After months of planning (see Half Dome I blog post), we were ready to attempt to climb to the top of Half Dome during a two-day backpack trip. On June 8, 2021, we drove the 3 hours from our cabin in Bishop to a hotel near Yosemite. We splurged on a salmon dinner at the Ahwahnee hotel, before loading our packs, checking our equipment list for the seventh or eighth time, and settling into bed early.
The alarm startled us awake at 4:30 am, we made coffee and tea, scarfed down breakfast in the dark, and then drove to the trailhead. We donned our packs, into which we had stuffed several last-minute items, increasing the carefully calibrated weight by a couple of pounds each. My knees wobbled, either from the burden I was carrying or in terror at what we were attempting. Were we crazy to think we could climb Half Dome at our age?
After hiking steadily uphill for 45 minutes, we heard the thunder of water from Vernal Falls pounding the rocks at it’s base. Even at the early hour, people gathered at the overlook bridge, awed by the beauty and power of the roaring water and the rainbows it created. This was the destination for many day hikers, but we climbed on. As we labored up the 600 steep, granite steps of the famous Mist Trail, clambering practically under the falls, we were drenched by the spray. Upon reaching the top, we gasped at the spectacular view straight down the 317-foot torrent.
The Emerald Pool a little further along the trail was a welcome rest spot. We sat to ease our feet, relieve the weight of our packs and devour a few Adventure Cookies. I bake these big 3″cookies, rich with nuts, dark chocolate and tart Montmorency cherries, for all our hikes. Long keepers, they are still soft and flavorful after a week at room temperature and can be frozen for several months. Not only are they a favorite snack, we definitely needed the energy they offered to continue.
We had trained for the 1,000’ elevation gain from the floor of Yosemite to the top of Vernal Falls, believing that would be the most challenging part of the first day’s hike. We were so wrong. The trail continued steadily up steep, rocky switchbacks for another 1.5 miles to the top of Nevada Falls. The endless vistas down the 594-foot cascade and onward to Yosemite Valley made the climb worthwhile. The Manchego cheese sandwiches we’d brought, assembled on my Super Gluten-Free Bread, never tasted as good as on that day.
Eventually we made our way to the Little Yosemite campground, where we spent the evening resting and shivering. It was so cold, water we spilled on a metal box froze instantly and hail pelted us while we ate dinner. When our alarm rang at 5:30 the next morning, our thermometer showed 29°F. But we were stoked! Today was the day we’d either make it to the top of Half Dome or realize we were indeed crazy.
There was as much elevation gain ahead of us as we’d hiked the day before, culminating with an ascent to the 8,800’ summit. Two celebrated (or dreaded) metal cables stretch up the seemingly vertical granite slope to the top and make the final 400’ possible. As we grabbed onto those cables and jammed our feet into the rock for as good a grip as possible, we at first shuddered and then adrenalin took over and we climbed and scrambled upwards.
Drawn onward by the astounding beauty of the park, we made it to what felt like the top of the world! We were 74 years old! May the bread and these cookies help you accomplish an exciting goal, or at least enhance many meals.
Chocolate, Cherry and Nut Adventure Cookies
- ½ cup gluten-free rolled oats
- ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
- ¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1½ cups mixed coarsely chopped roasted almonds, roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped walnuts and roasted pumpkin seeds
- ¾ cup (4 ounces) dried tart Montmorency cherries
- ¾ (4 ounces) coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate
- ½ cup gluten-free flour mix such as King Arthur Measure for Measure or Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 Baking Flour
- Pinch of xanthan gum
- Preheat the oven to 350℉. Place the oats on a small baking pan and toast until golden brown, stirring once, about 10 minutes. Cool.
- Meanwhile, combine the melted butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, egg, vanilla, salt and baking soda in a large bowl and whisk to blend. Combine the cooled oats, nuts, cherries and chocolate in a medium bowl and toss to blend. Re-whisk the egg mixture, and then stir in the flour and xanthan gum. Add the nut mixture and stir until evenly coated with the batter. There will not be a lot of batter coating the nut mixture, but the dough will firm up as it chills. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
- Position one rack in upper third and one rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 350℉. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop the batter by scant ⅓-cups, packing firmly. Tap the cup on a baking sheet to release the bater. Repeat with remaining batter, forming 6 cookies on each baking sheet. Using damp fingers, press the dough into ¾-inch thick rounds, about 2½-inches in diameter.
- Bake the cookies until your kitchen is filled with the enticing aroma of the freshly baked goodies, and the cookies are golden brown and no longer wet looking, reversing the sheets about half way through, for about 14 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets. (If you can't resist tasting one fresh from the oven, and aren't opposed to getting a little melted chocolate on your fingers, I suggest enjoying a cookie as soon as they are cool enough to handle.) Store airtight at room temperature for up to a week, or freeze for up to 3 months. Take these gems on all your adventures for a yummy energy boost or snack.