80 Miles, Mammoth to Yosemite in Eight Days on Foot.

By Anna Guilford

Something I never imagined myself doing was hauling a 40 pound backpack through the mountains for a week, but I have never felt more proud of myself for doing so.

I was not experienced in the slightest…

     All I knew about backpacking was that it was pretty much all my boyfriend talked about, so I figured I should see what all the hype is about.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Packing my bag tested my patience and my organization skills…

     I was given the world’s largest backpack and a bear can, then sent on my way to spend $600 at REI. Now, filling a bear can might be more difficult than the actually hike itself, because you have to pack all of your food for the next eight days into one container, (and if you’re like me, you try to smash 87 pounds of food in it only to realize you cant’ shut it.) You never realize how much you eat in a week until you have to carry it on your back.

The trek started and the scenery blew my mind…

Once our bags were packed we drove seven hours to mammoth, grabbed our bags out of the car and set off on our first trail. Days two through six we hiked an average of seven miles a day, with a hefty 17 mile hike on day seven that truly tested my sanity. We hiked through rivers, up rock walls, through the rain, mud, on broken tree trunk bridges and through swarms of mosquitos. The views I saw cannot b described; they weren’t like postcards and they weren’t like paintings, they were surreal, the type of scenery that you never can fully absorb in your mind because everywhere you look your eye catches something different. When it came time to set up camp each evening, we boiled some water to pour into our freeze-dried meals and laid out our beds. The nights taught me the most. No cell service, no television, nothing to do except talk, play games, sing and play the ukelele around the campfire. I found the nights teaching me the most gratitude—you never truly miss your bed until you’ve slept in a sleeping bag on the ground with a pillow made out of down jackets, no tent and no protection—but it was worth every second of incredible, unobstructed views of the stars.

The last day of the trip reached new heights—literally…

Taking a breath (or seven) after reaching quarter dome, on the way to the cables.

Taking a breath (or seven) after reaching quarter dome, on the way to the cables.

Day eight. Yosemite. Half Dome. I had no idea what half dome was until I was in the middle of climbing up it. Half Dome tested patience, anxiety and strength that I didn’t even know I could feel in my body. This massive hike is in Yosemite National Park in California and is made up of about three miles of dirt path that leads to “quarter dome,” followed by rock that you basically climb straight up by holding onto wires, using muscles you didn’t know existed, for a total elevation gain of 4,800 feet, according to the National Parks Service website.

The hardest thing I’ve ever done…

Base of the Half Dome Cables, 400 feet up to the top.

Base of the Half Dome Cables, 400 feet up to the top.

The three mile hike to quarter dome was exhausting, gaining elevation with each step, but it seemed like a piece a cake once we reached the cables to the top. We grabbed some gloves and started our 400 foot ascent up to the top of the rock, which would not have been as much of a challenge if I had worn my hiking boots, but I wore Nike Free Runs! Rookie mistake, I nearly slid off and died about 14 times. Nevertheless I was determined and somehow I reached the top without falling off and taking everyone out on the way down. We were a lucky group, not only did we start the cable ascent much later than you are supposed to (the park rangers don’t want you on the cables once it’s dark), but we managed to have just our small group of seven, on the cables and on top of the rock—mind you half dome is one of the largest tourist attractions in the world—this was extremely rare.

“What’s Half Dome?”

This was the thrilling response I received from my mom and dad once we made it to the top as I called them with the tiny drop of cell service we had being over 8,000 feet in elevation, so excited to tell them what I accomplished and how scared yet overjoyed I was.

Still not sure how I survived the descension…

Again, I was wearing Nike Free Runs, traction did not exist. I knew there was no way i would be able to take small steps down the flat surface, so I held on to the cables, squatted down and slid slowly down 400 feet to the base.

This trip changed my life…

Coming back from the trip sort of felt like the ending of castaway, where Tom Hanks is sitting on the floor of his bedroom having almost forgotten how to function in modern advance society. The smallest thing felt like luxuries, like using a toilet, having fresh towels and running water. Sometimes I think about it I still can’t believe I actually went on this trip, even though I constantly look through the photos even years later. Backpacking was a trip that was purely preserved by the memories. Sure, I took hundreds of photos but I found myself feeling unsatisfied when I would pos them on social media. I was so eager to share with everyone what I had done but I realized there was no true way to explain or show people how incredible and difficult it was. There were days of tears, blood, fights, trips and falls, but they were moments only I and those who trekked with me understood. Backpacking taught me how to live off of only the things you truly need and how to make the most out of what you have. When you’re living in the forest you cant just grab a glass of water whenever you feel like it, you have to go pump it from the lake, you can’t just take a nap or shower or grab a snack at any given moment, you have to learn to work with what you’re surrounded by and what the environment offers to you.