After hiking and guiding in Yosemite National Park for over 30 years I have come to learn a few things. Yosemite, with its grand monoliths, peak-piled panoramas, and intimate gardens, holds a metaphor for every corner of the heart. These are the lessons that Yosemite has taught me as I’ve passed through her and she has passed through me.
Descending the outlet off-trail from the Mildred Lake outlet is a lot like life: overwhelming if you look at it all at once but by staying in the moment, carefully choosing one step at a time, in a serpentine fashion, one can negotiate the steep and varied terrain.
The Cathedral Lake outlet which spills over a few granite steps before it tumbles down around the side of Pywiack Dome teaches me that not all baptismal fonts are in churches. Likewise, the Cathedral Lakes Basin teaches me that some Cathedrals have no pews. And a sunset last summer at Lower Cathedral Lake taught me that even God blushes.
The panoramic view from Glacier Point, where the roof of the Park stands out in waves of peaks like a choppy sea, reminds me that sometimes you need some distance to see the big picture.
Half Dome has taught me that sometimes what seems impossible from a frontal assault isn’t impossible at all if you find the easy way that circles around the backside.
Standing on Clouds Rest as my fellow guide, Mike, stood there speechless with his hands on his head and tears in his eyes, I am reminded of the sense of awe and gratitude that Yosemite has taught me for all things.
Yosemite has also taught me, that while the grandeur of the landscape is overwhelming, to not forget the pockets of beauty right at my feet. I hiked the Yosemite Creek Trail for many years before I discovered the tiny pink Steershead flowers, only half an inch long, in the moist soil at my feet.
The Three Graces in the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, home to trees 3000 years old, teach me perseverance through the ages. Fire is as natural a part of the Giant Sequoia landscape as tumultuous times are in our own lives. Giant Sequoias stand tall and proud bearing the scars from many fires during their lives. In fact, they need fire to dry their cones and drop their seeds and they require freshly burned mineral soil for their seeds to germinate. Upheaval in our own lives can feel like fiery death and destruction but we can use it as fertile soil for new ideas and new ways of being.
Speaking of destructive forces, Slide Canyon, where the Volkswagon size boulders of a landslide go down one side of the canyon and half-way up the other, and wildflowers blooming best after the hot fires in the woodland areas, teach me that some perceived catastrophes leave a new kind of beauty in their wake.
Hetch Hetchy, Yosemite Valley’s sister valley just 20 miles north and still in the Park, flooded under the lake behind O’Shaughnessy Dam, teaches me patience as she holds her breath until the Tuolumne River wanders through her meadows free again.
Snow covered Yosemite, like the lines on a woman’s face reminds me that beauty has no season and camping during winter, I learned that you can make yourself at home wherever you are.
The Milky Way over Tuolumne Meadows on a moonless night reminds me that even on the darkest night there is light to be found.
And mostly Yosemite has taught me that when I’m feeling lonely, the mountains are always standing ready, silently waiting to wrap their bony arms around me. All I have to do is hike into them. Join us: sierraspirit.biz.
Copyright Nov. 2011 by Karen Najarian, links added 12-16-12.