#33 Half Dome and Baseball

Snowy Field of Dreams 

By John P. DeGrazio 

Tom and Chris Atop Half Dome in Yosemite by John P. DeGrazio

Nothing brings a father and son together like a good game of catch. Sunny days, baseball diamonds, and the smell of leather and fresh cut grass usually conjure up memories of America’s pastime. It’s a special game and one that is passed on from generation to generation.

Snow in the outfield by John P. DeGrazio

Half Dome was our diamond in May 2010, and the outfield was covered in snow. There was no grass, no leather, and hardly any sun; but that didn’t stop Tom and Chris from enjoying this time honored tradition at 8,842 feet above sea level. After a long arduous trek through waterfalls and snow, we made our way to the summit. We were thrilled to drink in our reward for making such a long journey and also had the opportunity for true wilderness solitude as the only hikers on the summit that day.

Father and Son on Half Dome by John P. DeGrazio

After lunch and a brief photo session, Tom reached into his backpack and revealed a familiar stitched spherical object that immediately caught the attention of his son Chris. It was a baseball, and it brought a smile to all of our faces. Tom asked Chris to have a catch with him, and the two men began tossing as if it were the famous scene from the movie “A Field of Dreams”. Tom asked me to capture the moment with his camera, and I happily obliged. After a short while, I was invited into the game. We shared fastballs, curves, and sliders and laughed heartily at the sting caused by each throw to our mittless hands on this raw afternoon. The unbridled joy was contagious and will never be forgotten.

The Half Dome Visor covered in snow by John P. DeGrazio

On our return trip down the cables, the Yankees v. Red Sox banter that we initiated from the beginning of the trek reached a crescendo. We laughed the entire way down as if we were floating. Unfortunately, Tom misplaced his camera when he rearranged his pack at our rest spot below the Sub Dome. He hadn’t realized it was missing until one and a half miles farther down the trail. I offered to retrace our steps to retrieve the camera, but Tom refused. This was another valuable lesson learned. Besides the obvious ‘always surveying your area before leaving’, Tom taught me something so much deeper. He didn’t need photo prints of his special moment to remember its magnitude. He assured us all it was a memory forever etched in his mind and his heart. Chris and I accepted this after making one last futile attempt to persuade him to head back up the hill to find the lost treasures.

Nevada Fall and the Merced River by John P. DeGrazio

I led a group up to Half Dome a few days later and searched valiantly for Tom’s camera to no avail. I even placed a lost and found claim in Yosemite Valley and followed it up with a blog post asking for the person who hiked up to Half Dome that week (May 18-25, 2010) to keep the camera but return the images. No answer. I remain optimistic my message will be seen by someone who will realize the importance of those photos.

A few weeks had passed when I received a package and a special note from Tom thanking me for that trip. It contained two books, an Ansel Adams photo book and a pictorial history of the New York Yankees. The note explained how much pain it brought a Red Sox fan to even purchase such an epic volume of triumph, but he wanted to show his appreciation and how much that experience truly meant to him. Words cannot describe how fortunate I am to receive such gifts. Every time I see those two symbols of gratitude on my bookshelf, I think what a wonderful opportunity I took in my life to not only change who I want to be but also how I can help make positive changes in the lives of others.

To this day, I think about the catch on top of that great big snow covered ballfield, and it always brings a smile to my face. Yosemite’s Half Dome is a place where dreams come true.

YExplore Lead Adventure Guide John P. DeGrazio has reached the summit of Half Dome more than one hundred times. In this series, he will share stories from some of the most interesting journeys on Yosemite’s most popular peak. He will reflect on some of the most inspirational moments he has shared with hundreds of others while achieving their lifelong dreams. He will also share tips on how to properly prepare for such a long, arduous trek while providing insights on how to successfully complete this quest. He’ll also discuss changes he has witnessed to the overall landscape of this trail as well as many interesting encounters along the way.

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