This trip was not for sissies. Each day of the 5 day journey I faced new challenges, but always in the back of my mind loomed the greatest of them all: 3500 feet in 5 miles uphill.
After a quick ‘before’ photo of our group of ten (photographer is no. 10), including three experienced leaders who were organizing our morning and evening meals, we started out from Tuolumne Meadows about 9:00 Monday morning on August 1st. I was still trying to figure out how my water system would work, how to keep everything on my pack and how to keep my pack on my back! It was at least 30 pounds and kept slipping as we walked. These details niggled me for most of the trip.
We couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather and the trail was easy to begin with. Julie Miller, our main leader and a nature park ranger stopped us at the Soda Springs where she explained that this was a historic spot especially significant that this month we are celebrating 100 years of the National Parks. And, “It was here, over a century ago, in Tuolumne Meadows, John Muir (1839-1914) introduced his friends to this mountain wilderness; it was here where conservationist Muir began the discussion that created Yosemite National Park 1890.” http://www.aplacecalledroam.com/home/hiking-yosemites-tuolumne-meadow-soda-springs
Julie also pointed out the flora and fauna living at that high altitude of 8,600 feet. She brought to our attention that hardly anything was living on the bare granite peaks towering above us not far away. As we began our gradual descent into the canyon she pointed out trees, shrubs and flowering plants which thrived at the lower elevations. I enjoyed learning the differences of Jeffery Pines, Lodge Pole Pines, Fir and Cedar Trees.
We enjoyed walking along the river and encountering the first of many cascades. As we were taking our time on that day we ‘lollygagged’ a bit along the way. I put together my new camp chair (well worth the price and 1lb. weight to have something comfortable to sit on!) and spent some time gazing in awestruck wonder at hundreds of feet of abundant foamy water cascading over layers of rock which looked like a broad stairway. The river was our friend and companion throughout this journey. We drank from it, swam in it and washed in it. It was our refreshment, delight and entertainment.
We hiked about 6 miles that first day which was challenging for me. Eventually we arrived down at Glen Aulin camp ground near another beautiful waterfall.
And it was also wonderful to discover a real pit toilet! I was so sore that all I wanted to do was to set up my tent, take some ibuprofen and lay down. I cannot remember much about our meal except that it was good to eat, nor our conversation that first evening. I think it was deep and meaningful, but I was too sleepy to take it in.
The second day we had a combination of steepish downhill, more delightful views of waterfalls and cascades along with some easier level walking. I was still wondering what I’d got myself into, and did I really want to be there, when we became aware of a helicopter coming into the canyon to transport materials for trail work crews. I wondered how much it might cost to be air-lifted out!
But I didn’t really mean it because of the beautiful devotion we’d been bathed in from one of our group that Tuesday morning. First she read this classic poem by Robert Frost:
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
She also read Psalm 29
Give unto the Lord, O you mighty ones,
Give unto the Lord glory and strength.
Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name;
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
The God of glory thunders;
The Lord is over many waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
The voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
And then she sang a haunting black gospel melody with her sweet and gentle voice the chorus of which was: ‘Wash Over Me, wash over me, wash over me I pray, wash over me, wash over me, wash over me today.’ Well, that was it for me! I was awash with the overwhelming cascade of emotions released by this beauty and caused by these physical challenges. So I moved close to the river to pray and wail. It felt good to get it all out and to be refreshed spiritually and emotionally.
The rest of that day was blessed by the river as we swam often. I dove in two times and waded in once. The first time was the best as we surprisingly came upon our leader, who had encouraged us to do a little more lallygagging, sunbathing by a clear granite pool. I just had to stop and get in too. Diving was the easiest way even if the shock was painful at first. Wondrously invigorating it was. The second time the whole pack of us went in farther down and it was fun to see each one managing their own way of getting in and out. I followed the leader one more time and dove in from a higher height than I ever have dived before. What a rush that was too! The third time was in the evening as the evening meal was being prepared and we still had time and light. I went down the trail a bit to another swimming hole and enjoyed creeping in slowly and then sunning myself in the evening rays while sitting on a warm boulder. That was a good day.
To be continued….