A week ago we were in Yosemite National Park. It was my first time there. It was a spiritual experience.
Half Dome. The first time I saw it from Glacier Point I was mesmerized. I stared at it for long moments like a groom staring at his bride. Then I took enough photos it could have been a wedding. What is it about this oddly shaped lump of granite, round and bald on the top, with a flat side, that draws our wonder? It is because it is so large, so stark and so different that it is so beautiful? I could read the geological conclusion on how it was formed. I want to. But would knowing more help me to have a deeper relationship with Half Dome? I want to climb it. I must climb it. Now I need a crew.
The Water. Despite the drought and the heat of August there is water. Streams that turn into rivers that become water falls, swimming holes and lakes. Crisp clear mountain water that washes away the dust from the campground and makes you feel alive. The best part? You are supposed to play in it! No signs that say keep away. No fences to climb. And room for all. You can play in this translucent liquid next to strangers and bond over the common experience. Or you can hike a little further up and find your own private rock or sand bar on which to picnic and play.
The Night. At night it gets cold – cold enough that in August we tent campers spliced layers onto our torsos and huddled around the fire to keep our toes and knees warm. On the first night I climbed out of my toasty sleeping bag to see which annoying tent neighbors were keeping me awake with their lantern to discover it was the moon. A night drive up to Glacier Point did not result in star watching this trip, but the lunar light cast an enchanting glow. There was Half Dome – silvery and silent. There were rows of mountain crests behind more rows of mountain crests. In the quiet I could hear the rushing sounds of water ebbing and flowing like an H2O freeway. Then I looked down between the two immeasurable walls of rock to see far below. There was a wide ribbon of green dotted with lights and I finally understood…
The Valley. The valley is the center of Yosemite. The valley is paradise between granite cliffs with Half Dome always towering over you. This lush green community of campers, tourists and rangers is a bit crowded but it is the gateway to so many amazing experiences. There are shuttles. There are coin showers. There is pizza. You drive through a tunnel to get the valley. The tunnel was completed in 1933 – long after Yosemite was protected in 1864. How did humans get to the valley before? How did the Native Americans navigate the cliffs? How did we know it was there to protect when it was so hidden?
“I have seen persons of emotional temperament stand with tearful eyes, spellbound and dumb with awe, as they got their first view of the Valley from Inspiration Point, overwhelmed in the sudden presence of the unspeakable, stupendous grandeur.”
– Galen Clark, guardian of the Yosemite Grant
There are places in Yosemite that require days of backpacking to experience. There areas of Yosemite that few people will ever see. I am so thankful it is protected. I am so excited that we can enjoy it. I am obsessed with climbing Half Dome. Anyone want to join me?