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Nevada and Vernal Falls, Yosemite National Park
Of the hikes we did, this one was the best. We actually made it out early enough to beat many of the hikers powering themselves up to Half Dome (which would be a 14-16 mile round trip). I think we'll have to reserve some additional time for that hike on our next visit.
On the way up, we stayed to the John Muir Trail. Although less scenic than the Mist Trail, it was also a less intense grade. After a few hours we arrived at Nevada Falls and had the opportunity to witness multiple people getting within a half a meter of death, i.e. to the edge of the cliff to get a picture at the top of Nevada Falls. Not surprisingly, there are far more deaths due to these sorts of mishaps than from bears and mountain lions.
We descended down the Mist Trail, which started with about 1/4 mile of very steep switch-backs on a rocky trail to reach the base of Nevada Falls. A short while later, we arrived at Emerald Pool and finally to the top of Vernal Falls. We descended very carefully on a sturdy but narrow set of rock-stairs with a railing. Pardoning the numerous people who were determined to get to the top, live, die, or kill someone else on the way (which seemed all to real a possibility given the terrain with their intensity), this was the most interesting part of the hike and where the name 'Mist Trail' comes from. A further descent down a less sketchy region of the trail left us very wet from the mist rising off of the bottom of the falls.
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