“We need the tonic of wildness...At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable,…
“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
-Henry David Thoreau
Day 2 – Cloud’s Rest
The hike to the summit of Cloud’s Rest is a 14.2 mile round trip trail that starts at Tenaya Lake, rises approximately 3K feet in elevation and ends with an incredible view from the back of the valley, sitting 5K feet above the valley floor. It’s a great hike with a little less traffic and offers you a different perspective on Half Dome and El Capitan.
Even though I’d done 23ish miles the day before, I still felt pretty good and set out in the morning in good spirits. The first mile of the trail is very calm – a serene mountain lake, sandy footpaths and mostly flat ground.
The second mile is one of the most brutal sections of trail I’ve ever been on. You’re hit with a little over 1K in elevation change in less than a mile as you pick your way over rocks and rocky outcroppings. I was climbing this section along with several other groups, and all of us were stopping often, panting, heaving and wondering when it’d even out. It feels like the final stretch of a summit, but with none of the joy of reaching one.
Immediately following this, you plunge downward for a couple hundred feet and begin to question why you’re doing this. Luckily, the trail is much more moderate here in the middle section. You even pass by a quiet, pristine mountain pool and wind among giant boulders.
The last section of trail gets tough again, as you’d expect with the final stretch of any summit. After climbing above the tree line, it turns into a ridge hike, with a 5K foot bare rock drop down one side and 1.5K drop back into the forest on the other. I wouldn’t call it precarious by any means, the path is fairly broad, even and it’s not hard to get footing. But with those drops it’s easy for your mind to play tricks on you.
When you arrive at the summit, there are 360 degree breathtaking views. From here, you can continue on to Half Dome or turn back as I did. That brutal section isn’t any easier on the way down, and the cool waters of Tenaya Lake felt amazing on the battered soles of my feet.