This valley is the only place that comes up to the brag about it, and exceeds it.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
While I'm sure Emerson had many other eloquent waxings about Yosemite, I'm willing to bet that upon staring up at the impossibly sheer face of Half Dome, he blurted out, “Holy crap, I bet it would be totally sweet to climb to the top of that big-ass rock”, and proceeded to become the first yuppie to tackle the 4,800 foot ascent. 150 years later, I followed in his footsteps and added my mark on the 8.2 mile trek up to the top of Half Dome.
Actually, I have no idea if Emerson even gave a second thought to climbing anything but I'm very sure that he was humbled by the magnificent presence of Half Dome, looming over the entire valley floor. At 8,842 feet it is the highest point in Yosemite Valley, formed roughly 1.5 million years ago by glaciers and pushed up to its current elevation around 14,000 years ago. The name Half Dome accurately reflects its cleft appearance, as though an axe-wielding Paul Bunyan decided to split the rock in half while in search of a nice geode to give to his pet ox. Likewise, there is also Basket Dome, North Dome, and the Quarter Domes.
Cristen and I decided to take our time and take 2 days to finish the hike by camping out in Little Yosemite Valley on the way back. Although most people do the hike in one day, neither of us had been to Yosemite so we figured we'd take our time. In retrospect, I would have opted to do the hike in one day and avoid expending extra energy hauling all those supplies up the giant steps of the Mist Trail. 80% of your energy is used getting up to the top—getting back down is a piece of cake so setting up camp in the middle didn't really make much of a difference.