While I’ve always appreciated time by myself, hiking alone in this landscape is perhaps one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. As I keep moving along the trail, hour by hour, I can allow my thoughts to wander until break in the trees opens up another magnificent view of the landscape, which lends itself to a perfect balance between introspection and letting the surroundings completely pull you into the moment.
After a relaxing evening at the hotel, where I sad with my book and a cocktail by the fireplace and listened to the pianist in the parlor, I got an early start in the morning and drove to the nearby start of the Chilnualna Falls trail. The temperatures had dropped significantly overnight, which meant that the first two hours of the hike was a wonderful mix of warm morning sun and a completely frozen forest floor. At several points, the path brings you alongside the freezing water of the falls somewhere high above. So you occasionally get a reminder of your final goal at the top of the trail and the water almost becomes a comforting companion that disappears for long stretches as you weave in and out of the forest until you can suddenly hear the rush of the water coming closer beyond the next bend.
Needless to say, the final view from the top is nothing less than stunning as you can walk right down to the water just before it drops off the frozen mountain side, so I allowed myself time to simply sit on a nearby rock with the sound of the rushing water in the background and refueled on trail mix and protein bars.
As the season in Yosemite has only just begun and I had gotten an early start, I didn’t actually see another person until I was more than halfway back down the trail and it was likely this complete sense of solitude that made this one of the best hikes I’ve ever had. Naturally, wandering out into nature by yourself with no one aware of your location is not the brightest idea, but the Chilnualna trail is fairly easy and I stuck to the main path the whole way. While this part of Yosemite isn’t as grand as what you’ll find inside the main valley, having the trail to myself on such a splendid morning heightened the whole experience to something I will never forget.