Yosemite changed my life. It probably should change the life of everyone who goes there, but I know that when I exited that tunnel for the first time and had the grand view of a lifetime, I was speechless, obfuscated. Overjoyed by the beauty, I watched the fog dance across the top of the trees, winding aimlessly as it covered the floor of the valley in a serenely ominous tone of grey. It was a humbling moment.
It continued to be humbling as we experienced the four seasons in a single camping trip. Sun during the day turned into hail in the evening, snow at night, and sun again in the morning. We hiked to the top of Upper Yosemite Falls, braving the merciless switchbacks that killed my girlfriend’s knees and rendered me so exhausted by the fatigue had us getting a hotel in Fresno for a night on the way out of the Valley. I wouldn’t have changed it for anything.
The Valley had invigorated me with something I hadn’t felt in a long time. It inspired me to find my solace in the outdoors for the years up until now, when I get depressed, anxious, and unfulfilled without the wanderlust of the natural world surrounding me, I do everything I can to immerse myself in what we seem to be losing.
Again it would change my life when I was feeling boxed in, crippling anxious, feeling as if I was wasting my life. One weekend a few years later, I left impulsively to greet the Valley once more. I wanted to get out, I needed to get out of the day-to-day, I needed to feel alive.
I left Friday evening at 7PM and drove the 7 hour drive, making it in under six. Nobody on the road allotted me a leisurely commute to think and feel spirited that I had done what I needed to do, seized the moment and lived this day like it was my last.
I knew exactly where I was headed. I wanted to drive up Glacier Point Road to have a breathtaking look at the stars. It had been closed the first time I came and the bottom of the Valley where we camped, though perfect, didn’t give me the look at the unfettered sky that I always want in the wilderness. Tonight was a moonless night, and that was perhaps the main reason I took the crazy, impulsively ridiculous solo trip to the Sierra Nevada.
I drove up the dark road with no complications other than the pitch black of isolation. I got out of my car and walked to the viewpoint. It was glorious. A billion tiny twinkling lights hanging over the immense Yosemite landscape that were all much more vast than this minuscule blue rock I was standing on, though it provided all this lush and elusive beauty below the twinkling suns.
I stated at the zenith, examined the myriad rays of light, closed my eyes and watched over the serene Valley, trying to find a change in the still night. I realized my worries had vanished, and I felt at peace.
After my lengthy stargaze, I went to my car to sleep a few hours, waking up to see the fresh sunrise. It crept up slow, showing the Valley in a brand new light. The smell was crisp, the morning hesitated before brightening the day.
I hiked around the 4-mile trail at the top of Glacier Point before deciding to take the trek to Sentinel Dome. The landscape changed as I ascended even higher, climbing the dome to get a fantastic view of not just the Valley, but the whole of Yosemite National Park. Descending back to Glacier Point, I missed my girlfriend and was ready to go home.
I called her from the bottom of the Valley, where I enjoyed a coffee, the magnificent views and the piercing sunshine of my dissipating dissatisfaction. I drove home content and smiling. The National Parks had once again filled me with joy and taught me the overwhelming humility of nature; my life was never the same.
If you’re looking to experience the National Parks in the near future, there are free park entrance days throughout the year, with the next one coming up on April 15th. Check out this info-graphic by Cotopaxi–an awesome adventure and outdoor gear company whose products include jackets and hiking backpacks–for a list of popular parks and hidden gems across the country. Keep adventuring!