Remember that feeling of setting a PR or finishing your first marathon. Those five minutes afterwards when you are on top of the world. You can walk on water, beat Usain Bolt in a 100-meter sprint, go five rounds in the octagon with Conor McGregor, or even (and this is the most impressive) catch 'em all, Pokemon Red Gameboy Color edition. That is the feeling you get reaching the top of Upper Yosemite Falls after three and a half grueling uphill miles, gazing in wonder out over the 2,500- foot waterfall towards the Half Dome. Heck you might feel invincible enough to Goldeneye swan dive off the cliff unharmed.
Hiking is usually an endurance event, but on this hike, it's the moments of intense bursts that are going to crush your will. A quarter to half mile of steep incline switchbacks is going to test your cardio and spike your heartrate more than 4 miles of slight incline hiking. Right from the jump you're going through the nine circles hell. Baptism by fire. The first half a mile of switchbacks doesn't even allow you to enjoy the enchanted green forest around you. But just when you're hunched over, cursing the first moron who decided to hike for fun (should have left it in ancient times like memorizing phone numbers) you get your first breathtaking view.
A brief respite of level ground leads into some downhill steps. Here is your first glimpse of the waterfall for which the trail is named. 2,500 feet high, the water pressure from that shower would sure please Kramer. Don't stop for too long because the hardest part is coming up. One of those stretches of trail where every downward hiker you pass tells you ten more minutes 'til the top, but somehow those ten minutes never pass. Just keep chugging along like the little engine that could in Major Payne and I promise, like I had to constantly promise my two hiking companions, you will arrive at the top. And it will be well worth all the pain and suffering to take a little siesta right next to the waterfall with dreams of the In-n- Out (7.3 out of 10) you are going to crush in L.A.
As with every hike, the way down is more painful on the body than the way up. That extra downward force of the knees, ankles, and toes starts to compound. I suggest hiking poles if you have any knee or ankle issues. And if you don't want to use them, strap them in between your back and backpack and pretend to be Legolas.
Yosemite has a lot to offer, more so from spring to fall when more hikes like the Half Dome are open. I recommend at least 2-3 days here, but if strapped for time one day is better than none to explore its beauty. Combine it with a trip to L.A. to surf, paddle board, and enjoy the beach or San Fran which after my recent visit seems to be one of the best cities to get an outdoor workout. Beautiful beach and water front paths and parks perfect for a run are interspersed with little workout areas. Adjustable rings instead of the standard pull up bars are great to get a full body workout and will have you feeling great when you get back home.
How to get to Yosemite: 5.5 hour drive from L.A., 3.5 hour drive from San Francisco.
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