This is Part 3 of 4, about Joanne Z. Tan’s true stories of climbing Clouds Rest in Yosemite, and a dialogue with a quail in the wilderness.
To watch this Part 3 as a video (that has WAY MORE spectacular photos and videos)
To listen to Part 3 as a podcast
The next morning after our Half Dome adventure, Daley had a hard time getting up, in spite of my repeated calls: “Daley, get up!” Since he loved building campfires, I said: “I am being attacked by insects now, please get up to build a fire!” That worked.
After breakfast, I felt a very strong urge to leave for Clouds Rest RIGHT AWAY, but Daley was taking his time extinguishing the fire. I did not know why I was propelled to leave URGENTLY and shouted at Daley not to dawdle, in a command and control manner. He was not happy.
We left the camp site at 9am with our trekking poles, day packs on our backs, each containing our own windbreakers which were used as raincoats as well as warm clothes when the weather turned cold, a full bladder of filtered water with dissolved electrolyte powder, and an additional spare nalgene bottle of clear water (in case of injuries, for washing wounds, thanks to scout training), water filter pump, first aid kits, snacks, energy bars, trail mix, beef jerky, and of course, my Garmin satellite navigation and SOS device…
There were only two of us in the entire first two and half hours of climbing up the mountain trail. We videoed pretty bird songs, crossed babbling brooks, took pictures and videos of the awesome views of distant snow-capped mountains under blue sky and brilliant white clouds, and Half Dome’s turtle-face on the top, viewed from the other side of the beak-shaped lip….
“Solitude. Peace. Power. It is so different from the noisy, contentious world we came from.” I said to my son and he agreed.
As we kept climbing up the switch back trails, and the elevation neared 9,000 feet above sea level, I noticed that my steps became more labored and slowed. Daley started to feel light headed, then headaches, difficulty breathing, even some level of delirium.
We kept going, slowly, taking breaks. The trail was now often covered with heaps of snow, and we could not see the trail and lost it a couple of times. My preloaded route maps on Garmin Mini 2, and Garmin Explore app on my cell phone navigated our way back to the trail. Finally we reached the summit, at about 9,900 feet above sea level.
I did not know that Clouds Rest is higher than Half Dome by an extra 1,100 feet. We looked down at the top of Half Dome from our side of a nature-made wall of granite. On the other side of the natural wall was a precipitous drop to the bottomless abyss below. One look down made me grab the rock wall closer with fear. On our side was life, evidenced by the fear and awe in our labored breathing and the smell of our sweat-soaked shirts; on the other side was death, the moment one’s foot landed on the slanting slabs of rocks, it would lead you down into the deep valley below, matter-of-factly.
Again, we felt like being in the clouds, cheek to cheek with the vast majestic sky.
Above the wall, there was the peak of Clouds Rest about another 100 feet high, made of random and precarious piles of granite rocks, without any vegetation but loose gravel and sand on top of rocks, all weathered by the sun, rain, snow, and wind. The rocks were not made for easy ascent. With one slip, you would roll down the steep granite slabs down to your guaranteed death thousands of feet below.
Among the hikers who arrived there with us – a single man, a young couple, and two other men – no one had any desire to even think about climbing to the top of that rocky summit. One look at it was enough. That pile of rocks would also be the highest antenna for receiving the first electric charge from any rain clouds.
Then we saw a vast patch of gray rain clouds fast moving towards us.
“Let’s get down, NOW!” I said after we had taken our last photos and videos.
“Never climb Clouds Rest in a thunderstorm”, people say, because it would be the perfect spot to be struck by lightning.
We hurried with caution to get off the huge boulders and were debating if we should continue the loop or take the same route back to camp. I wanted to go on the loop, but it would take about 4 miles longer than reversing course. Daley urged me to take the same route back to camp, which would be faster. For reasons I did not know, I found myself following a young man who was returning on the same trail.
About five minutes later, we felt raindrops on our bodies. We put on our windbreakers/rain jackets, and speedily retreated on the trail back.
About half an hour later, we heard thunder.
The same beautiful and striking scenery that we had taken photos and videos of in the morning, now were covered with gray clouds and not photogenic.
About two hours later, around 3:30pm, the very moment we hurried back to our campsite, the rain started to come down. Daley and I sat on our bear canisters, protected under the canopy of a pine tree, ate some freeze-dried bananas and berries I had bought from Trader Joe’s. After covering our big backpacks with rain covers and plastic bags, we crawled inside our respective tents. The splattering rain drops on the rain flies soothed us to a comfortable nap inside our warm down sleeping bags, when the outside temperature suddenly dropped.
Had we left the camp in the morning 10 minutes late, we would not have been able to reach the summit of Clouds Rest.
Had we not followed the solo hiker, we would have ended up coming down the mountain in the rain, thunder, lightning, and most likely soaking wet and cold.
I felt deep gratitude for God and his Angels.
Daley kept reminding me: “See? I told you we shouldn’t take the loop! I was right!” He was.
The next morning, we both would face the dangerous descent of 3,665 feet down to the Valley on the Mist Trail, next to dangerous cliffs, on steep and slippery rocky steps, among ignorant tourists. It scared us more than Half Dome since we both would be carrying more than 30 pounds of weight on each of our backs. We wanted to prevent any slip and fall at all costs, but that exactly happened to Daley. Stay tuned to Part 4 of 4, coming up.
Something else I want to share with you here, not about Clouds Rest but an enchanted encounter with a quail in my first week in Yosemite, when I was hiking up the Panorama Trail: a full fledged quail stepped out of the bushes next to the trail, about 2 feet away, and she was not afraid of me at all. I started to talk to her, and she cooed back to me! We had a conversation where we each understood each other. I then took out my cell phone and videoed how she truly was talking with me while crossing right in front of me. Isn’t it the way God wanted us to do? To take care of all creatures on Earth, to protect them. They trust us! Like children trust their mother and father, like your dogs and cats trust your love. Here is the video, you can see and hear for yourself:
(video of a quail conversing with Joanne Tan.)
Stay tuned to Part 4 of 4, coming up. , or read it on 10PlusBrand.com/blogs
To watch part 4 as a video (that has the MOST breathtaking photos, videos of Yosemite)
To read part 4 as a blog
To listen to part 4 as a podcast
© Joanne Z. Tan (Written June 22 – July 6, 2023) All photos by Joanne Tan or her designee. All videos by Joanne Tan, all rights reserved.