When you are away from home for any period of time, the one thing to look forward to is sleeping in your own bed. But when your bed away from home is right here next to Half Dome in Yosemite, you’re in no hurry to return. I took these two photos of Half Dome on a backpack trip I guided last weekend. The first one was at sunrise from camp and the second one was from a successful summit of Clouds Rest later that day.
Waking up at 5 am is never fun, but sometimes it is more tolerable than others. As my alarm sounded, I sprung out of bed, eager to meet the day’s challenge. I couldn’t shovel the oatmeal in my mouth fast enough, and I sprinted out the door with a full pack of food, water, and plenty of sunscreen.
We arrived at Pywiack Lake, some like to call it Tenaya Lake, at about 8 am and immediately began our journey. After some early morning shots of Pywiack Dome, we followed the climbers trail up the Cascades to Lower Cathedral Lake where we were greeted by stunning views of Cathedral Peak, my first multi pitch climb in Yosemite. I was with Red Bro in charge, Gabe Mange, and he was feeling strong.
We treated ourselves to some sunflower seeds and other snacks before we continued our journey. We stopped briefly to chat with 3 firemen who declined our invitation to join us on the Echo Peaks and a lone camper who all thought we were a bit out of sorts. When I tried to explain what our goal was, Gabe nudged me to end the conversation and reminded me “We’re like on a big mission, man.” From the Upper Cathedral Lake, we ascended through a decent amount of snow to the bench above beautiful Budd Lake.
From there, I declared “Dude, we’re camping here in a few weeks”. Gabe concurred.
The views were sublime. I was overwhelmed by emotion as I felt my spirit lifted from my body in way that I have experienced many times before, but only in the mountains. Cathedral Peak was simply stunning, and I had never seen Mt. Dana look so beautiful, all 13,061 feet of her.
Our approach to the Echo Peaks was pretty straightforward, and we didn’t encounter any problems besides a few postholing incidents. We chugged a couple of shots of Red Ace, and Gabe received a jolt of energy he had never felt before. Not to be confused with the other poisonous energy drinks on the market, Red Ace is an all natural beet shot. Each bottle contains three organic beets, and I have been assured by my new friend Miles, the company’s owner, that scientists have proved this supplement can provide energy as well as help mountaineers adjust to higher altitudes. Gabe and I were convinced as we saluted our new found tonic.
We climbed three of the Echoes in all, and made one last push to the Cockscomb, an 11,005 foot peak in the center of the Cathedral Range.
We grabbed the summit and decided to call it a day. Our plan was to get down for some fish tacos, but as it always seems, we were in no hurry to leave this magical place. We stopped to photograph the majesty of the peaks who welcomed us. We were not the only ones there that day, as we heard a couple of climbing teams on Cathedral. Although we were not alone, we felt so isolated from the rest of the world and were happy to share this most remarkable terrain with fellow adventurists.
We took our time on the descent and soaked in every last ray of sun as we approached the lake during sunset. We stopped to photograph at every turn where each lighting situation improved. We made it back to Pywaick, and the last bit of sunlight escaped as we ended our 12 hour excursion. We returned happy, tired, and hungry. Although we were feeling the pangs of hunger (missed our chance for tacos), our beings were completely satisfied with another bountiful mountainous feast. Next time we return, this area will be filled with many more adventurous souls on similar missions. This particular thought made our experience that much more memorable.
The waterfalls of Yosemite are still booming, but we must deal with the sad reality that we had a less than average snowpack year this past winter. subsequently, the volume is waning as the snow continues to melt. I took this photo recently and thought of a poem I wrote almost 3 years ago and will repost here. It seems our children are often in a hurry to grow up, and I thought of my then five year old daughter when I wrote this.
Cholock, what’s your hurry?
by John P. DeGrazio
When I was an older young man, I would shout at the youthful waterfalls and their impetuous mist. Now that I am a younger old man, I quietly lament valuable lost time left in their wake.
Cholock, what’s your hurry?
Like a newborn, your arrival is anticipated and celebrated.
Autumn is your spring,
And you appear when the first water breaks from the sky.
The earth shakes as you make your splash in this world.
You are impressive and a joy to all.
From infancy you grow as the winter snow melts,
And you run before you learn to walk.
Your impatience is felt by all as you rush your way through life’s many turns with a desire to grow bigger and bigger.
Cholock, what’s your hurry?
Why must you grow so fast?
Why can’t you stay small forever?
Your energy is unsuppressed and your youth is wasted
as you push and push to go everywhere and nowhere at all.
You are at your loudest before you even know what to say.
Suddenly, and without warning, your strength abandons you.
As spring turns to summer, you enter the winter of your life.
How did time disappear?
Why must everything end so soon?
Cholock, you are the fortunate one.
Your foolishness has been repeated over the centuries;
Yet, you are given a new opportunity with every October sky.
Your story will be overlooked by many,
But the wise will teach your lessons to their own.
Many people ask me where is the best place to view a sunset in Yosemite. My first answer is always Glacier Point when the road is open. The road opened last Friday, and I was fortunate enough to visit in the late afternoon. It wasn’t quite sunset, but it still took our breath away. Here is the panorama shot that inspired me to form a new Category for this blog.
I was in my daughter’s classroom last night for an open house and observed a bulletin board full of paintings by the students for the first time. I was fascinated by all the wonderful drawings and asked the teacher how long they have been there. Since I volunteer in her class every Monday, I was a little embarrassed that I had never noticed this wall that displayed their artwork. I make sure to say hello to the children with every visit, but then I focus on the station where I am working and often forget about many other areas of the classroom. Then it had me thinking about how we approach our everyday lives and the tasks we set out to achieve. This is also true on long challenging hikes in Yosemite. We often are so focused on the goal, we can easily forget many of the things that attract us to these wonderful places. Sure, the waterfalls and majestic mountaintops are truly spectacular, but let’s not forget about the little things that make the trip so special. Maybe it’s a small flower, a pine cone on the trail, or a reflection in a lake. Sometimes we have to trip over them just to know they are there. Beauty is everywhere, and it’s up to us to take the time and find it.
If you are reading this, I would like to thank you for finding us on our newly designed YExplore website and blog. I woke up with the sound of “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons in my head. While I don’t quite think it’s quite the apocalypse, it is a revolution of sorts. We are calling it the Adventure Blog and were formerly the Yosemite Photo Blog. We still plan on being Yosemite-centric, but you will see some new adventures listed on this site now and some more to possibly come in the next 24 months so stay tuned. What we will continue to provide is photo driven adventures in Yosemite and beyond. Please stick around, bookmark the new blog site, and come back often. Oh yea, there’s one more thing. Please be patient as you poke around some of the new features of the website. It is a work in progress, and we could only build out the framework before migrating the entire site. You will notice some of the older pages are still alive so enjoy them while they’re around, but this is definitely the New Age! Thank you all.
Today is April 21, and we all should celebrate the life of a man who helped shape the modern conservation movement. He influenced congress, lobbied presidents, and was a major influence on the shaping of our National Parks. Happy Birthday John Muir from your former home in Yosemite Valley.