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Photo Credits to Chris Jewison and Amanda Isis

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Outing 1: This Is What It's All About

The sun was shining, the weekend was unscheduled, and we were young. Thus is was decided the Cornell Bay Area interns would go to Yosemite for the weekend. For many, it was their first real camping trip.

Chris, Jashan, Amanda, Aaqib, Nick, Brian, Garen and I took Brian and Garen's car and played 20 question for the entire ride with my walkie talkies. We camped off a state forest road right outside the West entrance for free on Friday and Saturday night. This is Yosemite's best-kept secret. We chowed on a ton of food (Jashan brought some great surprises) and Chris and I rented a stove from REI to heat water. The night was warm and we took the risk of keeping food in the car because there were no suitable bear bag trees. A small regiment of ants did attempt to penetrate the tent.

Saturday we set out to hike the Mist Trail. It climbs up past Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls. The trails gets its name from the first falls, which soaks hikers with water and rainbows since the trail is so close to the raging water. Amanda brought her DSLR and took some amazing pictures. The snowmelt caused all of the falls to be the highest I have ever seen them. From the top of Vernal Falls, Yosemite Falls can be seen falling into the valley in slow-motion. It looks pained at sunset, not even close to real. We took the John Muir trial on the way down.

Brian had a bad headache that night and took a serious nap in his Subaru. Aaqib slept like a bear, obviously. "What does a brother have to do to get a pop tart around here?" He Inquired. The next day we completed our tour of falling water by hiking up the upper fall of Yosemite Falls before piling back in the car for Palo Alto.

Outing 2: Half Dome

Chris and I had the foresight to secure permits to hike Half Dome on July 9th when they were first published online April 1st. Both he, his father, and I tried to acquire a four-person permit, yet I was the only one that succeeded. Within the first 30 seconds all the permits for July and August were reserved online! After staying up all night April 1st, I was happy to snatch the digital voucher from the hands of the internet and sleep through class.

Yosemite is about 4.5 hours from Menlo Park, CA on a good day, so it is a bit far for a day trip. After work on Friday, Chris, Nick, Chris' father and I took Chris' father's rented white Toyota Camry to a motel a few miles outside the park in El Portal. For those dirt bag climbers out there, there is a pull-off with free camping in El Portal just a mile before the temporary bridge toward the park. Driving across the Central Valley of California is radically different than traveling through the scenery near the Pacific Coast or in the Sierra Nevada Range. It's as flat as the Great Plains and dotted with windmills, power line towers, and irrigation infrastructure. Wildfires are sometimes visible from the highway, and exits are scarce.

Our troop woke up around 5am and headed into the park, reaching the trailhead before 9am (due to Saturday traffic in the Valley). The hike begins on the Mist trail, climbing up Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls before turning up the back side of the Dome. Here, the majority of the trail's length occurs in switchbacks all the way up to the cables. Expect to have your permit checked by a ranger on the last ten switchbacks above tree line.

The day was hot and I gulped down three full liters of water over 9 hours on the trail, quite a bit for me. Most people start early and the summit is unfortunately quite packed around midday. We partook in some research using small GPS units to collect information about route choices on top of the dome. Chris and Nick failed to convince me to walk the letters of inappropriate words to mess with their data.

In order to get up to the top of Half Dome by hiking, you need to use two cables that run up the face of the cliff. The rangers put up the cables for the summer season and take them down in the winter. The cables are held away from rock by metal poles that come up to waist level. Pieces of wood at each set of poles gives hikers something to step on. There are even gloves at the bottom you can wear since the motion is really one of pulling yourself and your pack up the cable. The trek up the cables wen fine; the way down, not so much.

Once on the steepest section of dome, no one was moving downward for the remainder of the cables. After standing still for twenty minutes, I decided it wasn't safe to continue standing around for a while. Much to the distaste of everyone else waiting, I quickly squeezed passed them to see what was up. Some poor girl was so scared of the cables she wasn't moving anywhere and holding up everything. I coached her down the remaining wood slats and traffic quickly eased.

The way down was rough on everyone's calves, but we made it down before dark. Chris' dad kept up with us the entire time and we snapped a few sweet pictures of the valley and ourselves on the dome. The view down from Half Dome is one of the most spectacular view I've ever seen; it ties with the Alps above the clouds.