were just grains of sand rolling along a pencil line far below. Unfortunately these faint markers are not the only things that denoted our intrusive impact on this pristine valley. Parking lots, large hotels and their bright blue swimming pools also made their presence know from our high perch.

It may seem as though I’d wish to banish all others from this valley and greedily keep it all to myself. This is not the case, but I do see the terrible affects of heavy use daily. And it’s not every visitor, but the kind of visitor certain facilities facilitate for. When the place their visiting resembles a small city or an amusement park that’s how they will treat it. With concessionaires and shops every where you look selling everything you could possibly ever want it’s no wonder the valley floor is covered in litter. And these types of visitors require these comforts and the comforts of fine dining, swimming pools, golf courses and cushy beds cooled within temperature controlled rooms in order to survive a visit into the “wilderness”. Take away all these comforts and replace them with primitive camping and you rid yourself of the ever increasing wear of misuse.

But back to our trail. These feelings were awash in the middle where I was free from the attack of such thoughts and my mind was floating in the quiet tranquility of the trail. It was a wonderful trail carefully crafted long ago using the simplest of surveying tools. Its staircase-like nature carried hikers right up the steep side of the valley and the views were almost constant and constantly awe-inspiring. Along the way we made plans to re-hike this trail next spring when Yosemite Falls would be more than a wet stain on a large wall of rock—as it was now.

As we approached the summit the hoards who had driven up to Glacier Point descended upon us from above and the quiet trail became crowded. At one point an overweight lady with an American Flag t-shirt wobbled by with a small, white dog in tow. This was over a mile down from the top and it seemed unlikely that either would make the trek back up to the top. This irresponsibility and blatant disregard for the clearly posted rules regarding dogs on trails angered us, but not enough to say something. Out of uniform we doubted the affect we would have and so we passed on content in the fact that the way back up would be a major struggle for her.

When we made it to the top we joined the crowd for a brief moment and then promptly found a place a little off the paved path to eat our lunch. The rock squirrels—who have adapted to the visitors wasteful and foolish ways—mistook us for people who might feed them or drop something and were literally charging us from every direction even as we shook Lindsay’s hiking stick at them and tried to shoo them away. After eating we stretched out on the rock and took in the stunning view from Glacier Point. With Half Dome towering just a short distance away and Nevada and Vernal Falls still dropping pure white streams of water from their precipices the view is unimaginably beautiful.

After soaking in the sun and taking in the view we started back down the trail and back to the valley floor. It’s a lot easier on the lungs and heart going down, but harder on the feet and knees. But at nine miles it was an easy jaunt for us. We’ve gradually built up a tolerance to the trail and now a ten to fifteen mile hike is our average day hike. I’m not attempting to brag, but I am very proud of our abilities. I know others are more capable, but we have worked hard to get to this point and we’ll continue to put in the miles based on our pure love of the trail.

When we made our way to the bottom there was still a little time to kill before we had to pick up our friend and so we went for a refreshing dip in the Merced and idly watched the sun slowly set with our feet in the water, sat upon its boulder lined shore.


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