Each year — normally in the fall — I join a group of buddies on a wilderness adventure. We have explored some of the nations greatest wilderness with backpacks and canoes. Examples include the Boundary Waters, the High Uintas, the Wind River Wilderness, the Allagash Waterway, Yellowstone, a couple of Alaska trips, and a number of Appalachian Trail treks. Last week we dodged forest fires in California and spent some time in the backcountry of Yosemite National Park.
My friends and I go way back, including one who I have known for more than 60 years, literally since we were infants. We indulge in ruthless humor and frequently finish each other’s sentences. I cannot express how much I treasure these old friendships.
We had perfect weather and camped at such gorgeous spots as Cathedral Lakes and Sunrise Lakes. For me, the high spot was peaking out at Cloud’s Rest, the high point of Yosemite, which provides a sensational view of Halfdome and Yosemite Valley. To reach the summit, you wind your way along a perilous knife-edge bordered by 2,500-foot sheer rock walls scoured out by (according to John Muir) glaciers.
I am at a point in life where I can make time to visit places like Yosemite. I urge people who are working and who have tight schedules to get themselves and their families out to the national parks. Years ago, I took my kids to Disneyworld. I told them to enjoy it, because in the future we were going to see the “real stuff.” For many years thereafter, we motored and flew all over America when my vacation time allowed. We camped in national parks all over America and saw all 48 contiguous states. I think it was worth it, and if you asked my wife and kids, I’m sure they would agree. After all, Dan and Laura are both A.T. thru-hikers, so it is undeniable that they both love wilderness.
I made it a point to rewatch the Ken Burns National Parks episode about John Muir and Yosemite before making last week’s trip. Although the parks are crowded much of the time — even the backcountry trails — a hiker can still get a strong sense of what wilderness is all about. The sky was pure blue, even with the fires raging north of the park. It is hard to believe that air can be so perfect with the West Coast megalopolis so close by. I got a true sense at times of what called John Muir to the wilderness.
Book update: Margy tells me the ebook formatting for THRU: An Appalachian Trail Love Story will be completed soon. I’ll get the word out when that happens. Meanwhile, stay vertical and keep walking. There is always another trail out there to hike for the first time.