After five days of running loops around Yosemite Valley I had tread every trail leaving the valley floor, many of them on both the ascent and descent. Therefore I realised that day six would not be able to include a single step of trail that I had not tread before. It was my final running day in the park, planned to be a little shorter, and the following morning I would leave out of the park’s southern exit.
I decided that I would roughly reverse the run I had completed on my second day in the valley. I would start with the same ascent as the previous day, climbing up Four-Mile Trail to Glacier Point. Then I would take Panorama Trail (where I had spotted a coyote) down to Illouette Falls and would end up at the top of Nevada Falls. I would take Mist Trail back down to the valley floor, which I had not yet descended, but I knew would be packed with a lot of day walkers.
Just as I set out from my campsite to cross the valley floor to the start of the Four-Mile Trail I ran into a lady who was looking for the same trail but headed in the wrong direction. I slowed to a walk and started giving directions but instead decided that I would walk her to the trail. So we set out towards the Swinging Bridge to cross the river and chatted as we made our way. We were both planning to follow the exact same route, although her walk would take 7.5-8 hours while I was planning to finish my run in under 4.5 hours. We walked and talked for a short way up the Four-Mile Trail until I decided to push up the pace, so we bade each other farewell, and I picked to running pace where possible.
I enjoyed a great climb up to Glacier Point and then stood at the viewpoint for my third time that week to take in the view of the valley below. With the shorter run, and with water fountains at two points along my route I was only travelling with two 17-oz (500-ml) soft flasks rather than a hydration bladder. I refilled my bottles and took off for my final descent into the valley.
I dropped down towards Illouette Falls on the Panorama Trail, with no coyote in sight this time. I stopped at the falls for some photos, and then remembered that I would have one more ascent up from the falls to remember Yosemite by. I soon topped out once again and this time knew that it was all downhill through to the end.
Having skipped the climb up to Glacier Point the previous day I decided that I would head up for what is considered as one of the best views in Yosemite National Park. I had spoken to a ranger who enjoys running around the park the previous evening and he had suggested that he preferred to climb up via the Panorama Trail and descend via the Four-Mile Trail so I decided that I would follow his advice.
I took the shuttle bus out to the Happy Isles trailhead, and started my day by ascending the very same trail that I had descended to finish my previous day: the John Muir Trail. It was a serious climb but the grades on the switchbacks meant that it was possible to run a lot of it. I reached the top of the Nevada Falls for the second day in a row, and turned onto the Panorama Trail for my climb up to Glacier Point. The trail crosses over the top of Illouette Falls before providing a view of the falls as they drop into the canyon below.
After leaving the falls I was ascending some switchbacks when I heard sounds in the brush alongside the trail, and looked around to spot a wolf heading in my direction parallel to the trail about 15 feet (5 metres) below me. It looked at me and I waved my hands above my head to look bigger, but it continued past me without much consideration. I watched it continue on while I set off once again along the trail. Not far ahead I bumped into a couple, and started the “Did you see that?” conversation only to hear the accent and realise that they were fellow Australians.
I continued on once again, turned at another switchback and started heading back in the direction in which I had seen the wolf. I started to see more people on the trail and advised them to keep alert. I then saw the wolf climb up onto the trail and start heading away from me along the trail. But then it spotted some people heading directly towards it, so it reversed direction and headed towards me instead. It was trying its best to avoid people but had stumbled upon a very busy section of trail. It diverted down off the trail before reaching me and that was the last time I spotted it. I continued to advise people as I went along, and when I reached a ranger-lead group he advised that it was a coyote rather than a wolf, since no wolves exist in the park. I was quite surprised since I had always thought of coyotes as being smaller than this sample, having a more copper-coloured coat, and having less fur on the face. But I did do some research afterwards (thanks to Google) and found that coyotes can have a more red-tinged coat with sleeker fur (obviously more suited to the drier terrain of states such as Arizona), but can also have a grey coat with more fur (obviously more suited to the mountainous terrain of the Sierra-Nevada Mountains).
Before reaching Glacier Point I reached the trail turnoff that would take me up to Sentinel Dome, which is 1400 feet (400 metres) higher and provides 360 degree views. I took the turnoff, climbed up for 1.5 miles (2.4 km) and admired the views. On the descent I surprised a guy possibly in his 50’s on his mobile phone, who obviously considered himself a fast walker, so he mentioned to the person on the other side of the connection that he was being overtaken by a runner. I retraced my way back to the same turnoff as previously and then continued to Glacier Point. Having worked hard to make my way up there it was a bit disconcerting to see the huge carpark that allows a very short walk to the viewpoint.
I woke and started my journey to Yosemite National Park very early. My plan was to stay at Camp 4, one of only two first-in, first-served campsites that had opened for the season. Camp 4 is famous as a hangout for rock climbers, and a line forms each morning before the ranger arrives to start allocating spots that have been vacated over the previous day. Each campsite fits six people, so groups of strangers are thrown together into a site with shared picnic tables and campfires. I entered the park before the gate was even manned for the day and made my way to Camp 4, arriving at 7:30AM (the ranger arrives at 8:30AM) to find around 15 people ahead of me.
The ranger arrived and immediately informed us that there were sufficient spots available to accommodate everyone in line. I waited my turn, selected my campsite from those available, paid my $5/night (not a typo) fee, and moved my gear across. I setup my tent, moved all of my food and toiletries into the provided bear locker, and then prepared my running gear for the day. I had been advised by a number of people to head out early to avoid the queues, but unfortunately due to the necessity of arranging my accommodation I only set out for my run slightly before midday.
I took a shuttle bus out to the Happy Isles trailhead, and commenced my day by heading up the Mist Trail.
The trail would take me up past the Vernall and Nevada Falls before connecting onto the trail up to Half Dome. The Mist Trail was packed with people and was very slow going as it is very difficult to overtake people as it climbs up narrow stairs alongside the falls.
I stopped for photos of both falls on my way up, and then at the top of the Nevada Falls I turned off onto the trail to Half Dome.
For the first time that day I was alone. The early going allowed for some running as I made my way alongside a river but soon the gradient increased and I started to hike up towards the dome. It was a steep climb in sections but I eventually reached the short final climb up to the cables. A ranger checked my permit and then I ascended to the bottom of the cables. I took a couple photos of the venture that awaited me, selected a well-used set of gloves for hanging onto the cables, and then started my way up.