Taft Point is a quick trip that can be accomplished in an hour and a half. The only nuance to getting to the edge of this epic lookout is knowing when to go when no one else will be there. I did not want to spoil that liberating feeling of being a speck in nature without the distraction of tourists reminding me otherwise. Which is why Josh, our buddy, Winberg, and myself decided to hit the trail at the first light of day to check it out.
As most of my adventures tend to start, this trip was most definitely impromptu. I had just finished a wedding in Carmel at Holly Farm, and was struggling to fall asleep in the back of my van (being pregnant does not allow any bladder to participate in the blissful memory that is a full night’s sleep). So, when dawn hit the horizon, my eyes burst open, energizing my heart with the prospect of; first, a cup of coffee, and, second; a trip into Yosemite to acquire a camping permit during the peak of summer.
I arrived at the park 4 hours later with my windows down and old-school Beyoncé blasting as loud as my speakers would allow me (not very loud). I rolled into that divinely lit office, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, when the record skipped and music stopped.
“Stand here. Wait in line. Enter the lottery and, hopefully, (HA HA) one of these rare cancellations will get rewritten with your name on it.”
I was involuntarily stalled until further notice, enduring the wait in the parking lot kicking acorns around in the dust, which do nothing to lend to the time passing more quickly. But, I would not give in, rather, utilizing my ample time in the lot to devise a plan(and people watch all of the goofy tourists on their selfie sticks): Winberg and my husband would pop on over after their work trip to camp with me for the night. Surely the universe would allow me this tiny one other request in addition to being permitted, right?
The ranger circled us up like kids at a summer camp and begin shouting out names. As each one was said I had the hope as assurance that mine would be next. As she announced the last name on the list, mine of which it wasn’t, and the reality I had been actively avoiding set in. My eyes fell and my tail dropped between my legs. But, this ranger wasn’t your run of the mill, authoritarian, Ron Swanson type. She happened to steal a glance, covering her mouth with an old cardboard clipboard as she leaned in towards me, and in a hush, spoke out the side of her mouth.
“Listen, you know you can have 2 cars per site? Go over to that campground and make friends with someone over there. You can’t offer them any money, but there’s plenty of room for you over there for one night.”
What a gem!
And this is the secret code of the outdoor folk. There is always room to spare for a new friend; so long as you can contribute a friendly smile, a beer, and a good story.
I marched away, beaming with content, as I usually am, despite running on a slim shred of hope. I popped in the van, scanning for any common denominator across the rows of the campgrounds. With very little to go off, I began scoping out other VW’s when I came across one with a micro-sized tent. I hopped out, not really thinking too hard about what to say, letting gall guide me.
“Hey! So, I know this is really random and weird, but, I didn’t score a permit today, and have nowhere to go. The ranger said its cool if I ask to split the site with someone, and, I’m wondering, since we both are VW lovers, if I could share the site with you guys for the night…?”
“Sure thing,” said the sweet couple, “but, we already have 2 cars. You’re gonna have to ask our neighbor. She’s out for a hike, but she’s all alone. She’ll probably be cool with it.”
I smiled politely, excusing myself to wait in the car, so I could think…
Hover over this lady’s campsite until she returns, which could be after dark, and explain how her neighbors said I could probably fit in her space, not to mention that I had two men that would show up at some time to cram in there as well…?
Not ideal, but, it could work.
I left my van in front of her site, so I could search for cell reception and alert the boys of the newest version of the plan.
But, not too long into my walk, I realized that I had somehow walked in the direction of the permit office!
Did the universe call me here?
The angel of a ranger noticed me through the doors, giving me the “come hither” nod.
“Hey. I actually think I have a permit for you. Some people on the list just dropped out. Just get in line.”
I skipped into my place in line, and, before long, BAM! I was the proud recipient of the last permit in all of the Yosemite Valley Floor on a temperately-weathered summer’s day! I picked up the van, driving it over to our private campsite just as the boys arrived.
The next morning we arose before the sun, packing up camp early so we could head to the Taft Point trailhead. And, in alignment with the whole of our experience, the weather had slid into the opposite side of the scale: it was freezing. Freezing so much that we did not stroll, we ran down the trail, passing by the massive rock slide that had taken place earlier that week at El Cap. You could still see the scar of it upon the mountainside as we reached the end of the trail and watched the sun rise… relishing in my favorite thing to do: being present amongst the epic outdoors with myself, my peeps, and nature doing her thing.
I cannot bring myself to fully appreciate nature otherwise; muddled by humanity making itself known to nature with its mass quantities, rancorous noise, and selfie sticks. We politely snapped a few memories before the edge of the granite cliff, swallowing back the sensation of my stomach dropping into my feet, before turning back into the tunnel of reality.
As I mentioned before, I was pregnant then; maybe 7 months or so? It’s hard to recall. But, remembering this day now, I am warmed by the thought that our daughter was there with us—sleeping in the car, walking the trail with mom and dad, rising with the sun, and being suspended over the edge of a cliff—all from the safety of my tummy. I am so eager to bring her with us on our next outdoor escapade because I cannot wait to watch her eyes as she takes the grandeur of our planet in for the first time.
If you want to try this hike for yourself, here is a link on where to park to start at the trail head Sentinel Dome & Taft Point