Yosemite National Park, California
With the Mist Trail closed for recovery operations, we decided to continue on to Nevada Falls along the John Muir Trail, thoughts of the accident slowly dissipated with each step. Even without knowing the details yet, the accident really put things into perspective for us. We weren’t exactly planning on doing anything crazy of stupid by any means, but it was just really eerie to know that by a few minutes, we missed someone dying a few hundred feet from where we currently were at the “attraction” (as the ranger put it) that we came to see.
Past Vernal Falls, the Muir Trail rose quickly in a series of switchbacks and since the pavement had ended, the amount of people had really thinned out for some enjoyable hiking, views of the valley behind us really opened up. Coming up over a lip in the trail, the 594-foot Nevada Falls was straight head with the immaculate granite domes of Liberty Cab and Mount Broderick rising 1,500 feet above to the North. This was Clark Point, now one of my all-time favorite spots I’ve ever stood.
The power of that water was incredibly apparent and even at a half mile, the roar was booming as the water falls the first 200 feet and then cascades along the slick granite the rest of the way to continue along the Merced River. As we sat sipping on a few beers, we could barely make out the bridge across the top of the falls and without any sense of how late in the day (relatively) it was already getting, we suddenly had a new goal.
The rush of Nevada Falls is one of the most incredible displays of power that I’ve ever seen. Standing below, the thunder was too overwhelming to even understand my own thoughts and even though I was being pelted with monsoon-like mist, I didn’t want to move. It was a perfectly white violent cloud racing over a cliffside against a Brandeis blue sky. Standing on the very sturdy footbridge over the raging Merced River twenty feet back from the water blasting over the cliff still gave me the sense the bridge is just about to be ripped away from under my feet. And an extremely strong feeling of vertigo that I had never experienced before set in while staring straight down 600ft over the crooked safety fence. I’d been to Niagara Falls multiple times, which despite it’s size, has rhythm and symmetry to it…. Nevada Falls was simply violent.
We went up to the well-known Tunnel View that overlooks the entire valley and along with my other closest 200 friends with camera gear, most of which was worth more than everything I own combined, I snapped away for the typical sunset shots across the valley. I was disappointed in most of the shots I took in that hour, but at the time, it definitely felt good looking around at the other photographers and noticing I was the only one who looked ragged and like they’d even gone hiking that day. They had the expensive photography gear and probably got better pictures, but I had the sense of actual accomplishment on the day.