The day after hiking Half Dome, I woke up and tried to crawl out of my tent.
My legs weren’t sore. They were beyond that. I had exhausted every ounce of energy from every muscle fiber in my body. Not only that, but I was in a strange mental fog where doing anything other than sitting sounded really hard.
I roused myself to pack up my camping gear and headed to Yosemite Village, where I had planned a few hikes to recover from Half Dome.
No hiking. I sat down in the Village. I stayed down, despite ordering my legs to move. I gave up and ordered coffee instead, then took advantage of cell phone service to dramatically reenact my Half Dome saga to my parents. It was almost nice to have an excuse to sit and do nothing but watch squirrels and
shamelessly judge tourists people watch.
I finally got up (thank God for caffeine) and lazily hiked two short hikes. My legs had a top speed of about .5 miles an hour, so I had lots of time to admire how high Half Dome was from the valley and mentally congratulate myself.
I have a small confession to make: after hiking Half Dome, I was a little burnt out on Yosemite. All of me hurt, I had already accomplished one of the biggest hikes in the park, and everything was very tree-covered and Oregon-like. I missed the shock of sandstone. Plus, fine, I was excited to reflect on my trip and have some “me” time, but it was taking some getting used to to not having someone to
name fat squirrels with talk to.
My campground was in a different part of the park that night, an hour and a half away from the valley, and it wasn’t until I got out of my car for a quick scenic vista that I realized my campground’s location was rather chilly.
Oh well, I thought brightly. I’ll go to the general store and get firewood!
I made it to the general store. It had closed fifteen minutes prior. A gaggle of somewhat judgmental looking backpackers watched me optimistically try the door and then stalk away shivering.
Firewood or not, my campground restored my faith in Yosemite. There were meadows!
Real meadows that just called me to frolic in them. There were more granite peaks and fire-charred forests and lots and lots of deer. It was much different from Oregon and it was absolutely gorgeous.
I set up my tent in about five minutes flat, nearly set the campsite on fire with my stove, and was in bed by 8. I was turning into a real camper. yesss.
The next day, I rediscovered how much I loved photography and explored a natural spring. I hiked another (much shorter) dome and, without Penpal there to do stupid things, took it into my own hands and bouldered to a far edge and dangled my feet over the drop. I was liking this whole being on my own thing. With no one there to challenge my comfort zone, I had to challenge myself, and it was somewhat intoxicating.
That night, I decided to put my fire-making skills to the test.
Fire was a bit of a sore subject, as both Penpal and my dad had separately realized the night before I left for Yosemite that I had no idea what I was doing when it came to fire. I have a bad habit of not planning things but everything working out anyways, so I just figured I would get to nature, scrape some twigs around, and voila! S’mores for days.
I also have a bad habit of being way too optimistic.
I consulted the Google for fire-making tips and fielded suggestions from penpal and my dad. I also also have a bad habit of disliking when people doubt me, even if they have good reason to do so, so by this point I was ready to leave penpal and cell phone service behind and buy some good lighter fluid. I nodded enthusiastically to the phone and Penpal and just planned on my good luck pulling through.
Although it was more perseverance and less luck than I would have preferred. It lit, then it burnt out, then it lit again, and it was the third time I rearranged the logs (or fuel, as outdoorsy people call them) (in the way that both Penpal and my dad said wouldn’t work, so THERE), that a roaring blaze came to be.
And stayed roaring. For three hours, even without more kindling or a single trace of lighter fluid.
I had to pour water on it so it would finally die. Much like the wicked witch.
After hiking and making a successful fire and getting used to my cute little tent, I was starting to really appreciate Yosemite. I curled up in my tent, who I had christened Marigold–all of the serious backpackers name their tents, obvi–and swiftly fell asleep.
The next morning, I rose with the dawn and went back to the Valley. It was smoky. I thought about it. I had done all of the hikes I had come to do. I had successfully camped, made a fire, and spent about 10 miles a day reflecting on my roadtrip. The only thing I hadn’t done was see a bear.
It was time to go.
I patted Sally’s dashboard (yes, I named my car too), took one more long glance around me, and headed off into the bright afternoon sun.
But first? I turned a corner on the glittering asphalt and gasped. A giant black bear loped across the road in front of me and disappeared into the woods.
I smiled. I had done Yosemite.
I was coming home.
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