I’ve just returned from several weeks exploring California and its neighbouring states! Whilst I was there my main aims were: Hike around the Grand Canyon, hike the Hollywood Hills and hike around Yosemite.
Whilst Grand Canyon and The Hollywood Hills were outstanding in beauty and utterly gobsmacking for views…they certainly took their toll on my calfs and glutes!
The real culprit, however, was Yosemite! We started with the gentle and deceptive Lower Yosemite Falls, and Mirror Lakes and went on to do Upper Yosemite Falls and 4 Mile Trail. I’ll finish this blog with what to expect in case you’ve landed on this page in search of information regarding what the trails are like. But the main purpose of this blog is to talk about the more common aches and pains that hikers are likely to develop en route and what to do about it, seeing as even me as a Soft Tissue Therapist didn’t think about packing a triggerpoint ball or theraband!
The first trail was Upper Yosemite Falls, 7,200 ft elevation gain and 7.2 miles. This HURT!
So what went wrong, and how did I fix it?
As you can tell from the elevation gain and short distance, the purpose of this trail is simply to get you higher, so it’s made from huge boulder stairs and long, steep slopes with no let up. So within about 30 minutes my glutes were on FIRE! I simply stopped for some water, stood with my back to a tree, clenched my fists and stared gently and quickly banging my bum cheeks. As I got higher and more exhausted my dignity went and I did it as I was climbing. This stimulates local blood flow through micro circulation and helps to clear lactic acid!
A really important thing to note here is that a lot of people have underactive glutes, in which case rather than having sore glutes, you could be seeing lateral knee or hip pain. Especially if you suffer or have suffered with runners knee – you would more than likely be in the knee pain camp. If you have knee pain during or after activity please get in touch. If this were me, and I was stuck 7,000 ft up a waterfall and I was getting lateral knee pain or burning – I would make a clenched fist and massage my upper hips in a small circular motion. This wouldn’t be a permanent solution, and so as soon as my feet touched the end of the trail, I would be on the phone to a therapist..!
From constantly walking on a slope my calfs got very very tight, very, very quickly! It was very uncomfortable. I got myself a tree, got up-close and personal by putting y my heel on the floor, toes on the trunk and leant into the trunk. To deepen the stretch down into my soleus muscle I bent my knee a little. One foot at a time and held for 45s each side. Where there were some steps, I stood with my heels hanging off of a step and dropped them down, again held for 45s.
The bottom of both of my feet began to hurt, discomfort was radiating down the back of my Achilles and into my heel. My calfs were so tight that it was affecting my feet. Since I didn’t have the foresight to pack a trigger point ball, I simply made use of the many rocks! I found a rounded rock, one foot at a time I stood over the rock and gently applied weight until the discomfort eased. I moved my foot around to hit all of the sore spots. Do not attempt this if you suspect a break or fracture, have bruising or swelling. Seek relevant medical attention.
Ankle and foot arches
lot of the trails were not only sloping upwards, but also sloped sideways. This meant for prolonged periods of time the muscles that control my ankles were working hard. My ankles were hurting and the medial arches of my feet were hurting. Easing this off was really simple, I sat down and stretched my ankles in the opposite direction! So if my feet were forced into inversion (slanting inwards) I would stretch them via eversion!
Now, don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t a case of one quick stretch here and all was honky dory! I had to have little stops to go over each of the above! Since I was going straight back to the activity that was causing me the agro, of course the soreness and niggles kept coming back after a while! I just used one simple rule which was “What can I use?” Where I would use a foam roller, or a trigger point ball or do some active soft tissue release, I took a look around to see what I could substitute…rocks for trigger point or golf balls, the edge of a rock for a lock to do some active release on my hamstrings…the possibilities are endless! I did underestimate how hard upper Yosemite Falls was going to be, and would have avoided running into trouble with my calfs if I had a sports massage before hand. And although some of the little improvs helped on trail…it in no way was a substitute for treatment and sought a remedial massage after!
if you suffer with any of the above, or even any niggles I haven’t mentioned whilst you hike, get in touch, because you don’t need to put up with them! Pain isn’t normal! 07590477970
Now about the trails for those of you who are trying to figure out if Upper Yosemite Falls or 4 Miles Trails are suitable.
The one thing I learned was…do upper Yosemite Falls first. 4 Mile trail is easier, but it isn’t what I would call easy. It’s a lot easier than upper Falls, but difficult enough to potentially put you off of Upper Falls which is by far the better hike!
Beforew we decided on upper Falls, I did some reading and I ca,e across a blog of a lady who did it with her family and she wrote that nothing about the first mile is fun. NOTHING ABOUT THIS TRAIL IS FUN. EVER. The switchbacks are soul destroying. Either the steps are large or the gradient is very steep and there isn’t a lot to look at. There is a look out point around 40 minutes in which a lot of people turn around and go back at. It is a great achviement to get that far, but it’s a good idea to stop and eat there. I would recommend taking two lunches. You are constantly exerting yourself for 3 hours going up! it was really, really hot. The sun hits the trail from first thing, we were there in mid September and it was agitatingly hot. We drank 4litres of water each during the whole hike.
You get to one point where it goes down hill a little, it’s shady and you get a chance to recover a littl which is nice! It gets very very tough about 1-1.5 miles from the top and you look up and think “We can’t be going up there can we?” You’re going up there. I will admit I lost my rag with it during the last half of Mile. My shoulders were rock solid where I was so tense and exhausted and stressful, and yes at one point…I almost cried! And I’ve ran a marathon! I hereby declare running a marathon easier than Upper Yosemite Falls! BUT IT WAS SO WORTH IT! Pictures and words cannot describe what it looks like from up there!
There was a large diversity in the types of people hiking the trail, and you can break it down easily. Take more breaks, take longer breaks even! Coming down is slippery so make sure you have good footwear. I wore Vivo Barefoot trail shoes and my boyfriend wore Nikes and he was fine, so I would say at the very least have trainers with a good grip. We saw a few people going up in flip flops but I would have been holding my breath if I had to watch them come down! There was also children (ding for better than the adults!) and one of the greatest things about this trail – it enhances the taste of pizza and beer TENFOLD! We didn’t go on to Yosemite point as a few people returning said it was the same views pretty much, but it adds around an hour to the hike…at this point I was in no mood for anymore incline! I took the picture below at the point where I had my oh my god…we ARE going up there moment.
Four Mile Trail
So first of all, it’s more like ten miles as a round trip. It’s got amazing scenery during the whole hike and it’s pretty much shaded the whole way! The incline is there, but every time you start to think you need a break…it lets up and gets flat! There’s a store and toilets at the top too! The hard part is the descent. It puts a lot of pressure on your knees. I regretted not buying some poles. If you have knee issues I would consult with your healthcare professional, and make sure you have knee braces and/or poles! When I was reading reviews on the trail, a lot of people were upset with the state of the path. It is degrading but still much easier to tackle than Upper Falls. A lot of children were really enjoying this trail!