Clouds Rest

Everyone knows that the best things in life are free.
Hikes are among them. If you like the outdoors, the masochist pleasure of sore muscles, and the unique pride to reach an exceptional summit, Clouds Rest is for you.
Since I live forty-five minutes away from the south entrance of Yosemite National Park, the park is a little bit like my backyard. The trailhead for Clouds Rest, though, is off Tioga Road, almost at the end of the park, near Tenaya Lake, three hours away from my home.
Five of us – two adults and three teenagers – left yesterday morning at six a.m., up to the challenge. 
Excitement filled the car. 
It was the first demanding hike for my daughter since she started high school, four years ago. 
It was a test for me.  
After a knee surgery last summer related to a ski accident I didn’t hike anything strenuous since September 2010. Actually my last hike in September 2010 was Clouds Rest. I had found it easy in comparison to Half Dome that I had just hiked on a full moon night.
Yesterday, surrounded by three teens and a seasoned hiker, I was full of apprehension and hope too.
Although we got a very dry winter season here in California, the trail was wet and snow hadn’t melted everywhere yet. The trailhead starts at about 7 000 feet and we had to take our shoes off to cross a pond made of the melted snow and the unexpected rain that we got on Monday.
I thought it added some excitement to the hike, but the three kids hated it. Soon I shared their complains as mosquitoes swarmed around us. 
I remembered an easy, well-marked trail, but it was a more challenging terrain in the spring and I was cautious. Snow was still thick in some sections and the trail less evident to follow. The sound of water accompanied us all the way up. 
The summit at 9 930 feet was as outstanding as it was in my memory. The panoramic view on Yosemite Valley with Half Dome in the background is the best in the park. A marmot kept us company at lunchtime. The teenagers were in awe!
The way down took us three hours compared to four to climb up. My knee was complaining a little, but everyone else said it was tough to go through the slippery mile and a half switchbacks for them as well. 
We bought ice cream bars at the gas station halfway between the trailhead and the village. Even the most expensive bars were cheaper than the gallon of gas sold at 5. 10 for regular. Glad I gased up the day before. 
I had promised pizza to the kids so we got some in the Curry Village. 
After such a hike, it’s okay to have both ice cream and pizza, and even to get dessert first!
I only wish we had made reservations to spend the night  in Yosemite. It was a lovely night in the park. People speaking all kinds of languages filled the paths. I was proud to live so close to such a renowned beautiful place. 
It was a full, intense day, filled with sun, physical challenge, and beauty. The kind of day that leaves you tired but filled with life. I fell asleep after a quick shower. I read as I always do every night, but the  words conjured images of the trail. 
I fell asleep wondering if the marmot was still at the top of Clouds Rest. 




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