The ranger had told us that the trail was "moderate" at the start and "strenuous" past the first bridge. He estimated that the 3 mile round trip would take us 2-3 hours. I thought the first half would be moderate and the second strenuous.
I can walk 3 miles in under an hour at home so the 2-3 hour estimate should have been a clue. The trail was "moderate" for Camille and no doubt for the ranger and the 20-something fit men with rock climbing rope slung over their packs who marched past us. For me, it was strenuous. We passed the bridge shortly after starting, and it was heart pounding, breath gasping, steep the rest of the way. But I made it.
We chose to hike to Vernal Falls because it is just about the only waterfall in Yosemite that has water at the moment. It was also relatively short -- being the first section of the John Muir trail, that goes past Vernal Falls, then Nevada Falls, up to Half Dome (closed for the season) and beyond. We were only in Yosemite for the weekend and there was a lot to see.
The colors were amazing. The morning light made the granite glow above the trees blazing orange and gold.
The last 1/3 of the trail was up slippery, steep stairs carved out of the granite mountainside. Camille bounded up ahead of me as I cautiously picked my way up the rock.
After carefully making our way back down the stairs and then trucking at a fast pace downhill to the trail head, we caught the shuttle back to Yosemite Lodge, ate a late lunch, and then drove part way up Tioga Pass. It usually closes in October due to heavy snow -- and was closed as recently as last week. But the weather has been warm the past few days and much of the snow melted. The road was open this weekend. We drove as far as Tenaya Lake before turning back to the valley.
We arrived back at our room with just enough time to take a quick shower and head to dinner.
It was a full day and much busier than our usual languid pace on these weekends together. A busy, full, active day; dinner and a good night's sleep. A perfect day.