The Two Yosemites
|The other Yosemite|
Chagrin is the only word to describe my feelings following my first backpacking trip into Yosemite's high country. This was in 1959. I had been climbing in the valley for two months and was getting weary of hammering pitons. My father had signed up for a Sierra Club trip about 100 miles south, and I had the bright idea of joining him by walking alone down the John Muir Trail to his encampment. This would take only five days, I figured, since I was in supposedly great shape.
The first fifteen miles passed like a dream. I churned up out of the valley and into the quietest place I'd been to in months: Little Yosemite Valley, with the languid Merced River as a constant backdrop. I was a tiger! Maybe I could make the trip in four days! But as I pushed on after lunch I felt a tiny needle prodding my right foot not a fleck of granite in my boot, but an incipient blister. Romping up the Lost Arrow and the Royal Arches hadn't exactly toughened my feet. By seven that evening I was limping like a geriatric, and Tuolumne Meadows, the goal I had hoped to reach hours earlier, was still far away. I shed my pack, set up my tent, and stared with loathing at the half dozen nickel-sized blisters covering my toes and heels.
I was whimpering by the time I reached the Meadows the next morning, and I lounged around for three days cursing my hubris. But car-less and with little to do, I saw the Yosemite high country for the first time. The splendid pinnacles of the Cathedral Range rose just south of my lazy camp, and I watched the shadows curl around them as if they were great sundials jutting into the sky. The domes, too, entranced me, and on the third day I staggered up to the top of nearby Fairview Dome and saw the entire northern half of Yosemite National Park spread out before me, with nary a road or building or radio antenna in sight. Each time I've climbed Fairview in the succeeding years about eight times I remember that summer day when I was so young and impetuous.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication