We tackled the 11.2 mile El Capitan to Salt Basin Overlook Trail on Thursday, February 5th.
Getting an early start, we were on the trail before 8 am. It was pretty chilly – in the high 30s. A thick fog hung in the valleys and the landscape was still frosted from the clear, cold night before.
The trail took us gradually higher over hills and through rocky washes, and the meadow trail gave way to loose stone and gravel as we made our way around the base of majestic El Capitan peak.
We kept a good pace and took time to enjoy the amazing views in all directions as we gained altitude. We only lost the trail one time while crossing a wash, shortly after getting onto the Salt Basin Overlook Trail, and probably added another mile to our hike before we re-oriented ourselves and found the trail again. These trails are not blazed and we are learning that it is important to have a good map and pay attention to contours and topography. We are also learning to stop immediately and check our resources (paper map and phone navigation) when things don’t seem quite right.
As mid-day approached the small washes grew into much larger canyons and the more strenuous part of the trail emerged. At noon we were happy to give our aching feet a rest… the rocky trail does take a toll!
Shortly before 2 pm we reached the far limit of our hike – which presented us with an overlook of distant salt flats, and after a steeper ascent we were at the trail marker,where we would re-connect to El Capitan trail to get home.
The afternoon waned as we hiked along the base of El Capitan and onward to re-trace our steps homeward over hill and canyon.
We were getting pretty weary as the shadows lengthened, and that last two miles seemed to take forever… but we arrived home well before sunset. We were pretty exhausted, and no worse for the wear save sore feet and arms. Time for a good night’s sleep, and to dream of another trail.