Enjoy Every Milestone
By John P. DeGrazio
I was leading a group of explorers who were all close friends when one of the hikers looked at the others and said “Well, we all made it here, what’s our next trip?” This seemed a bit odd since they were beginning the first day of a three day adventure in Yosemite. There was an uncomfortable silence as everyone pondered the question while stepping away from the trailhead. Sensing an opportunity to start the trip on the right foot, my reply was succinct. “Let’s celebrate the fact that we are all able to enjoy this moment in Yosemite without worrying about future plans.” Everyone agreed, and it is a moment from which I continue to reflect.
Growing up, birthdays and certain holidays become the greatest days of the year. The enthusiasm for those events becomes so powerful, it often leads to anxiety for children and parents alike. Somewhere along the way, many people lose their zeal for celebrations. Energy shifts as we mature and enthusiasm is often diminished by the stresses of schoolwork, then career and other contributing factors. I have seen these effects on many people, regardless of age. I can also share there was a time in my life when I was consumed by stressers which led me to shy away from celebrations and the drama they sometimes caused. Older age brings wisdom I guess, and I now see the importance of celebrating milestones and events. I regularly wish people happy birthdays on Facebook and even go back into the calendar a few days to find ones I may have missed. Do you know how many steps that takes? And if you wish me a happy birthday on Facebook, I will answer every single one with a personal thank you referencing some obscure thing we may have done together.
I admit I have taken a greater interest in the subject of celebrations since I created an adventure company that shares experiences in nature that help others achieve their goals. We befriend so many visitors to the park who view their trip to Yosemite as a celebration. Many of our tours are catered to birthdays, honeymoons, anniversaries, and other special events in Yosemite. It is refreshing to witness so many people enjoying themselves on this level. I take pride in being able to help people make personal connections in Yosemite and have made this an integral part of my life’s journey. I am also thankful for these experiences that have helped shape who I have become as well. This week I had a chance to reflect on the values of YExplore as well as make revisions to our vision and mission statements on our About Us Page. This was an important exercise for me as I reflected on the past 10 years and prepare for the next decade of growth for our company.
“The mission of YExplore is to provide educational outdoor adventures that inspire all generations to make discoveries in nature that lead to personal growth and achievement.”
“Celebrate Success” is now an integral part of our core values and the Half Dome trek is always a perfect cause for celebration. It’s also important to note that success is achieved on many journeys regardless of reaching the summit.
In September 2010 I led a group of hikers who joined me for a triple celebration. Our seven member group was comprised of Paula & Julie who were celebrating Julie’s 50th birthday; Dave & Lisa who were celebrating their first anniversary; and Jenn who I invited to join me on my 50th ascent. Ricky & I were the trip’s leaders. I can write a book on my friendship with Jenn. She was a former Half Dome client with whom I’ve developed a lasting friendship during and after her own achievement on Half Dome in 2008. Hers was a great celebration of life that I have never forgotten, and she was the one person I asked to join me in what I considered an extremely important milestone. Spoiler Alert: Jenn’s first hike was #15 for me and will be a future post in this series.
The day started with Kim admitting to the group that she was not much of a hiker but really wanted Dave to achieve the summit. She did very well getting to the top of Nevada Fall and even surprised herself, but that is where Ricky led her back down to the Valley. Our group continued on and made good time to the Sub Dome and cables. We were all so excited to reach the summit where Julie’s birthday celebration began. We all posed for fun photos, and I believe I discovered an unintentional photobomb by Jenn. Hint: Look for the red piece of flair. The celebration continued all the way down the trail and at Curry Village for a festive pizza dinner. I understood the need to celebrate achievements as I reflected on the day while driving home with Ricky that evening. Perhaps it is older age, but whatever the reason, it is an important aspect of life. So take the time to relish your accomplishments with a treat, a beverage, a can o peaches, or anything else you think is appropriate. Celebrate in any manner you choose.
YExplore Lead Adventure Guide John P. DeGrazio has reached the summit of Half Dome more than 100 times. In this series, he will share stories from some of the most interesting journeys along the trail of 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. John 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 to this hike he has witnessed throughout the years as well as many interesting encounters along the way.