adventure, birds, day off, fitness, forest, Half Dome, healthy-living, hiking, miserable wretch, national park, nature, Nikon, outdoors, people visitors, photography, self-portrait, sounds of the forest, travel, vacation, view points, volunteer, volunteering in national parks, well being, wild flowers, woman, Yosemite Falls Trail, Yosemite National Park, Yosemite Valley
When I look back on my arrival two months ago at Yosemite National Park, it is clear that I was a miserable wretch from the winter beating.
I was exhausted from dealing with crap, which is my own fault because I should have moved on much sooner.
The Southern California sky was forever a washed out blue, the landscape a dry brown with intermittent specs of green. The water that rushed by was beautiful but not interesting in its surrounding landscape. The only respites were the birds, rabbits, coyotes and burros – along with some super fabulous snow birders that I met.
But, for the most part, I was isolated in my non-party, non-drinking lifestyle. People couldn’t relate to a woman by herself or to the way I’d chosen to live my life. To each his own – I didn’t object to their lifestyle choices, except when it was detrimental and selfish to mine.
To that end, I spent many hours sitting in the trailer, staring at the computer and doing nothing. There were technical issues that plagued me and during the other times there was no umpff or energy.
I tried getting out and walking around the park and nearby neighborhood and did so quite often, but during the other times, I was eating well. Not unhealthy foods but nice large meals, which were my comfort and my respite.
The more I sat and ate well, the more miserable I felt. I wandered around Wal Mart looking for clothes that wouldn’t pinch my belly or show off the midway bulge – and then bought more food. It seemed as if my body was failing in many ways but I didn’t attribute this fact to anything other than age.
“Oh well, my body is going, I don’t have much time, maybe I should go home, where ever that is,” are some of the comforting words I told myself.
When I arrived in Yosemite my arms ached from lifting my camera for a few minutes. The thought of walking from my car, carrying equipment, for 20 yards was overwhelming. I just did not feel like hurting.
But there were trailer issues to deal with, snow to shovel, things to fix and a campground to walk around. I struggled to get up the short hills, huffing and puffing with a bright red face. My legs felt wobbly and my balance was non-existent.
I thought about hiking to a view point but it didn’t sound like fun. Even from the Tunnel View parking lot to the short wall that sits on the edge, before the valley, was a long ways to go.
But, as I continued my patrols around the campground and began venturing out into the meadow every day, something began to happen – my body began functioning better.
The ordeal with the poison oak even had its benefits because it was difficult to sit still in all of that itching misery and my appetite was next to nil. My body grew stronger and more weight came off.
I have no idea of how much weight because scales are dangerous for me. But my clothes began to loosen up around the middle, my shirts grew too large and I began to feel more comfortable.
As in all of the other national parks, Yosemite is filled with great hiking opportunities and I was bored of the views from the roads and so I began hiking short distances. And then longer distances. And then I became obsessed with hiking the trails.
Obsessed really is not the appropriate word here – I became eager to hike as many trails as possible, not only for my health benefits but for the information that I could learn. I thrill in being able to give people details about certain trails.
To date I have hiked all or part of 13 trails, some multiple times.
Last night at about 6:30 I started up the Yosemite Falls trail, hoping to make it to Midway Falls for an evening view of upper falls and Half Dome. The trail was a steep series of switchbacks where many a weary hiker hobbled down with the pain visible on their faces and in the way they placed their foot on the next step.
Those faces looked at me as if I were crazy for heading up so late, carrying a pack, two cameras and a tripod.
One lady asked where I was going and said, “I just spent an hour-and-a-half coming down from there,” as she visibly winced at her next step, allowing only half of her foot to touch the rocky surface.
It was obvious that several people wanted to warn me back. And then one man said, “You are going to get some great shots at this time of night.”
“That is what I’m hoping for,” I smiled back and continued my upward climb. It was too hot for my fleece but I was not breathing hard.
I marveled at how strong my body and lungs had become. Up, up, back and forth. I was anxious to see the view but the trees shielded it for quite some time, allowing only small glimpses of the green valley and large granite sculptures.
The forest grew darker and I heard an owl overhead but could not see it. Currently there is a study going on about the Great Gray Owls in the Sierras and they are attempting to find out if they have unique qualities from those found in other areas. I listened to my owl call on the iPod and think the one I heard might be a gray.
I love hiking when the day is beginning to end because that is when the songs of the birds become the loudest. A happy forest, I call the evening hours. Music enveloped me and pushed me ever higher.
Beautiful wild lupine grew along the trail and I stopped to breathe the perfume. One hiker had large bunches of lupine strapped to her pack and in her hands. Apparently she forgot to read the rules about not taking anything from the land.
The last little bit of trail before Columbia Point was steep to climb and the hillside plummeted to the valley floor. The view was breathtaking and I marveled how in Zion such a view had scared me into stupidity. How I had forced myself to seek the heights and to look down into that valley. And how now, yes it was intense and the trail deserved caution and respect, but I was not overwhelmed.
Still, there were places on that portion of the trail that could make hiking difficult without light. I did have my headlamp but some of the steps were deceiving. I could see the viewpoint above me and decided that it would be a good place to end the hike and turn back. This was a good, safe, cautionary decision because there are many rocks to trip and fall over in the dark forest at a lower elevation.
The last thing I want is to get hurt and not be able to continue my hiking explorations. My want to hike list includes nine trails, some of which are quite long, and I expect that list to grow.
Currently I am hiking an average of four miles almost every day and my longest hike has been 10 miles. My body feels strong and erect. My senses of hearing, smelling and seeing seem sharper than ever. I feel alert and alive, light and fresh. Exhilaration and anticipation surround me and my heart feels full of the wilderness in the Sierras.
I want more forest, more rocks, more wildflowers, more wildlife and more stunning views!
My ultimate goal is to Hike Half Dome before I leave, if I can get lucky in the daily lottery drawings as they only allow 400 people to hike the large granite monument each day – 4,737 feet above the valley floor.
I can do it!