I don't know where to begin. This is the problem with leaving a blog unattended for so long; the stories stack up, along with the photos, and the task of catching up seems daunting. I have a million words to say that probably shouldn't even be written down in the first place, which is normal, but now there is a backlog of them to sort through, and so...I don't even know where to begin.
So how about this: I went to Yosemite National Park a few weeks ago, and it was astounding.
Actually, what really happened is Toby and I went camping in Mammoth, and because Mammoth is so close to Yosemite and I have an extreme problem with being even remotely near exciting things and not exploring them, on Saturday morning we found ourselves driving the extra thirty minutes to the eastern entrance of the park. I can honestly say that even though I have been obsessed with going to Yosemite for quite some time now and have heard rave reviews about how spectacular it is, I was in no way prepared for the grandiose, ridiculous beauty that it had in store for us (yes, I'm going to use every exaggerative adjective I can think of in this blog post, because it was THAT amazing, so gird your loins, people).
I have been taking California for granted. My homesickness has reached extreme levels as of late, and as a result I've forgotten about the beautiful weather and topography that drew me to this state in the first place. Los Angeles is a glorious bitch, and she has been wearing me down bit by bit with her traffic and concrete and never-ending excitement. Turns out I'm not as much of a city girl as I thought I was (I have said almost that exact same sentence before on this blog, I'm sure of it). Luckily, I have found two (often temporary, but sometimes total) cures to almost all of my emotional ailments: the mountains and the ocean, both of which happen to be within driving distance from my urban existence.
Knowing that we only had the day, and not really having any idea which places should be at the top of our list, we aimed for Yosemite Valley. Early in the morning, the sky was a crystal clear shade of blue, but it got hazier and hazier as we drove west, until it was a dull shade of gray with the sun filtering eerily through. A park ranger told us that wildfires near Sacramento were the cause of the haze, which had settled heavily in the valley and gave me a tickle in my throat that didn't go away until the next morning.
One of the main sights in Yosemite Valley is Yosemite Falls, both Upper and Lower, which were bone dry because of how late it is in the season (I'd venture to guess the drought isn't helping matters very much either). As we stood at the bottom of Lower Yosemite Falls with the rest of the masses, snapping photos and marveling at how giant everything was, we spotted a couple specks of color moving amongst the boulders far above, and we realized there were people up there, traversing their way across what was normally a crushing waterfall but was now just a massive pile of rocks.
"How cool would it be to climb around on those now and then come back in the spring and watch the water flow and know that we were in that exact spot?" I said to Toby. He nodded in agreement, checked his watch, and responded, "Wanna do it?"
(For perspective: can you spot tiny Toby and the tiny rock climber in two of the pictures below?)
As we climbed, I thought about how it's no wonder that John Muir, Ansel Adams, and countless others have been so inspired by this landscape. I've said it before and I'll say it again: there is nothing that puts our tiny little human problems into perspective like being surrounded by giant rocks and trees and bodies of water that have been around for thousands of years and will likely outlast us all. This kind if perspective makes me feel confident and brave, because at the end of the day, at the end of the universe, what does it matter if I make a couple of mistakes, make myself vulnerable, make myself open to life and the possible heartbreak and turmoil that comes along with it? Those things can only make life more interesting, and if they start to overwhelm me, I can always find a wild place for me to hunker down and lick my wounds.
A couple of months ago, Toby saw the redwoods for the first time, and on this trip, he decided he'd like to be introduced to the sequoias as well. On our way out of the park, we stopped by the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias. We parked just off the main road and followed signs to the trail, which was basically just a winding dirt road that led down into a small, still valley full of gigantic trees. As we walked, the sun disappeared behind clouds that slowly grew darker and darker. Every several minutes, we heard a distant rumble of thunder, and I began to get a bit nervous; we were more than a mile from the car and I had nothing with me to protect my camera. But the rain held off, and there was only a slight intermittent breeze that occasionally puffed through the valley, causing the trees to make a soft whoosh-ing sound. There were very few other people around, so the whole experience had an ethereal vibe to it; Toby and I spoke in hushed voices, not wanting to disturb the peace.
As we neared the end of the loop, there was a sudden crash of thunder, and I felt a drop of water land on my hand. Toby and I looked at each other and without a word, started moving faster. Thus began the mile-long uphill speedwalk. We made it back to the car just as the rain really started to fall, and as I sank into the passenger seat and turned on the seat heater, I couldn't help but feel content knowing how pleasantly exhausted I was and how there was no place in the world I'd rather be.
The rain continued in heavy bursts and drizzles as we continued our drive. I couldn't believe the stark difference between the weather at that moment and the weather earlier in the day, when it had been incredibly muggy and hot. Steam rose off the pavement and water gushed down through the crevices of rocks lining the road. Then it started to hail, and Toby slowed the car down to a crawl; a couple of other vehicles pulled over to the side, waiting for the flurry of large white ice chunks to pass. Once it did, we continued on our way, and about a mile farther down the road, we came upon this:
At first I thought it was a white sand beach, which is a little absurd since we were in the mountains and we had driven past this exact lake just that morning on our way into the park and I couldn't remember seeing any white sand then. Then I noticed that the edges of the road were coated with white stuff as well - in some places there were mounds of it - and that the white stuff was actually made up of little balls of ice. It turns out that the temperature had cooled down so much that the hail that had fallen wasn't melting and had instead stuck to the ground.
We pulled over, and as I got out of the car the first thing I noticed was that the air smelled distinctly like Christmas, which was fitting since the ground was covered in white and we were surrounded by tall stands of pine trees. A fine mist rose and blew across the lake as the air crackled with lightning and thunder from the storm that hadn't yet abated; regardless, I, along with many other people who had pulled over to the side of the road as well, proceeded to take out my camera and walk around the edge of lake, taking pictures. Whether it was the electricity from the storm or the general elation about being in the mountains in the middle of a thunderstorm, the atmosphere of the whole setting can only be described as giddy. Some people were literally doing flips on the beach. We also took a Toby's Already Asleep picture. Humans are weird.
I could have stayed there for hours watching the storm roll out and gulping in the freshest air I have tasted in months, but it was starting to get dark and we wanted to make it back to our camp site before it got too late, since we didn't know what the weather was going to be like and we still had to eat dinner. I still made Toby pull over a few more times so I could jump out a take pictures, though. It was too pretty not to. Just the fact that things were wet was enough to make me want to take a million pictures; living in Los Angeles, it sometimes feels like rain is a made up thing, or something they only get in foreign countries, so being around this much water felt like a miracle.
When we arrived in Mammoth it was pitch black (side note: we got lost on the way and almost hit a bear), so we cooked a quick dinner and went straight to bed. I fell asleep to the rumblings of thunder and the pitter patter of rain on the tent roof. It goes without saying, but I'm going to say it anyway: it doesn't get much better than that.