Bridge and I had been to Yosemite 4 1/2 years ago. It was February, and the park was covered in snow. We had pulled in at the small parking ground at the end of the valley. The only open hike was one towards some kind of waterfall, I can’t even remember the name.
The Ponderosa Pines were draped in snow and our feet crunched on the slippery ground when we zigzagged up the path. The whole valley was quiet, layered with fog and soft snowfall. We ended our trip rather quickly as a snowstorm was picking up. We got the snow chains out and the drive back to our cabin took us 3 hours instead of 1 1/2.
I think I fully realized I had been to Yosemite a year after our trip. We had settled in Berlin when a photo of me at Tunnel View popped up. ‚Wow, I have been to Yosemite‘, I thought, and yet I can remember so little. So little of the excitement and the emotion to be standing in such a unique place.
Had I embraced the Yosemite experience back then?
During that trip, I had already been traveling for 7 months and was filled to the brim with experiences, places, and people. And Bridge and I had just started dating.
It is fascinating how the mind and heart get saturated and ask for a break. To process, make memories, and store the sensual experiences with it. Isn’t this what wintering is all about? Nature has given us a season of rest, of stillness. To let old things die, to gather energy and focus, and to come back in spring fully recharged. Cycles that we need not in the big yearly calendar, but also monthly, and daily routines. Wintering.
I knew I needed to come back to Yosemite once more.
„Is there one or two things you absolutely want to do during our road trip to Seattle?“ – „Yosemite.“
Half Dome. This weirdly shaped rock, standing out to draw your attention to it when walking the valley floor.
The National Park Service writes „The 14- to 16-mile round-trip hike to Half Dome is not for you if you’re out of shape or unprepared. You will be gaining elevation (for a total of 4,800 feet) most of your way to the top of Half Dome. Most would say the reward is worth the effort.“
We took our chance in the lottery system to win a permit and got it for the one day we had time in our road trip schedule. Even Camp 4 had a tent spot open. The stars seemed aligned for a special piece of our North American trip.
„Wow.“ Bridget and I looked at Half Dome during our evening hike on the valley floor. I felt we were in shape and prepared, but the last part with the cables seemed like something new for us. Up would be fine, facing the wall. But down?
„The most famous–or infamous–part of the hike is the ascent up the cables. The two metal cables allow hikers to climb the last 400 feet to the summit without rock climbing equipment. Since 1919, relatively few people have fallen and died on the cables.“ I don’t know if the lines on the NPS official page felt encouraging or daunting.
We prepared our coffee the night before and head out with the break of dawn on our adventure.
It was an amazing 11 hours hike.
The last bit up and later down the metal cables was intense. Yet, the ranger’s clear and cool voice on how to tackle the last bit up the dome gave me inner calmness. I will stay grateful for her being there to not only check the permits but also to help you decide to go. And to be totally fine to turn around.
The most caring and funny conversations happened with people along the cables.
Here, where you have to take care of every step and synchronized hand motion. Here, where it’s a two-way flow with different people, with different abilities. Where you take care of yourself as much as care for others. People were so kind.
Encouraging words, soothing words.
‚I am so slow, sorry.‘ - ‚No worries, gives me time for a rest‘ ‚Lovely shoes you have there!‘ - ‚Aww, I wanted to say that about yours, too!‘ ‚I will have a whiskey at the bar on the top. There is a bar, right?‘ ‚I have my clip-in harness because I had a celebratory sparkling wine at the top.‘ ‚Sorry.‘ - Sorry.’ - ‚Sorry.’
Why is it that during hikes you almost solely meet friendliness and care for each other?
Pounding heart and lungs while reaching the top. Looking over the valley that seems like a miniature world. Tasting the refreshing water still in our bottles. Going down the cables, setting feet and hands fully focused. Smelling the big pines while giving them a big hug. Touching the soft pine cones that squirrels had munched on. Hearing the waterfalls with their promise of a cooling mist to touch your face.
The hike was a full blast for the senses. Something we reminisced about at the campfire that evening.
Something I will not forget.
Thank you, Yosemite.
PS: We saw our first black bear on the valley floor, the morning we left the park. He was munching on some grass.