I moved camp this morning and caught a ride to the intersection of Porcupine Creek and Tioga Road, several miles north of the Valley. Fourteen miles hiked and a late afternoon return to camp. I’d have stayed out longer but storms rolled in at noon. I was high up on North Dome preoccupied with seeing everything from an astonishing perspective thousands of feet above the Valley—far and near, way down to the forested bottom—when a booming thunderclap shook my composure. I moved back off the Dome into a rocky pocket with a perfect view of Half Dome, ate lunch and watched a hawk glide and circle between the two Domes, which seem about a mile apart, though estimating distance is uncertain at this scale. I think these birds often fly like this for the pleasure of it, just as I hike for pleasure, and we both do it as our response to the spirit of the place. I walked a little under five miles through forest to get here from my drop-off and then west through deeper forest about the same distance to Upper Yosemite Fall. The trail crossed several charming little streams in miniature valleys. One in particular made home for a host of ferns and delicate flowers. I stopped to take it in but thunder rolled loud and close, so I left sooner than I wanted. A mile before the Fall, rain whipped in carrying bits of sleet. I saw streak lightning to the north only a couple miles away and heading south so I donned rain jacket and hustled. Twice, dramatically, as I peered down for footholds on the trail, I saw flash of lightning reflected on the ground around me and in a split second thunder broke over me and brought a strange sense of exaltation and vulnerability. Ominous storms with dark, heavy clouds above and wispy white ones drifting among the trees through mountain and valley to the north. Gloomy and gray and cool. Then down the slippery path from Fall to Valley, once landing on rear rather than feet—fourteen miles and almost 4,000 feet of elevation change behind me.

How I love these mountains and their displays of Nature’s artistry and power. I sometimes wonder that I’m not completely overcome by it, as if I’m missing something inside that prevents my bursting with ecstasy. I walk everywhere and see each time the same granite walls and surmounting domes, columns, spires, and waterfalls. I marvel and bow.


Photo by Ned Dorman on Unsplash

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