It’s official, I’m on a National Park kick. Last fall when Cairo and I were driving from Colorado to California we decided to do a drive by of Zion and it just about blew my mind. Granted we barely scraped the surface of this magnificent place, pulling over at road side turn outs and venturing a few feet up sandstone trails and dusty paths to gape at the red rock cliffs and valleys. We snaked along in a tourist trail of cars and kooks but it still blew our minds and made me appreciate the epic awesomeness of the National Park system that we’ve got going on here in the US of A. We bought one of those American The Beautiful National Park passes and just like your gym membership it’s been haunting us to get out there and use it. Zion-the park that started it all… So, last weekend for Cairo’s birthday, we decided to hit up Yosemite for more than just a drive by. We (and when I saw we, I mean Cairo) packed the car with all sorts of techy camping gear, gourmet breakfast goodies, chai lattes and the whole thing and headed off to the land of Ansel Adams practically reciting John Muir quotes along the way…
When we pulled into Yosemite the cloudy skies quickly turned to hail and snow and rain…which made for a dramatic entrance to one of America’s oldest parks…and made us second guess our camping plans. We ended up tromping around the muddy valley and marveled at how El Cap disappeared into the clouds and we hiked up to Mirror Lake hunting for views of Half Dome as the clouds weaved around her.
The rain stopped eventually and Cairo and I set up camp in what looked a whole lot like a hobo village…cars, tarped up tents and hooded fellows huddled around fires drinking beer. Sometimes I forget how much cars are a part of the camping culture and laugh at how we drive out into the woods just to lay down and sleep beside our cars in a glorified parking lot…and it’s awesome.
We woke up to bluebird skies and the previous day’s snow had melted away, so we warmed our freezing selves up by a fire that took way too long to start and headed out into the sun to hike up to Vernal and Nevada Falls.
We’re such nerds that we double checked that it was safe and open and in some alternative reality we thought we’d be out there all alone, you should have seen us scouting our path…but then we remembered we were in the second most visited national park, with paved paths way up high into the wilderness, with people crawling all over the place, dangling their touristy-selves off the side of waterfalls in crocs and fanny packs wondering how it is people slip and fall hundreds of feet to their deaths. kiddin…but seriously.
In our twenty mile hike up towards half dome, I spent just as much time in awe of the work that went into building and maintaining the trails and at the fences bolted right into the side of cliffs as I did marveling at the scenery we were safely allowed to explore. It’s so awesome that people from all over the world can come and get in the wild (even if it’s paved) and be inspired to hike into it and be stunned by the force of waterfalls in spring and sheer granite cliffs and the greatness of nature…I’m pretty sure John Muir said that.
So yeah, we hiked twenty miles and did what Cairo and I do best, planned for ten miles or so and then doubled that, wanting to see what was just around the next bend or getting lost in conversations or in the meditative silence that helps rewire your over stimulated brain. We got back to the car out of snacks and water and so happy for a long weekend in the woods recharged and ready for our next National Park.