Water Sight to Behold

By Ernie Witham   |   July 15, 2021
Bridalveil Falls turned into a spectacular rainbow

I nodded at the approaching hikers. “We’re the official counters,” I said. Pat, sitting beside me, pretended to log it into her phone. There was a steady stream of hikers both coming and going, but we weren’t really counters of course. And the only thing officially we were – was out of breath. 

We were on a steep part of the trail up to Vernal Falls in Yosemite National Park, which climbs about a thousand feet in a little over a mile. Our goal was just to make it to the bridge where you get your first glimpse of the waterfall. “That part’s only eight-tenths of a mile,” I told my somewhat reluctant wife. “Cake walk.” 

It was a gentle slope at first and we actually went quite a ways before we stopped for our first “sit-a-spell.”

“Cake walk?” Pat said. “You didn’t tell me we would be walking up the side of the cake.”

Since that first stop, we were averaging about 100 yards between rests. And our sea-level legs were feeling a bit wobbly, which made me nervous. See, I fell off a mountain once. It was in New Hampshire. I was hiking with my Boy Scout Troop. We had stopped just short of the peak at a watering hole to fill our canteens. I thought I’d be clever and be the first to the summit. I scurried up the path, stood on a rock overhang and, leaning over, pretended like I was going to jump into the watering hole. That’s when I slipped. I landed on my butt, soaking fellow scouts and earning a colorful bruise that resembled President Lyndon Johnson staring into a great abyss, though, without any Internet back then, only a lucky few ever got to see it. 

“Wow. Thanks for sharing that!” Pat said. “And I’m guessing that the reason you have been holding my hand the whole time is not just affection.”

“After more than 30 years of marriage, I just figured if I slipped over the edge this time, you’d want to come with me.”

“Of course. Or… I could stay up here and direct the rescue operation. Make sure they spell your name right in the newspapers. Tell them the bruise story. Maybe this time, you’ll get a Grizzly bear-shaped one. And why don’t I go ahead and hold the snacks and water bottle for the rest of the hike.”

My wife thinks of everything. 

I knew the hike would be worth it. All the waterfalls and streams at Yosemite were raging. The previous day we had walked to the base of Yosemite Falls and took a selfie that artfully included not only the scenic wonder but 50 other couples behind us with upraised iPhones. Hope their shots featured more than two large noses and my index finger.

For lunch, we had eaten at the famous Ahwahnee Hotel’s Dining Hall, which is usually open just to people staying there, but being early in the season, they let us in even though we were staying at the less expensive Yosemite Lodge, which sounds far more romantic than it is, having last been updated when the buffalo still roamed.

Late that afternoon, we had driven to the famous Valley overlook on the Route 140 entrance road. The lighting was incredible! And we reconnected with a lot of the folks from Yosemite Falls.

“Hey, aren’t you the guy that dropped your phone like 20 times trying to take a selfie?”

As the sun went lower, Bridalveil Falls to the right became a rainbow. It was spectacular! Collectively, I think the overlook group took like a million photos. One guy took a time-lapse of the fast-moving clouds by setting his phone into the crease of his hat, which he balanced on the wall.

“Dude! You’ve got the perfect tripod hat. You should market that.”

“Ha! Good idea.”

“Fifty-fifty on the profits?” No answer.

Now, we were on the verge of our Yosemite waterfall trifecta. It took three more stops, but we indeed made it to the Vernal Falls footbridge. The river was cascading thunderously, and the falls in the background were beautiful.

“Well, should we keep going up?” I asked. “Or head back for lunch?”

It was a dumb question.


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