Among the Clouds

In 2004, I talked my now-husband into going backpacking in Yosemite.  I carefully planned a 67-mile trek around the top of Yosemite Valley that I figured we’d be able to complete in 7 days.  Pat said no.  I re-planned, reducing our plan to 42 miles in 7 days  Pat was dubious, so I added “escape routes” so that if we decided to retreat to the valley and stay in a hotel, we could.

Pat had never backpacked before, but having been to Hawaii with me for 2 weeks a couple years earlier, he had learned what happened if he allowed me to set an itinerary without supervision.  At the end of our trip, I asked him if there was anything he wanted to do that we didn’t get to.  His answer was, “Well, it might have been nice to have one day to just hang out at the beach.”

There are so many stories to tell from this trip to Yosemite, but I will stick to the ones associated with these few photos (taken with my old Powershot G3).  The red flowers are called snow plants.  Because they only grow in California and Nevada at very specific altitudes in conifer forests between May and July, I suppose it’s not a surprise I’d never seen one before.  But it was such a surprise, bursting out of the forest floor in the shadows as we made our way up to the top of El Capitan.

The rest of the photos were taken from Clouds Rest.  We had hiked all day to get to the top of Clouds Rest, the highest point visible from the valley.  Along the way, we saw many yellow-bellied marmots, a wide variety of squirrels and chipmunks, and one very curious mule deer buck who had walked up to us as if he wasn’t sure what we were.

We were also treated to increasingly amazing views of the Sierra Nevada mountains stretching endlessly beyond the horizon.  But, when at long last we made it to the top, we sat mute in a state of awe for a half an hour before we decided to hurry up and get camp setup and get ourselves ready for bed in time to sit and watch the sunset.

We found a spot to pitch the tent below the ridge, made our dinner following strict guidelines to avoid bear invasions, got our accommodations all arranged, and put on some extra warm clothes.  Then, we sat on the ridge and watched the light changing across the valley as the sun sank below the mountains and the mist rose in the valley.  We sat there for over an hour feeling like there was nothing more we needed to be satisfied in life than sitting on that ridge together watching the wonder of mountains.

While we had many inspiring moments on that trip, I think if that would have been the only place we hiked to, we still would have gone home satisfied.