Imagine you are driving on a road that cuts through a forest. The scenery is pretty, the trees are green, the hills are high. Suddenly, you are greeted by one of the most majestic rock faces you have ever seen. Tall and wide, it seems to reach over the trees like it is curling toward the road. It resembles a tsunami wave that was frozen and turned to stone in the middle of its performance. Welcome to one of my favorite National Parks.
The first time I visited Yosemite, I was a teenager. I was moody, defiant, confused, maybe a little selfish, and all of those other great qualities that come with teenhood (sorry mom and dad!). I wasn’t an adult yet but definitely not still a child. Where do I belong? As I hiked through Yosemite, I got my answer. Here.
My love of hiking began when I was very young as my parents lead us on trails throughout New Jersey and also Acadia National Park in Maine, however I had never seen anything quite like Yosemite before. It made me see hiking not as just a fun activity that exercises your body, but also as a spiritual activity that exercises your soul. We shared that trail with hundreds of other visitors thanks to the beautiful weather and the height of the tourism season. But I was finally able to see through that to the very thing that drew all those people here. It is an adventure but also an escape. It is still and calm but also active and alive. It can make you lose your breath and find your breath all at once.
When Chris was sent to Oakland for work, I naturally searched high and low for the best way to follow him. We were able to work out a long weekend that involved three distinctive areas of California, one of them being Yosemite. Chris had never been before, and I was eager to return. We only had one day, hardly a full one, so we could only choose one trail- a moderately strenuous route that put us past two waterfalls, which was a combination of the Mist Trail and John Muir Trail. Quickly, I remembered everything I had loved about the area the first time I was there. It is beauty that a camera cannot adequately capture and words cannot truly describe.
The start of the trail was a steep but paved uphill trek that led us to an adorable bridge with a view of the first waterfall. At this point many people made an about face, but we continued past after stopping for a quick rest. This is where it got real. The steep, unpaved terrain wound through the trees with seemingly unending switchbacks and eventually became snowy, something we weren’t prepared for. There were amazing views waiting at every turn which made the effort worth it.
Our final lookout point, a vista including Half Dome, Liberty Cap, and Nevada Fall, may have been the best of all. We picnicked here in the cool sunshine among the few other hikers who had made the trek. Unlike my first trip to Yosemite, we nearly had the trail to ourselves once we were past that first bridge. After saying goodbye to that amazing view, we began the much easier journey down- well, easier once we got past the snow! My hiking boots have great traction on rocks and mud, and I was very thankful that they were waterproof, but they aren’t exactly made for descents on ice. I may have ended up on my backside at one point, despite my best efforts.
Yosemite became a National Park on October 1, 1890- which means it has a big birthday coming up! This October it will celebrate its 125th year as an established National Park. Way to go, Yosemite! Thank you for all you have given me so far, and I hope to see you again someday.