“Come to the woods, for here is rest. There is no repose like that of the green deep woods. Here grow the wallflower and the violet. The squirrel will come and sit upon your knee, the logcock will wake you in the morning. Sleep in forgetfulness of all ill. Of all the upness accessible to mortals, there is no upness comparable to the mountains.”
–John Muir, John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, (1938), page 235.
We need our wild lands; places in nature where we can play, ponder, explore, and engage. We need our senses heightened, our memories indulged, and our spirits rinsed clean. We need this desperately, and we need it often.
A couple weeks ago, we ventured north from where we reside to a place that seems to draw us in over and over again: Yosemite National Park. In Ken Burns’ PBS series titled The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, viewers follow the birth and growth of the National Park Service to what it is today. This documentary introduced me to the words of John Muir, and since then I can’t seem to shake that feeling of wonder and gratitude whenever I read or hear a quote from that great man.
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”
–John Muir, The Yosemite (1912), page 256.
So, we went to Yosemite to play, to take in its wonder, and to take a break. With almost three months off from school for the summer, I decided to use up some saved vacation time and take Jonathan there for his second trip. The first time he went was in 2014, a year of a severe drought. In contrast, this year had so much snow that during our end-of-June trip, the Tioga Pass was still closed. Though our timing was not impeccable, the waterfalls definitely were.
Staying at the Yosemite Bug – Rustic Mountain Resort, or Bug Lodge, as it was formerly known, our first order of business was to check out the amazing menu, which changes daily, at the June Bug Cafe, and talk it up with some locals. We met a rad rafter who leads tours on the Merced, and informed us that within the past week of us getting there, the river had risen 5ft due to snow melt. After dinner, we tucked in for the night and began our first day in the park bright and early with a 3:30am wakeup call.
Sunrise from Tunnel View is a thing of supreme beauty. We spent our first day in the valley, wandering amongst the crowds, getting showered upon by the crazy amounts of water pouring out of those spectacular falls. After grabbing some much needed maps on day one, we spent our second day exploring John Muir’s beloved Hetch Hetchy. The hike I chose was a moderate jaunt to Wapama Falls, although due to that snow melt I mentioned before we were only able to get as far as Tueeulala Falls, which provided us with an amazing shower before turing back to the heat of the hike.
Day three was both an early morning and late night. We started up the road to Glacier Point, feeling that bumpy road that gave us some indication of how Tioga Pass must have been. After snapping some early morning shots, we ventured up to Sentinel Dome where the views of the park are not to be contended with. Basking in the beauty of that amazing 360 degree view, we also realized that we were basking in full-sun on empty stomachs, so we began our hike back to shade and food.
The rest of our last full day there was spent getting to know Curry Village, now known as Half Dome Village, for future trips. That night, we stayed in the park till sunset, driving back up to Tunnel View for some more amazing images to document the memories we made. On our way back to the Bug Lodge for the last night of the trip, we stopped by the Merced to see its rushing waters on a moonless night.
“When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.”
–John Muir, Travels in Alaska by John Muir, 1915, chapter 1, page 5.
What a goddamn poetic man…
This trip gave me many things. It gave me a renewed sense of wonder for our parks and open spaces. It gave me a sense of calm content that can only come when viewing places of such majestic nature – places so old. More than anything, though, it gave me the courage to keep going, keep exploring, keep fighting for our wild places, and keep writing about them, telling my friends, doing as much as I can to protect what means the most to me. Yosemite reminded me that nature, above all else, is home.